Company culture. Two words which get thrown around very often, especially in corporate environments. In recent years it has become very fashionable to talk about company culture, identity and values. And yet, what does this look like? Why is it important? And how does it take hold in a workplace?
Before I begin, I want to point out that the following article is based on my personal experience working in different companies, on my discussions with colleagues and friends, and on my observations as part of my research into organizational structures and behaviour, which included Frédéric Laloux’s book: Reinventing Organizations. This article will express my personal views and feelings, and I would be more than happy to discuss with you to understand your own views on this fascinating topic.
“Company culture” refers to the series of values, principles and behaviours which constitute a company’s common identity. It is expected that all employees throughout a company will buy into this culture and adopt it into their daily (work) lives.
I find this an exciting and fascinating concept, very linked to the phenomenon of emergence: how we, individual human beings, get together into organisations which develop their own consciousness, purpose, values and culture. Together, we become something greater than our individual selves: a living organisation.
And yet, we all know that this isn’t necessarily true in practice. Many of our companies are more machines than living beings. Company culture is too often something that is forced upon employees by top management trying to keep up with the current trend.
Wrong question, I would say. To me, a company’s culture is something that you have to feel. It’s not just about having “values” written on the wall, but rather about how the employees live these values, behave towards each other and towards themselves.
When, as a client or candidate, you walk into a company with a strong company culture, you can feel it. You can feel it in the energy emanating from the people working there and from the work environment itself. Company culture isn’t just about living by certain values. It’s also about a mindset, a set of behaviours, a shared sense of purpose.
From what I have seen so far, there are two ways by which a company culture can arise: either it is imposed from the top down, or it can naturally arise from the ground up.
Your answer to the question “what is company culture good for” probably says a lot about which of these two options you prefer. If you see culture as a useful way or tool to ensure everybody in the company gives the best of themselves working towards a common goal, then you probably lean towards imposing a culture. If you see it not as positive or negative, but rather as a naturally occurring sense of common identity, which serves no particular purpose but may have its benefits, then like me you probably prefer to let it grow organically.
A company culture is always difficult to describe and define, and the best way for you to find out would probably be to come visit us in Cannes and see for yourself! However, here’s my best try:
Our deepest-held value is that of growth and improvement. Probably owing to the fact that we have a young team of students and young graduates, we understand that we will make mistakes, but that each time we will get better. We want to learn, we want to try new things and we want to grow more, get better and wiser as a result.
The idea of having a positive impact, on other people, on society or on the environment, is very important to us. It is something that many of our team members brought with them and has become central to our company. We feel like doing our work is great – it’s a lot of fun and very interesting as such – but without having a positive impact, it would be pointless.
Lastly, we treat each other with respect, but especially as human beings. We know that each of us has his flaws. Each of us has his ups and downs. There is no point in seeing each other as robots and exclusively as work colleagues. There is much more to be gained, much more to be learnt, in embracing each other’s humanity.
Our company’s culture stems from our team’s members: each of us brings his or her own personality and life story. Of course, this is easy since we are a small team. Our culture will evolve as we grow and change ourselves. What will not change is our openness to grow and learn from this journey, as our culture evolves to reflect our company’s identity.
If you’d like to share your experience with company cultures, learn more about O’Sol and our culture, or discuss any other points, please feel free to contact us!