How to identify your company culture & cultivate it

If you were asked to summarise your company’s culture, how would you define it? Are you aware of your company ‘culture’? Whether you know it or not, your organisation’s culture plays a key part in all aspects of your business, from recruitment right through to sales. We asked Adam Shaw, MD of Assured Recruitment to explain.
So how do you identify what your business culture is? And how do you determine whether someone ‘fits’ into it?
Once you can answer these questions, you can start to refine your culture and apply it across your business, working towards strengthening your team, increasing your chances of achieving greater success. This whitepaper shows you why corporate culture is so important, and how you can use it to your business advantage, especially when recruiting new team members.
What is culture?
Corporate culture is best described as a company’s ‘make-up’ – how that company behaves, interacts, and exists. Although difficult to explain, the ‘vibe’ that culture creates becomes instantly apparent when you walk into a company.
Sometimes this can be seen in decision-making, the work environment, work hours, and hierarchy of a company.  However, these are only the surface layer of culture and the attributes that are visible.
The more powerful aspects of corporate culture require greater observation, and are formed by the beliefs, standards, perspectives, attitudes, as well as the internal and private conversations of the company’s employees.  These attributes become the foundation for all actions and decisions within a team, department, and the company itself.
Despite not always being an intentional creation, every company has a culture, which evolves from the core values belonging to the business. That’s why it’s not enough to just adopt someone else’s culture – others can inspire you, but ultimately you must make your culture your own.
How do you define your culture?
When someone asks you to describe yourself in three words, it’s difficult, and it’s the same when defining your company’s culture: there are things to consider which will allow you to say, “Our culture is…”
To help you gain an understanding of your culture, there are several questions you can ask yourself to give you a basic understanding. These include:
  • What are the business’ core values?
  • What are the objectives?
  • What needs to be done to achieve them?
  • What timeframe are we working to?
  • What type of environment will support these objectives?
  • How can I get the most from my employees?
The answers will explain why your business works the way it does, and may also help you to identify areas for improvement. Are you giving your employees what they need? Are they performing to standard? Are you on track to reach both short-term and long-term goals? Your culture should enable growth and success, not hinder it, so you need to make sure that it’s compatible with your plans, then you can focus on employing people that will compliment it and avoid wasting time on those that won’t.
Flexibility must also be questioned when looking to improve your culture, and you must be both reasonable and realistic in your approach. It’s perfectly fine expecting your team to be creative, but are you enabling creativity? If group discussions are frowned upon, then how can creative minds come together? Companies just won’t succeed if the culture doesn’t match the corporate objectives.
It’s also worth pointing out that culture is influenced by the market you’re in, as different markets have different levels of profit margins: Companies that have a high volume of sales tend to have slim margins and need to function at a quick pace, and are likely to have a more transactional culture, whereas companies with wide margins can operate at a more relaxed pace, resulting in a more laid-back corporate culture.
Cultivating and applying your culture across your organisation
Once your culture has been determined, you can look at refining it to ensure it’s working in harmony with your business.
The next step is to apply it across your organisation, and use it as a regular point of reference to support consistency in your business practice. Also, culture comes from the top; so taking ownership is key if you expect others to conform.
Early on in the process, you can refine your culture, or steer it more towards what you would like it to be. There are many ways to adjust your culture, but it’s important to do this in the early stages before culture is fully established and implemented.
When you have finished cultivating your corporate culture, you can begin using it to influence business practice and decision-making, applying it from the initial point of contact with a prospective employee, so that you are both aware of what can be expected.
It’s particularly important to get this right before the employee joins the business, as any misalignment post-appointment will prove disruptive and costly, should their employment not work out.
Determining a ‘cultural fit’
So how exactly do you identify a cultural fit candidate? As mentioned earlier, the most obvious thing to look out for is whether a candidate’s make-up suits your workplace. Of course skills and qualifications will already have been taken into account, so it’s time to look at the person, and their likelihood to succeed in the designated role. 
Many companies struggle when recruiting as they have limited time, and lots of applicants, therefore using a recruitment partner is a more desirable option, especially when recruiting for senior-level positions.
Consultants can dedicate both time and resources to finding the perfect candidate, allowing for plenty of face-time in order to establish whether that person is suited to the company that is looking to appoint them.
Due to the success of the cultural match approach to recruiting, we are seeing more techniques being used to enable recruiters to understand a person’s ambitions and objectives, such as cultural questionnaires, on-site visits and behavioural questions at interview.
By using a more targeted approach to recruitment, you’ll not only receive an exceptional candidate, but an exceptional contributor to corporate growth and success.
But don’t be fooled into thinking it’s just the candidates’ responsibility to do the impressing; it’s equally as important that they are impressed by you, and that they see a future within your company.
That’s why understanding your culture and making it visible to prospective candidates is crucial if you’re expecting them to stay with your business for a substantial period. So, be honest, be clear and be consistent. After all, it’s for your benefit too.