One of the most asked about topics of my experience working for Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers was company culture. Specifically, I was asked how to build a high-performance culture to drive results that evolves during rapid growth. To start, leaders seeking to accelerate their business strategies and objectives should have a working definition of culture. They also should understand the importance of culture before taking steps to define and build their own.
What is Company Culture?
Culture is the personality of a business based on the sum total of the values, management style, traditions, stories, and beliefs that are shared across the organization. Culture lives in the minds of employees as perceptions of their experience working to serve customers. Culture, in its most fundamental form, is how employees in a business consistently act when no one is looking.
While many elements of culture are unique from company to company, research indicates high-performance cultures have some common traits. Companies with high-performance cultures are often described as decisive, long-term oriented, proactive, open, transparent, and people-oriented, according to report by Aon Hewitt.
Why is Company Culture Important?
While culture generally is not a business product or strategy; culture is almost always an underlying force supporting or undermining businesses’ strategies to get and keep more customers. Correlations have been made between positive company culture and better recruitment, retention, employee engagement, consumer brands, and customer service. And, some of the most well regarded companies also happen to be known for their workplace culture.
How Do Companies Describe Their Culture?
An organization’s vision, mission, values and non-negotiables are considered a cornerstone of its culture. This is especially true if awareness of these cultural pillars permeates the organization from top to bottom and are applied consistently in everyday situations. It is more important for people to behave, especially in decision-making, according to these pillars rather than to display them on restaurant kitchen walls or print them on a card in a wallet.
How people work together and treat each other is equally impactful to establish a positive cultural perception in the mind of workers. Setting policies and programs with employees in mind will be noticed. The methods and style managers use to recruit, train, communicate with, manage, respect, reward, and even separate employees will set the tone for the worker experience.
The physical environment companies provide their employees to work in also says something about the culture. Providing employees a restaurant workspace that is immaculately clean, completely safe, free of substance abuse and harassment, and well maintained is critical to fostering a positive work environment and cultural pride.
And finally, the traditions, stories, and symbols repeated within a business across time and geography are a spiritual component of company culture—these are the elements which give a business a soul. The stories told and traditions shared bond employees to the business at an emotional level. The annual traditions, the retold stories and legends, and repetitive symbols found across locations are a sacred part of the culture and should be maintained, curated, and shared consistently.
What Can You Do?
- Establish a few strategic cultural focuses: In planning and strategy, the phrase “if everything is important, then nothing is” cannot be repeated enough. Review your strengths and weaknesses and identify a few key areas where you have an opportunity to move from good to great and focus there. Assure that your focuses are on cultural dynamics that are directly aligned to your desired business outcomes.
- Be genuine and authentic: Culture is complex because organizations are made of complex relationships between hundreds and thousands of imperfect people. By virtue, organizations have a personality and culture with strengths and weaknesses. Trust can be built between management and workers by being genuine and authentic. Companies should never try to be something they’re not.
- Don’t stop until you’ve reached 100 percent alignment: All too often, leaders feel that saying something important is enough. It’s not. There is no silver bullet other than a holistic approach. Don’t stop communicating your vision, empowering people to follow, and holding accountability for a new belief until everyone in the organization—from CEO to cashier— is aligned, responds, and behaves in the same way to your cultural priorities.
Understanding these concepts and applying some of these suggestions can help define your business as an employer of choice for your current and perspective employees. This has the potential to lower turnover and increase engagement, creating real value for businesses. Customers who view a company as having a best-in-class culture with best-in-class employers should have favorable customer satisfaction scores, higher sales, and more profits. Leaders aware of what culture is and how it helps accelerate business strategies and objectives will be best prepared to compete with those who do not.