Communicating the Corporate Culture


The idea of “company culture” is relatively new. The term didn’t enter our lexicon until the 1980s. Now a Google search of the term turns up tens of millions of hits. According to Professor James L. Heskett in his book The Culture Cycle, culture “can account for 20-30% of the differential in corporate performance when compared with ‘culturally unremarkable’ competitors.” That means a Million Dollar company can become a 1.2 or 1.3 Million Dollar company simply by creating a corporate culture.

Yet, companies often struggle with communicating their corporate mission and culture to their workers.  There are only two main ways to create a culture – with consideration and conscious intent or letting it come together as it will with little thought in the process.

Often a company without a “formal” culture hasn’t taken the steps to consciously determine what its culture should be. There’s the “easy” things like having a culturally diverse and anti-discriminatory workplace. I say this is “easy” because while every business should strive toward this culture getting there is hard to do. Other aspects of culture are less readily apparent or tangible. Do you want a more traditionally hierarchical workplace or is collaboration a more important goal? Either option or a host of other options are fine.

Here’s some of the things you can do to communicate a culture you’re proud of:

  • Have a written mission or values statement.
    • Your business needs to have a common set of standards. Employees should sign a copy of these values noting their agreement to them. The values should be repeated when there is a company meeting, formal or informal. We’ll address how to craft these values in an upcoming post
  • Lead by Example.
    • I have two teenage boys. The concept of “do what I say and not what I do” doesn’t work in our household. And it won’t in your business. As an example, Widgets For All has “Professionalism” as a core value and a related behavior is “punctuality.” The senior management is confused that the employees are chronically tardy despite this. Then they looked at their own behavior.  Members of senior management would arrive at work at 10:30, go to lunch from noon to 1:30 pm, then leave as soon as the clock struck 5:00 pm. Not surprisingly, the employees mirrored the conduct being demonstrated and not the ideals management ignored.
  • Communicate.
    • Employees need to know what’s expected of them. All company communications must reinforce its values and the culture it seeks to build.
  • Have Brand Ambassadors.
    • Some of your employees are going to put their hearts into supporting the culture. Have these brand ambassadors convey the culture to new hires and help them assimilate.
  • Measure Success and Take Action.
    • What we focus on you attract. If your business focuses on exemplary and ethical service then your employees will deliver. Reward those that succeed or exemplify the values you want to foster.
    • Finally, and probably most importantly, the company needs to enforce its mission by disciplining and firing, when necessary, employees who fall short.

Remember to have patience when you are creating a corporate culture. My oldest son is now in college (university) in England. When he comes home for the holidays, he’ll have picked up a slight accent. Each term will result in a diminishing of his American accent in favor of a British one. By the end of this third year in University, he’ll likely sound more British than American. The roots of his American accent will hold on, and he’ll never completely sound like a Brit to a Brit. But as each year passes he’ll assimilate more into that culture to the point that only a native will be able to tell he came from a different one. The same holds true to changing a corporate culture.

As noted in “There’s no quick fix that begets cultural change in a matter of days, weeks or even months; it’s infinitely easier to rewrite a system than it is to change the culture of an organization. It requires tons of communication, years of stubborn persistence, relentless follow up, and probably a little luck. Fact is, you can never ‘get rid of’ the parts of the culture you don’t like. More realistically what works is to gradually build up the strengths around the less desirable elements so that the ‘problems become smaller impediments to getting to where you want to go.’”

If you need advice related to your company’s culture or would like assistance with any other business matter, please contact Nancy at Land, Carroll and Blair, PC, in Alexandria and Fairfax, VA at:

(703) 836-1000


Twitter:           @attnyNancyGreene



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