Implementing a Great Culture? Bad Idea!

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There is no shortage of articles/speeches/tweets/etc. about “Culture” and its importance in the business world.  As startups and established businesses thrive in our current economic environment, particularly in the tech space, competition for top talent is fierce – and most savvy professionals include the Culture “X-factor” on their list of decision points when making a career change.  In addition to the talent acquisition angle, there’s the fact that a great work culture helps retention, productivity, client/partner relations, and a general positive momentum for a business.  Any manager or leader looking to grow their business is thinking about how to cultivate the right culture that attracts top talent.  So much so that a cottage industry has grown around a single idea: how to “fix” corporate culture.

This notion of “building” or “fixing” Culture is misguided.  Culture isn’t something that should be thought about as a means to achieving an end.  It’s not a tool that you can just put in place, regardless of how much time, money, or effort you spend.  Instead, Culture is a fostered by-product of deliberate elements and values in a workplace.

Some important examples:

  • Respect for colleagues
  • Sensitivity to and accommodations for diverse needs and working styles
  • Allowance for FUN in the workplace. You know – laughing and smiling
  • Tolerance for experimentation and innovation (and subsequent failure)
  • Opportunities for personal challenge and growth
  • Focus on continuous improvement/excellence

As business leaders, we need to stop all the talk about “Implementing Culture.”  And don’t pretend that a foosball table or espresso machine are a silver bullet either.  Instead, we should focus on key things that we and our employees will value personally and professionally — and let the employees make the culture judgment for themselves.  I think we’ll like the results.

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