3 Variables of Corporate Culture – What You Believe, Say, and Do

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Recognise This! – Company culture is a combination of what you believe, what you say, and what you actually do. Be sure the three stay in alignment.

I’ve written a good bit on corporate culture, first on building a magnetic culture, then on creating a solid, single culture after M&A. But what is culture? I like the simple definition:  Culture is what happens when the boss isn’t looking.

A positive culture in which employees are focussed and productive, behaving in ways the organisation wants whilst delivering on strategic objectives (which is the definition of employee engagement, by the way), does not happen by accident. As Chris Edmonds recently explained in SmartBrief on Leadership:

“Organisational cultures that are consistently high performing AND values-aligned do not happen casually — they happen intentionally. The leaders of these organisations understand that they must effectively manage employees’ heads, hearts and hands — not just one of those three. Leaders that focus on performance alone typically see their role as managing employees’ hands, not employees’ heads and hearts, as well.

“These organisations create a workplace culture where employees do the right things — using their heads, hearts AND hands — even when the boss isn’t around.

“[Ken] Blanchard’s experience and research identified the single foundational component of high performing, ‘great places to work’ organisational cultures. That differentiating component: values alignment, driven by senior leaders.”

But, as I’ve written before, employees can be confused by which values they are supposed to be living – the stated values or the tolerated values. One would hope the two types of values are one and the same, but all too often, organisations say one thing on the values plaque hanging on the wall, whilst leadership demonstrates (or tolerates) another.

On BizTimes.com, Dan Schroeder explained this in terms of three culture variables:

“Espoused values: What does the organisation say it believes? What are the vision, mission, and values elements that have been articulated and promulgated?

“Artifacts/symbols/actions: What are the tangible representations that tell people what the organisation values? What behaviours are reinforced? Which ones are punished? Who gets rewarded and promoted? On what basis? And so on.

“Assumptions: What unspoken truths (real or perceived) are held by organisational members including, importantly, the organisation’s top leaders?”

The best way to uncover these unspoken truths and reward those you want to see (your stated values) and stop rewarding those you don’t (your tolerated values) is to implement a strategic employee recognition programme that overtly and quite clearly recognises and rewards employees based on your core, stated values. When detailed messages of praise are included and publicised (such as through an internal Social Recognition newsfeed), other employees begin to see what is most desired and appreciated in the organisation.

Do your employees know what values you want to see delivered in the daily work? Are your stated and tolerated values one and the same?

About DerekIrvine

About DerekIrvine

Derek is a seasoned, internationally minded management professional with over 20 years of experience working across a diverse range of industries. During his career he has lived in many countries including Spain, France, Ireland, Canada, Sweden, UK and the USA.

Derek also heads up the marketing, communications, product development and rewards teams at Globoforce, building a product that is industry leading, with a rewards portfolio that is now the most global and largest rewards selection in the industry today.

In his role as a thought leader at Globoforce, Derek helps clients set a higher ambition for global strategic employee recognition, leading consultative workshops and strategy setting meetings with such global organizations as Avnet, P&G, Dow Chemical, Intel, Intuit, KPMG and Reuters. An authority on the topics of employee engagement and recognition, he has been a guest speaker at worldwide industry and professional group conferences.


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