Not too many years ago, the role we played at work was defined by a title and the compensation that matched it. We completed our tasks, grabbed our weekly paycheck, then clocked out.

Today, people desire more from their workday. Employees want to feel that they are a part of the greater organization, and that their tasks, however small, are contributing in a large way to the big picture and vision of the company.

The ever-changing, fast-moving growth of companies lends itself to organic, innovative ideas from its employees. However, trying to keep up with the train often means important items are overlooked and left in baggage. Specifically, the culture and foundation of a company become skewed and have the danger of falling into oblivion when daily tasks – instead of essential parts of the foundation – become the focus.

When the culture is forgotten – or worse, ignored – purpose is nonexistent. The purpose of the company, the purpose of the employees, the purpose of even showing up in the first place – all lose meaning and value.

Misunderstood company culture is a concern expressed by employees in varying degrees.

Company culture – what it is and what it is not

Company culture and values are not a list of items designed to tack to the company walls and include on everyone’s screensavers.

Culture is what the company is, not what it has.

Webster’s defines company culture as “the values and goals of a particular business, esp. a large corporation, as reflected in its management style, employee morale, levels of productivity and efficiency, etc.”

You need to understand that culture is more than a stagnant term or idea. It is the foundation of the organization. When your business was originally founded, it was created with a particular vision. That vision was strengthened and defined by everything the business stood for and the people who represented it. All the actions, goals, and the mission reinforced the heart of the company.

Likewise, the people who work for your organization now must be clear on the company’s foundation and how they can be a part of its strength. This means you start with employees who already embody the values of the company, who believe in your core and what you represent.

This is in harmony with what Psychology Today says about values, which “must be modeled in people’s everyday work behaviors, decision-making, contributions and interpersonal interactions.”

Enforcing company culture

It is important to continually ingrain your company values in employees, both new and seasoned. The constant reminder of what you stand for and who you are should become a part of them and shape their thinking.

Enforcing these values is key to making sure the right people are helping you achieve your company’s vision. For example, when we think of values in general, we might include honesty. Your company’s policy might even state that if an employee is caught lying in any form, that person will be terminated. But honesty must be inherent in an employee in order for it to carry over into the workplace.

Similarly, if your culture and values are enforced, reiterated, and made public – both internal and external – then the people you employ who believe in these values and live them already will serve to strengthen what you stand for.

In some cases, values will have to be defined. For example, some companies use “humility” as a value. That term means different things to different people, so this will require a clear definition to avoid confusion.

Enforcing values, however, does not mean taking a forceful viewpoint or setting strict laws, such as arriving at work no later than 8 a.m. You shouldn’t have to make people display values they don’t already have in themselves. What you want to do is emphasize the importance of these values, and set reasonable goals to encourage and impel employees to uphold these values.

Your hiring process should already include discovering which candidates will fit into your culture and weeding out those who do not. But even current employees, if they believe in your core foundation and values, can be helped to fit into what you represent, especially when their own value ­– their self-worth – within the company is recognized and appreciated.

Constant communication is important to make sure all levels of the company not only know the culture, but to remind them that everything they do helps sustain it. It is employees’ individual actions that benefit the culture and ultimately strengthen it.

Ultimately, it is up to top executives and management to set the example and make clear what the company culture is. Only when those at the top live and breathe what (or who) the organization is, do employees understand how they fit into the bigger picture and the importance of their roles. They will not be motivated to live the company’s culture if their leaders are not living it either.

The onerous is on you, the management. Only by leading by example will you solidify your vision and show your employees that you expect from them what you expect from yourselves. You set the gold standard.

(Information taken from pg. 4 of the report: Your company’s most important asset – and 7 reasons why it is struggling)

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