The company culture is more important than a marketing strategy
March 7 2020
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A complex problem solving, creative thinking and critical analysis of a complex reality around us. These are the skills that the World Economic Forum found crucial for everyday living in 2020. All of them are necessary for the aware leader of any organization. Especially, when he or she wants to implement an effective marketing strategy. The truth is that an organization without internal structure can’t handle a marketing strategy, and can’t be effective. The priority should be company culture. If you have that, you can think about marketing.
Sure, in many cases both processes run simultaneously but I started with such claim for a reason. When someone says ‘company culture’, entrepreneurs often talk about fruit deliveries, chillout rooms, ability to drink beer on the premises, internal league on PlayStation or an Xbox. This is not company culture. These additional perks can impress interns and juniors but even that is a thing of the past. A truly talented and experienced employee will not come work for the company (nor he will stay in one!) that uses methods from widely available books. Culture is something entirely different.
What is the company culture?
Company culture is first and foremost about values that are adopted in the company, and this always starts with a leader. In a perfect world – with the company’s owner, in a slightly less perfect – from managing director. He is the driving factor behind solid foundations the company is built on. They give the company a long-term, competitive edge. As a manager, you don’t have to think about what to tell the client. You don’t have to use a manual. If the crisis comes your way or when you’ll want to answer even a simple question, you don’t have to search your brain. You have it written in stone. Benefits?
- Values are the ultimate “cheat sheet” that you always carry with you. The best part – you don’t actually cheat!
- Clearly defined, structured and implemented will be cherished not only by „champions of change” in your organization (managers) but by ordinary employees as well. Clearly not always and not by everyone but it’s not the goal here
- Company culture increase transparency in the eyes of consumers…
- … and built employee loyalty
There are five aspects of company culture:
- Customer centricity
- Employee centricity
- Standards of actions and responsibilities for these actions
- Innovations and readiness for change
- Internal processes centricity
Company culture is a complex way to cover all the crucial activities of any organization. No matter commercial or non-profit.
Company culture is not a tool – it’s a foundation. A source for all internal processes. Starting with recruitment (it’s flow, time, elements), ending with shopping for the company. For the most part, company culture should be focused on the two most important people – the customer and the employee. In that order? In any order; an aware leader knows that there is no one without the other. If the company doesn’t have domain knowledge, treat their employees badly, tolerates mobbing, steal their ideas, hires a new person for the same position without the team’s knowledge, doesn’t pay on time and has the policy of „painting the grass green”, it’s highly unlikely that it will keep a talent. Any reasonable employee won’t come and work for them, times are changing. Nowadays, employees are not that demanding as some paint them to be. Naturally, demanding candidates and employees are part of the picture everywhere but what is often easily overlooked by the leaders, is self-awareness and knowledge. These people know what they want. They are aware of their strengths and skills. They know you can and sometimes even should work differently. One remote day a week? Why not? If the occupation and skills of a person in question allow it? If the company is internally ready for this model of work, why not? Other, better tools for group work? If the manager won’t be able to accept the arguments of a particular employee, then there is a chance they are not false, but poorly presented or misunderstood and not accepted.
How to implement the company culture?
It doesn’t mean that the company culture should solely depend on employees. The culture has to be managed.
- First, you need to identify currently ruling culture (if it hasn’t been defined, it doesn’t automatically mean it’s nothing there)
- You should then define the culture you want to have. Remember that has to support long-term goals and have a long-term nature in itself
- Then you have to create a plan to manage the culture. Who should create it? Who should be responsible for implementing it and propagating inside the organization? Who should take care of it on a daily basis and check if it’s respected?
- Another step is the culture’s presentation in front of everyone in the organization. You need to tell employees why the company decided on implementing it, why the culture looks this way. You should also point out the steps that will be taken to manage it
- The last step is the monitoring of culture, ways of respecting new rules and correction of misconducts
Naturally, you can’t go overboard in any direction. The fact that employees should not be the only ones responsible for implementing the company culture, doesn’t automatically mean that managers should do it. Implementation of the company culture should always be spearheaded by actions probing the mood and expectations. An employee survey designed around topics like remote work, flexible employment (permanent contract, B2B, etc.), ways to communicate „down the corporate ladder” or implementation of a flat organizational structure – everything is important.
How to design the company culture?
Contrary to a popular belief, the culture doesn’t need a lengthy document full of slogans about gender equality, respect for individuality, work time, expectations and support, etc. That level of codification can hurt the company, instead of helping. This kind of document and assurance from managers that starting today „everything will be different” are often treated as an additional argument for leaving the company. People can’t believe it, can’t trust it. Especially, when the company in question introduces new culture as an element that sweeps old mistakes under the rug. Then the culture as „the tool” (for leaders-managers and recruiters) becomes an acid test (for employees). It’s worth codifying company culture, turn it into a document but it can be as short as one sentence. It’s OK, really.
How you should design company culture? 7 important rules:
- The culture should be clearly designed and as simple as possible. In extreme case, it can be as short as one sentence. The important part – it should be easy to pick up and understand by current and potential future employees, customers, business partners
- You should use both internal and external communication for proliferation. It doesn’t apply only to people you already have. It’s important for potential employees as well, since they are interested in the company. Those who left the organization disappointed should also be included. Remember, that one dissatisfied employee that has contact with at least one potential employee, equals possible loss of at least a few skilled employees. It takes years to build a brand, and it’s fairly easy to ruin it
- Use symbols to strengthen the values. Sticking manifest (even with one sentence) onto a wall, at a representative space in the office? No. It’s a nice but ultimately empty touch. Everyday practice? Yes. People are convinced by arguments, paper can take anything. Celebrating a project with champagne. Celebrating the employee’s birthday with a cake on the house. In the case of limited parking space – weekly rotation or priority for people that have the longest route to work. These are examples of actions people can and will respect
- It’s worth to recruit people with matching in mind. That way they fit the culture. I would, however, warn you about taking this point literally. You can find a candidate that will know internal culture (external communication!) and have something to offer – a comment or an improvement. Is there a reason why the company should not hire him?
The company culture should be a living, breathing and changing organism. It should be like a modern, Japanese house – have solid foundations but be flexible above them. Thanks to that it will withstand earthquakes.
- You should focus on values while designing processes in the company. If the company culture is a spine than processes are vertebrae. Without them, there is no spine. Every process needs to be run through the lenses of culture
- A leader needs to set an example. Always. Period
- The company’s structure always has to be adjusted to culture and help in its implementation If you want to cultivate a model, you need to have an environment and tools
The ultimate goal of the company is not a constant growth. The goal of the company is to create such a company culture that can provide sustainable development – for owners, employees, the local community.
How does it translate to the title of this text? Company culture is more important than a marketing strategy – as simple as that. You can and you should update it. Supplement it with something new, sometimes even change. Experiment, draw conclusions. Check what doesn’t work and why. Values, cherished by a leader and transformed into the company culture, can’t be changed that easily. They are the foundation for everything else and us such, a foundation for long-term success. Any kind of company, from any kind of industry.
Company culture has a direct impact on sales
People buy from other people. Does the company you own or you’re a manager at, employ people or Excel specialists? Customer centricity, focusing on problems and challenges of the customer, means also the introduction of processes in the company itself. Thanks to them you can compete, and even create innovations. Company culture is an element that brings you closer to your goals.
You can find more details on the subject in my newest book, that I finished a few weeks ago.