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The Main Thing Harming Your Company's Culture Might Surprise You

19 October
by Ed Weirauch
3 minute read

Don’t lose your company’s culture to technology.

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Company culture can play an influential though often intangible role in the success of both an organization and its staff.   Lose the glue that ties a company together and that organization is likely to experience diminishing success.  Today all organizations face a real threat to their culture: the very technology that could be viewed as a company’s “make or break.”

Corporate culture can be defined as the total values, virtues, accepted behaviors and political environment of an organization. Some say its how things get done in an organization. Others point out it’s the everyday, unsaid ways of working. It’s the air, taken-for-granted traditions and safe assumptions that become ingrained in people across the organization. Outward stuff.

Now let’s consider technology that is ever-changing and seemingly drawing us increasingly inward to our little screens.  Further, working from home, frequent conference calls as well as flexible vacations also pull us away from strong corporate cultures that we otherwise absorb more naturally when we’re on-site.

From this perspective, technology that may ultimately be highly influential in an organization’s success may also be chipping away at a company’s culture.

Here’s a really basic example.  In your (on-site) office, how often does your phone ring?  Oh wait, some companies have found traditional telephones to be obscolete and are now rarely found on every desk.  E-mail, instant messaging and company portals (often intended to support corporate culture) have really eliminated the need for live phone conversations.  Yet that’s one of the best corporate culture can be nourished, by voice tones and facial expressions that even the best emojies can’t capture.

That’s a subtle development.  Working from home, while very much the norm today and certainly offering great benefits to organizations as well as their employees, perhaps causes a company’s culture its biggest dent.  I once worked for a company that had a positive culture but by comparison to my previous employers, felt kind of low on the “personality” scale.  We worked somewhat flexible hours during the week and then most everyone took Fridays off or worked from home the whole day.

My cynical but I thought on-target observation: “There’s isn’t much personality here and on Fridays there are even fewer persons!”

What a challenge companies face in nurturing their corporate cultures if they rarely come together in-person as a team.  Internal websites or portals are certainly one response but that’s effective with conveying information rather than absorbing the way things get done.

Of course we can’t turn back the clock.  These are developments that also have their advantages.  The challenge is to address them, for companies to be creative in developing ways that culture can be instilled even with technology.

One approach is to hold scheduled in-person meetings maybe quarterly or monthly.  This coming together isn’t quite enough.  Develop a session where culture can be addressed, where employees interact in a fun way and where people can absorb shared values.

Telling stories creates great opportunities for enhancing culture.  Remember though that “internal communications” are often put aside so employees can address what they feel are more pressing issues.  Mix success stories with information that’s required or otherwise looked for.  Late in the year when the company distributes the next year’s calendar of company-wide days off, include stories there.  Maybe there’s a new payroll process that will naturally entice people to an internal site, or a required training.  Link articles spotlighting employees who are good example of your culture.

Be pro-active with stories.  There will always be some employees who love stories.  How about including the line “forward this to five co-workers…” to stir the spread of news?

Finally, consider actually writing out your company’s values and encourage employees to post them (physically, like with a thumb tack).  Maybe each month you spotlight one value and hold a contest enticing people to nominate stories or perspective on that value.

Technology seems to have made almost everything possible.  Let’s just make sure it doesn’t lead us to become a series of isolated workers where culture important role can go the way of stationery, desk-top telephones.

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