How To Evolve (And Improve) Your Company Culture Without Losing Who You Are

June 11, 2018

Company culture is core to your identity as an organization, and it also helps your bottom line. In one study, 92% of respondents said they think that improving their corporate culture would improve the overall value of their company.

However, shifting company culture is easier said than done. Many leaders fear that evolving their company culture will cause them to lose their sense of identity (and in doing so, start faltering in other areas of business too). While this fear isn’t completely unfounded – there IS such thing as changing for the worse – it doesn’t have to be your company’s fate. Learn how to make a few simple, positive changes to your company culture, without losing who you are.

Consider the Tone of Your Organization

Over the past few years, several major companies have made very public missteps when it comes to company culture. Consider one hugely notable one – Uber, which was rocked by scandal in 2017 due to sexual harassment allegations and concerns about a culture in which workers were pitted against each other. The company touted its core values of “meritocracy and toe-stepping” and “principled confrontation,” which workers pointed to as part of the problem. A huge public fallout ensued over the course of that year, and since then Uber has taken steps to correct its image by crafting new values, such as “valuing ideas over hierarchy” and “acting like owners.” Heck, they even created a bold, branded video campaign to help further signify this internal company culture shift.

Take some notes from Uber’s story to evolve your own company culture and start by taking stock of your current values (whether written or informal). Conduct a company-wide survey to ask what your employees view as the actual values of your organization – in contrast to your self-proclaimed values. Use this to identify areas in which you need to grow and change.

Define Your Personality

Leaders sometimes worry that shifting company culture will make their organization seem too “cookie-cutter,” leaving its unique personality by the wayside. This is actually a pretty valid concern. But what you can do to combat that is to closely consider the unique adjectives that describe your culture — creative, whimsical, cutting edge, fast-paced, environmentally conscious, innovative, etc. Use these as guiding principles to drive the narrative about your culture beyond the average and cookie-cutter.

For example, if environmental consciousness is important to your corporate identity, establishing incentives for walking or biking to work might make a good perk that sets your organization apart from the pack. If you value injecting a bit of fun into the workplace, sponsor weekly “happy hours” in which employees can socialize with their colleagues. When all of your decisions link back to your core values, you’re sure to build a strong company culture.

Listen and Communicate

One of the smallest changes that can make the biggest impact is improving communication, particularly between upper management and lower level employees. Consider hosting virtual town hall meetings or brief check-in sessions hosted by upper management. You can also learn from what we do here at kununu every Friday, which is have lunch together as a team and then have an all-hands meeting where we go over a range of topics aimed to keep us focused, motivated, and united as a team. More specifically, at our all-hands meetings we go over things like: company performance across our KPI’s, individual team member and team updates so that we can all stay informed about and appreciative of each other’s work, and most importantly, we use the time to share feedback and concerns to each other as a team so we can all work to find solutions.

However you want to set it up these types of company meetings / feedback sessions in your organization, use them as an opportunity to communicate your values to employees as well as to seek feedback about areas in which you need to continue to grow. This facilitates honesty and transparency throughout your organization, helping to maintain your company identity as you continue to improve your culture.

Celebrate Individuality

At the end of the day, your company is only as strong as its employees.

Don’t mistake company culture with corporate conformity. Click To Tweet

Your culture will only grow stronger when you encourage individuality. Allow your employees to express their opinions, bring their unique personalities to work, and use their creative vision to drive innovation. Research shows that autonomy is a top predictor of work satisfaction and job retention, so trust your employees to do their jobs well.

Practice What You Preach

Employees can spot a fake, bland corporate culture message a mile away.

To enact actual change in culture, it’s important to practice what you preach. Click To Tweet

Take the example of Paul English, co-founder of the travel search engine Kayak. He felt strongly that providing excellent customer service needs to be a company-wide effort. As a result, every employee at Kayak takes phone calls from customers. Applying new policies fairly across all members of your organization goes a long way toward producing company loyalty. It also keeps you honest as a company leader; if something isn’t working well, you’re likely to find out about it sooner if it impacts you or your top managers as well as entry level employees.



Linda Le Phan
Senior Content Marketing Manager at kununu.

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