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What Does “Company Culture” Look Like?

by Eric Baker
on 2016-05-16

The phrase “company culture” gets tossed around a lot in modern business discourse. It must be important because people keep talking about it, but what is it? Most definitions fall along the generic lines of “the shared mission, values, practices, and actions of an organization and its employees.”

The problem with that definition is a lack of meaningful descriptiveness. It’s like explaining to someone that a rectangle is “a shape.” True, but what does a geometrically challenged person do with the information?

Just as we would for a better explanation of a rectangle, we turn to mathematics to better understand company culture. Here’s where it gets complicated: Business Goals x Employees = Company Culture. Otherwise known as how a company goes about doing business.

“Fair enough,” some might say, “but why does it matter?”

Think of company culture like the internal systems of the human body working in synchronicity (or not) to keep us healthy (or not). We know our systems currently function because we’re breathing and moving around and reading blogs, but we can scarcely lay our circulatory, digestive, and nervous systems out on a table and see them in action. Fortunately, just as we have other (less messy) ways to assess health and diagnose illness, tools also exist to examine company culture and what might be ailing it.

Sometimes, when you ask the leadership group of a company to describe company culture, the answer may be wishful thinking about an ideal state rather than reflective of practical reality. A better way to develop an objective evaluation is to conduct an employee survey (facilitated by a partner with expertise in survey design and interpretation). Much like an MRI or CT scan can reveal hidden details about the human body, a scientifically designed survey will show employees’ underlying views of the organization and its culture. For example, do they feel the environment is collaborative and collegial, competitive and oriented toward autonomy, customer service-focused, etc.? Does that line up with the image management wants to present to the world? If not, treatment might be needed.

With a good understanding of company culture, the critical question becomes, “Does our organization have the managers and staff in place to sustain a strong culture (i.e., to promote the desired environment while meeting business goals), or are we headed for a decline?”

In recent years, People Analytics has developed into a precision instrument for addressing such issues. And one thing People Analytics can do that MRIs and CT scans cannot is look both at individuals and groups at the same time. With guided interpretation, Analytics reveals which employees are high potential and which ones might not be in the right roles. It also allows users to discover competency gaps that are hurting the effectiveness of, for example, a sales team or an executive group.

These are just a few of the ways companies are becoming engaged in aligning culture, strategy, and talent. For more information about how Caliper Analytics™ and our other tools can help you diagnose your organizational health, call us at 609-524-1200 or click the contact tab.