1cul·ture noun \ˈkəl-chər\ : a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization (such as a business).
Well, that's one of three different definitions of what was recently named Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year: culture. The other meanings involve the arts and the cultivation of bacteria, so we'll stick with the business version.
According to Peter Sokolowski, Editor for Merriam-Webster, "we're simply using the word culture more frequently. It may be a fad. It may not. It may simply be evolution." Culture has meant so many different things to all sorts of managers over the past year. While it may mean an air hockey table in the conference room to some, that's really not what will make or break your company.
So then, what makes a good company culture? I recently read an Inc. article where founders from the Young Entrepreneur Council discussed the most persistent myths and what you can do to fix them. Here are the top seven biggest culture myths I took from the article:
1. Perks = Culture
"Many startup founders mistakenly think that fun perks automatically make for a good culture. Don't get me wrong--happy hours, Ping-Pong tables and catered lunches are great, but they're not going to keep employees happy unless you work to create a fundamental culture of respect. It's a lot easier to provide perks than it is to make sure that employees feel motivated and valued." -- Jared Feldman, Mashwork
2. Culture Doesn't Start With You
"Most CEOs don't realize that they are defining the culture by how they are behaving. Snap at people often? Anger will become part of your culture. Undermine your staff? Bureaucracy will invade your culture. Pretend everything is always amazing? You'll create a culture full of fakes. If you want a culture that is always evolving and becoming more beautiful, invest in doing so yourself." -- Corey Blake, Round Table Companies
3. Employee Feedback Isn't Important"Some CEOs do not treat employee feedback as if it was as important as their own thoughts, because they are not viewed as equals. Though it is clear a CEO's role is more expansive then other positions, the culture of a company can be negatively affected if people's ideas and thoughts are suppressed. Each employee has a unique view of the organization, and the culture of sharing views is important to the company's success." -- Phil Chen, Systems Watch
4. Culture Doesn't Need to Be Defined
"Chris Wood of Paige Technologies says it best, 'Organizations are really only a representation of the people in them; employers must be diligent about mapping culture.' Products and services can be duplicated, but people can't. Your people drive your culture and they are the one defining difference of a company. CEOs forget to understand and define the culture that they have in place early on." -- Jason Grill, JGrill Media | Sock 101
"We help many growing companies build culture, and the one thing most CEOs get wrong is forgetting to operationalize it. Culture isn't just a set of core values on the wall--it's a set of consistent behaviors. You have to be clear what those values look like in practice (we call them work rules) so current and future employees see culture in action and understand how works gets done in the company and align the company to them." -- Susan LaMotte, Exaqueo
6. You Can't Hire for Culture
"You have to carefully select the type of people you add to your team if you're going for a particular culture. For instance, if you're a fashion company, you probably want to hire people that are actually passionate about fashion. It's good to have people with different ideas, but generally they should have a shared common interest. With that shared interest, you can build a culture that your team members and customers can get behind." -- Andy Karuza, Brandbuddee
7. Compensation Is the Only Motivator
"Once they reach a certain salary, most non-sales employees could honestly care less about additional compensation. Employees work to feel needed, so remind them that they are your company. Recognize them, and make it public recognition." -- Justin Gray, LeadMD
One reference that caught Sokolowski's eye is from a book called "How Google Works," which includes a description of a software fix by a few engineers that made ads more relevant on the search engine:
"It wasn't Google's culture that turned those five engineers into problem-solving ninjas who changed the course of the company over the weekend," wrote the authors, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and former head of product development Jonathan Rosenberg. "Rather it was the culture that attracted the ninjas to the company in the first place."
While these seven phrases are completely fabricated, the idea that culture is the key element to a successful business is 100 percent true. It's not just the people, but also their actions and so much more. Keep this in mind and you'll be part of the true meaning of this year's most popular word.
Like I said, you have to carefully hire the right people for a successful team. Read our complimentary eBook and find 51 ways to do so!