What is Culture?
Merriam-Webster defines culture as: the set of shared attitudes, values, beliefs, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization and is manifested in behavior. Simply put, it’s the outward facing set of agreed upon standards, and it represents all of us who are in this together. It is organic, living, ever-changing and growing, and like living things it can become ill and change quickly. That’s why culture needs to be nurtured and cared for, or risk descending to toxic levels.
Even if there isn’t some great manifesto plastered on the walls where you work, you can rest assured there is, in fact, a culture. Having a dynamic culture, is just part of the working environment we’re in now, and we all contribute to it, wherever and whomever we are.
But culture isn’t just some word to be thrown around by marketers and HR professionals. More often than not, culture ends up being the deciding factor for a person joining a team—or in some cases, leaving one. For these reasons, it is imperative to put thought and action behind your workplace culture.
Why is culture important?
Google and Amazon have built Cathedrals to culture, boasting breathtaking architecture, Chihuly-blown glass sculptures, World-class culinary grad-prepared meals served free all day, and tons of other perks to keep workers engaged. But who amongst us can afford to drop $10k a month for a private chef to keep people happy? Here’s a secret: you don’t have to.
Don’t get me wrong, foosball tables, sponsored happy hours, kegs in the office, endless cereal are all tremendous—but ultimately it’s all just stuff. At the end of the day, people want to be recognized for their contributions and know they’re making a difference. Maybe that recognition is through their paycheck, or maybe it’s just being acknowledged in front of their peers that they kicked ass, but people want to know that the 8-10+ hours they spend every day at work means something. Studies by MIT and Emerging Markets Institute indicate that this trend is on the rise, as Millennials continue to enter the workforce.
Like culture, recognition starts at the top. It’s needs to be lived and breathed by leadership and felt by staff at every level. But don’t take my word for it. Look no further than the cold hard truth in numbers:
Ultimately, culture is built from the inside out. It can cost very little to implement but can pay great dividends. Culture can be the difference between retaining top talent and sitting idly by watching a mass exodus. So ask yourself, are you doing enough to make sure your culture is where it needs to be?