Q. I have joined a new company that is trying to build a company culture. We are all talking about it but we really don’t know what we are doing. What contributes to a company’s culture? Can you really build a company culture?
A. Building a company culture happens every day. I define company culture as “the way a company gets stuff done.” Experts might have a more formal definition like the values, assumptions, and norms that guide the organization’s behavior. Some company culture is visible, including celebrations, rituals, decor, and whether employees work in cubicles, offices, or both. Invisible elements of a company’s culture include values and beliefs.
Many experts believe that a company’s culture is created and shaped by its leaders. The leaders are often role models for the behaviors and values within a culture.
Jon Carson, chief executive of BiddingForGood, a charitable e-commerce company in Cambridge, offered his insights on building a culture. “Stated core values are important,” he said. “We have to all explicitly commit to these values. We all need to be reinforcing this commitment with our behavior every day. Discussing culture during the interview process is critical. A cultural mismatch can be a bad hire. The chemistry of the leadership sets the tone.”
Carson hits on a critical topic: assimilating new hires into a culture. As a company leader building a new company, it is important to provide candidates with a realistic picture of the culture. When hiring new employees, try to present a balanced perspective of the role and the company, offering examples of both the positives and negatives.
No job is perfect and most candidates understand that. You are also sending the message that your culture is a candid and transparent one. Presenting a straightforward representation of the opportunity will help eliminate the “cultural mismatch” hires.
You are smart to think about company culture now. Establishing a positive work culture early on is often easier than shifting a culture years from now.
Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group , a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton.