Define Your Company Culture Before It Defines You
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Can you relate to this Dilbert comic strip?

We hear people talk and even boast about their amazing company cultures. But do we really know what that means?

Company culture has become lost in a lexicon of corporate buzzwords, rivaling the greats like scalable solutions, synergy, pain points, robust, and low hanging fruit. Mmmm…yes, who doesn’t love the sweet taste of low hanging fruit?

But that’s kind of unfortunate, because when company culture is done correctly in the context of your workplace, things like employee engagement, morale, profitability, and retention begin to flourish.

So, if you’re reading this, we’ll assume you have at least an ounce of interest in company culture and perhaps improving it for your own workplace.

To be clear, this is not “10 steps to have an amazing company culture” or “the fool-proof formula for a strong company culture.”

Instead, we simply want to have an open conversation about what company culture looks like at Ameriflex, difficulties we’ve encountered along the way, and the lessons we’ve learned so that you can better identify your culture and tilt it in the right direction.

What is company culture?

Let’s pretend company culture is a character in one of those cheesy commercials about a two-in-one cordless leaf blower/mulcher. You see a desperate person tangled in a sea of knotted cords thinking to themselves, “If only there were a better way!”

Company culture is trapped in a mess of buzzwords and corporate jargon and we need to set it free by addressing what it IS instead of assuming what it isn’t.

In the following video, Kevin Burgess, EVP of Revenue at Ameriflex and master communicator, explains what company culture is and how it has a lot in common with dirt. Yes, dirt. Like the stuff in the ground.

To summarize Kevin’s words, company culture is the soil out of which everything in your organization grows.

If your soil isn’t right, growth won’t happen. The same is true for your company and your people.

If you put an OK performer in a flourishing culture, you’re going to see that employee overperform and shine. On the other hand, the best talent in the industry won’t stand up to a toxic company culture.

So how do you get the soil right?

You design it.

Culture by Default or Design

Every company has a culture. That culture will come about in one of two ways: either by default or by intentional design.

Some people are in the camp of “Go let culture happen. Everything will be fine!” This may work for some companies, but for most, it won’t provide the desired outcome.

So what shapes culture when it’s done be default? Usually it’s the loudest voices in the room. And as you know, the loudest voices are not always the best voices to influence decisions.

In the end, a culture formed by default can lead to:

  1. Low engagement
  2. Low productivity
  3. Lack of ownership

Yuck.

On the other end, you can let culture happen by thoughtful design. Intelligent leaders are thoughtful about what they’re putting into the soil. They don’t compromise on the ingredients that foster the best growth for their company.

At Ameriflex, there are five ingredients (our cultural values) that make up our soil.

  1. We grow profitability and sustainably
  2. We respect each other with prompt candor and accountability
  3. We excel through perpetual learning and development
  4. We advocate for our customers and associates in everything we do
  5. We think before we act and make fact-based decisions

If you don’t have something like this at your company already, take some time to think through your values and the behaviors you want your people to display to support those values.

Borrow from ours, or come up with your own. But ask yourself, is your culture happening by default or is it happening by design?

Building Company Culture

The most legendary company cultures (think Southwest Airlines, Zappos, Ritz Carlton) didn’t happen overnight on a whim. For most companies, it takes years to build and a lot of failures along the way.

So, how do you actually go about building a company culture? We can’t speak for other companies, but we can give you insight into our experience at Ameriflex. In the following interview, Ameriflex President and Chief Operating Officer, Bart McCollum, and Kevin Burgess talk about the work that went into building and shaping Ameriflex’s culture.

To echo Bart and Kevin’s conversation, culture at Ameriflex started by default without too much thought or strategy. We threw together seven values that sounded nice and plastered them on our walls and break rooms. Sure, we felt great about ourselves at the time, but we realized fairly quickly that it wasn’t getting us anywhere. So what did we do?

We interviewed the highest performers at Ameriflex and asked them specific questions about their experiences. Out of that interview, we created a profile of what a rockstar employees looks like Ameriflex. From there, our five values were born and we created a list of behaviours our highest performers display that support those values.

Over time and after repeating our values and behaviors over and over, our culture has started to become automatic. When it becomes automatic, it becomes habit and instinctive.

Remember, culture is an ongoing process. What worked for you five years ago, may not work for your company now. Don’t be afraid to course correct if something isn’t working or detracting from your culture.

Maintaining Company Culture

Creating an amazing company culture is like working out. You can diet and bust your butt in the gym to get to your goal weight, but if you quit exercising and eat poorly, you’re not going to reap the rewards of all that hard work you put in. The same is true for company culture.

Maintaining culture is a daily grind. It takes constant maintenance to keep your culture where you want it.

In the final video of this post, Kevin walks you through a process called “The Three R’s of Culture Maintenance.”

Maintaining company culture requires:

  1. Repeating it over and over
  2. Recognizing when employees display or don’t display it
  3. Rewarding employees who model it

If you found this article helpful or want to learn more about Ameriflex, fill out the form below. We’d love to have a conversation with you!