What is Culture and How Can Companies Build A Good One?

Why are you going to work today? It’s a question we ask employees frequently here at Culture of Good. (We even wrapped this question 6 foot across the back of our tour bus!) Considering that millennials have two main motivators for work, a paycheck and doing meaningful work, it’s imperative employers focus on building a culture that addresses both motivations.

Most would admit that we work for a paycheck. Yet, most of us would also agree, whether we’re millennials or not, that we want our life to have meaning. The only reason that this generation of employees associate their work with meaning more than previous generations is that that idea was largely introduced in the early 80’s. 35 years later and it’s almost a given in the workplace or at the least an expectation.

The irony of expecting to have meaning at work is that everything at work has meaning whether we are intentional about it or not. Here’s a profound idea – culture is simply a sum of the meaning of everything shared by everyone.

The truth is there’s meaning behind all parts of an organization. Whether a company leader is making decisions, or an employee is reacting in support or opposition of a leader, each builds a certain culture.

How we treat each other, talk to each other, our work ethic, the values we state the company holds, relationships with vendors or customers and our philanthropy, all have a specific meaning to those impacted and in turn, that meaning contributes to an overall culture.

It is important to build a culture by being intentional about cultivating activities that align with the overall purpose of the company. Culture can also be built by filtering perspectives of how other employees have impacted the company through the lens of what we want the culture to be.

Ultimately, we must accept that all we do and say builds a certain culture in companies, whether we intend them to or not. When we aren’t intentional about the meaning behind what we do, what we say, or what we decide, we build a culture we’ll ultimately end up changing, wasting vast time and resources in the process.

Or we can do two things that will guard us from this building a culture of bad as follows:

  1. Create a “Culture Team” in our organization that we can meet with to get feedback on how our next decisions we are making are going to affect the culture of the organization. Honest feedback will allow us to determine if there is a better decision that upholds and builds a Culture of Good.
  2. Stop making culture-shifting decisions that impact so many employees without taking the time to discuss with them the “why” behind our decision. Providing the meaning behind what we do may allow employees to avoid perceiving our leadership incorrectly and in turn affecting the culture in a negative way.

Unfortunately, there’s no perfect way to make every decision so that each employee will agree with or perceive us in a positive manner. Recognizing that everything has meaning can empower us to thoughtfully consider all business and personnel decisions. Safeguarding the culture in this way will pay off in the long term and not only will our employees feel like what we do as a leader has meaning, they will show up to work with a recognition that they have meaning in their work too.

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