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The 6 Components of Company Culture

SHELBY JONES, JUL 12, 2018: Excerpt from chapter 1 of GREAT MONDAYS: How to design a company culture employees love.

What will it take to be a place people not only want to work, but love to work? A persistent and consistent commitment to designing culture. *Persistent* because culture is a core business capability. Don’t think of it as this year’s priority; it will certainly be usurped by the next shiny business imperative that comes along. *Consistent* because the best solutions come from constraints. Design is messy. Imagining, creating, and implementing something new is hard, particularly in business. (Just ask any executive who attempted to build an innovation team.) But by having a system in which to work, the tasks become much more understandable. And do-able.

The six-part framework in this book can enable leaders at all levels in all types of organizations to imagine, create, and implement a work-life that supports employees, customers, and business. It is a process that builds on its own momentum to become a self-reinforcing system. An upward cycle that will draw in the people who want to help an organization reach its purpose.

The first three components are about creating the vision for the culture, while the second three are about bringing the culture to life. Together all six create a system for taking an active role in the outcome of how people feel and are engaged in the organization. A system for designing a culture employees love.

Purpose > Values > Behaviors > When looking for work, millennials, and if we’re being honest all of us, want more than a job — we want to contribute to something bigger than ourselves. It’s the premise religion has been using to great effect for millennia. Unless a company can identify and articulate why it is in business beyond making money, its purpose, the talented people who could have helped take that team up a notch, will seek the next level somewhere else. This is the first component of company culture. Values are behavioral guideposts that establish how to act on the way to purpose. The second component of culture should come to life with every decision. A product lead should reflect on how they inform a new feature. A line manager needs to mentor with values in mind. And head of people ops needs to not only have her team look for value fit when hiring but consider how the entire interview experience reflects them as well. Everyone across the organization needs to know what the firm’s values are and how they inform that person’s responsibilities. Behavior is the third component. Imagine it as the path from where you are today to purpose, where you are headed, and guided by the guard rails of your values. Behaviors set precedents, ensuring each person understands what is expected when they make choices at work. Together, the first three components provide the trajectory for talent to make better decisions with less oversight. Culture becomes a tool that enables macro- (not micro) management.

Recognition > Rituals > Cues >

The fourth component recognition is not new, but no less important. When an individual or team can see that the result of their effort is appreciated and how it’s contributed to a larger goal, they feel satisfied, and perhaps even motivated to do it again, better. On the flip side, is there anything more frustrating than putting in the time on a project and not see a result? It’s not long until those disheartening “why did I work so hard on that?” sentiments start to flood in.

Not only does engagement suffer from insufficient or ineffective recognition, but it can be a drag on resources and momentum in the form of replacement cost. Companies with high rates of employee recognition have 31% lower voluntary turnover than companies with poor recognition cultures[1]. Don’t be misled, though; coffee cards and plaques alone won’t work. There are many opportunities to recognize, and many ways to do it.

Relationships are the synapses of culture; if they aren’t solid and plentiful behaviors begin to diverge between departments, offices, and roles. Rituals, the fourth component, provide ways for co-workers to build and strengthen relationships at work by inspiring connections across physical and virtual boundaries. Gallup has demonstrated that those who have a best work friend are seven times more likely to stay longer than those without. Not that everyone needs a best friend in the cube next door, but the statistic shows the power of relationships. Weekly coffee dates, monthly lunch and learns, and annual retreats are just some of the rituals that build and strengthen relationships.

The final component is cues. These are the verbal and behavioral reminders of the organization’s ideal future. The most common example is the mission statement on the wall. This and other tools regularly elevate long-term thinking so that the day-to-day of work doesn’t obscure the why of work. Cues are the connection between tactics and strategy — the end and the beginning of a holistic system that turns work into meaning and hours into purpose.

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