Monday, October 3, 2011

Culture: Nature or Nurture

It's funny how topics come up in discussion in several venues over a short period of time. As you have read in a past blog post, I was at the Halogen's user's conference a couple of weeks ago, where I was on a blogger's panel. We discussed the topic of culture and how you can leverage culture to your benefit as a company in the recruiting and retention areas.

I also had the privilege to teach the PHR/SPHR preparation class and the question about measuring culture arose in a discussion.

Lastly, I was presenting to a group last week on how to create a "High Performing Organization" and of course culture came up in that discussion.

I guess the most common theme was the idea of culture creation. More specifically, "Are cultures created or do they just happen?

In each venue we discussed companies that had a very strong well known culture. The following companies were mentioned:

1) Nordstrom
2) Publix
3) Ritz Carlton
4) Chick Fil A
5) Zappo's
6) Home Depot
7) Quick Trip
8) Apple

Some on the list were the usual suspects, but some were surprises (Quick Trip and Chick Fil A). So I had someone ask, "Did they create their culture on purpose?"

Such a simple question, but huge on impact.

My answer is a resounding YES. You have to be deliberate in creating your culture OR you get one that is created for you. In my experience the latter is not a positive culture or one that is aligned with the organization's mission and values.

So of course the next question is, "How do you go about creating a culture that is positive and one that can be a competitive advantage to your organization like the one's mentioned above?"

I have some ideas, and have had some interesting discussions on the topic, but why don't you all help me out here....

What is the formula for creating a culture that is a competitive advantage for your company?

You can give me your thoughts and I will compile them in a blog post for next week.....I love it, I have just given my readers some homework! :)


Debbie said...


An interesting topic and one that's close to my heart. I'll start off your list by mentioning that I think it's critical that business owners articulate the values by which they want to do business. Those values should then be cascaded into everyday processes, policies, procedures, relationships, etc. The acceptable human performance by employees should be aligned with the values and how they are communicated as a way of doing business.

As a caution, not addressing performance behaviors that don't align sends a mixed message and can be the beginning of unraveling the owners intentions.

Leaders, managers and employees are the stewards of the values and culture. This role should not be taken lightly.

Can't wait to see the list.

With a smile,

Melany Gallant said...

I agree with Debbie's recommendations.

I'll add that you need to hire people who are aligned to the values of the organization. It means those employees will be more motivated and happier on the job.

Further, the values need to be reviewed regularly by all employees. e.g. at the start of an all hands meeting, the CEO/president should review them. (for that matter, they should be reviewed at the start of every team meeting.)

When assessing opportunities/making decisions, employees should be empowered to ask themselves how well these opportunities will support their organization's corporate values prior to moving forward.

Communication is key and so is leadership that reflects/demonstrates the values it expects employees to align with.

Trey said...

Hi Cathy,I love the Information... Great Blog Post...


Matt & Lynne & Cece's blog! said...

I believe the answer to your question depends on the "values" that organization was founded upon. If a company was truly founded on a set of beliefs that align with higher level human aspirations (to serve, to improve, to create a better tomorrow,etc) then a positive culture will feed and strengthen itself as the individuals strive towards a collective ideal. If the foundational driver of the organization is purely profit driven, and happy sounding buzz words just get sprinkled around to make this focus sound more appealing, then no amount of "culture building" is going to change anything.
My experience tells me that if you DO have an organization grounded on those higher ideals, then the work of culture building becomes ensuring the mission never strays from the core, and examples where the mission has been delivered for positive result need to be constantly reinforced to keep the energy focused and alive.

Unknown said...

Thanks Matt, Debbie, Melany and Trey for reading..stay tuned for next week's follow up....