Busting the myths of corporate culture

Corporate culture is vital to the success of a business and affects every stakeholder, from employees and management to customers and suppliers. All companies have the potential to create a culture of excellence, like Google for example. However, certain myths surrounding the creation, maintenance and improvement of culture can prevent them from achieving this, such was the case at Enron and their infamous corporate fraud of the early 2000’s.

Let’s debunk 10 of the top company culture myths and learn the truth!

MYTH 1: It’s all about pay

It would be easy to assume that so long as employees are paid a living wage, they will be content, and the workplace will be harmonious and happy. However, this is not the case. Whilst living comfortably clearly impacts employee wellbeing and morale, much more must be considered before a workplace will be cohesive. Yes, money can help ease stress, to a point. Money can make life easier, to a point. But money cannot buy the feeling of happiness. The other topics explored below may be equally crucial for a harmonious culture.

MYTH 2: It’s all about trendy perks and fun benefits

Besides monetary remuneration, trendy benefits like bean bag chairs or beer pong tables can also be assumed to bring a strong culture. However, behind the vending machine reflections or beneath the glossy coffee machine exterior could be a rotting company culture. While such benefits are fun, they are very superficial and surface-level and do little to create an authentic, deep-rooted sense of belonging. A simple, but genuine, “thank you” from management every so often may do more for employee morale than a foosball table ever could.

MYTH 3: Corporate culture must grow organically

Whilst it would be great for a company culture to be perfect from day one, this is not often the case. A culture needs to be fostered, nurtured, and grown through deliberate and planned initiatives. Whether this is team building days, regular employee check-ins or a sympathetic sick-pay policy, culture requires a strategic focus.

MYTH 4: Corporate culture should be uniform throughout the company

While the overarching cultural themes should be consistent throughout the company, it is very natural for different departments to have their unique subcultures. For instance, it is unlikely that the finance department has the same ambience as the marketing one! The very act of allowing different departments and people to embrace their individualism would sooner be a core part of a company’s culture rather than the more rigid approach of expecting total uniformity.

MYTH 5: Culture is driven by values and surveys

Having a core set of values and carrying out employee surveys can be great culture prompts on paper. Core values give employees a behavioural blueprint. And employee surveys can deliver honest feedback. However, neither are enough to carry the culture of a company alone. In other words, having a great culture on paper and being seen to be working on your company culture of course does not translate to having a great culture in real life. Values and feedback must be systematically acted upon; their existence alone is not enough.

MYTH 6: Culture doesn’t affect the bottom line

A company’s culture plays a crucial role in the business’s success and profitability. The quality, customer experience and productivity of a company can all be easily traced directly back to the culture of the employees and management. A competitor can almost always find a way to better your product or offer a new service. However, solid and authentic company culture is a market differentiator which is much harder to replicate.

MYTH 7: Culture is problematic to change

There is an assumption that company culture is tough to change or that employees would resist that change should it occur. However, this is not always the case. Although people can be sceptical of change initially, if proven to be beneficial, this does not often remain so. Leaders who intentionally work on their company’s culture can dispel negative cultures or improve a good culture and turn it into a great one. Habits can be formed, perfected, or broken depending on the desired results. By using a systematic approach, culture can most definitely change.

MYTH 8: Executives or HR control the culture

Whilst the tone from the top (a.k.a. the culture and environment that management create) is undoubtedly important, it is not the only thing which dictates the culture which will resonate throughout the company. The day to day atmosphere will also be strongly impacted by the characters and ethics of the employees at ground level. Therefore, the recruitment process must be robust enough to ensure that employees are conducive to the company’s culture.

MYTH 9: Inter-generational gaps in the workforce are problematic for company culture

Research shows that the actual differences between the generations at work today are far fewer than people assume. Instead, the problem isn’t that employees in each age group are hugely different; it’s the belief that they are. We explored this topic in detail in our previous blog post so check this out for further insights in this area!

MYTH 10: Culture is just another gimmick

Some people believe that focusing on company culture is just a trend at the moment to seem culturally “woke” and sensitive. However, this is not the case. For as long as there are companies, there will be employees. And for as long as there are employees, there will be a culture that must be managed. Although “company culture” has only become a buzzword in recent times, it has always existed. People are only now recognising the actual benefits that can be reaped when it is correctly nurtured. 

No matter what part of the world you live in, what company you work for, or the team you are a part of, one thing is sure: all companies have a culture which is imperative to their success or failure. Little else can create a more beneficial impact in a company than fostering a positive and empowering culture. Now you know the myths surrounding culture, don’t let them hold you back from developing and protecting your company’s secret weapon from within – get in touch with us to find out more.

This article is written by:

Holly Thompson

Holly is a Chartered Accountant (CA) from Scotland with a background in external audit and prospects in forensic accounting. She also has experience in editorial and creative writing which she is putting to use during her time in Sweden. Look out for new blog posts, perfect for open and curiously minded individuals.

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