Is Your Company Culture Superficial?

Published on 28-09-2017

Companies love to boast about the importance of their company culture. However, in many companies the gap between the theoretical and the actively lived culture is steadily increasing. We had a closer look at the top 5 signs indicating your company culture could be superficial – from rewarding rockstars to a lack of independence among employees!

Superficial company culture

In our last blog post we defined the term ‘company culture’ and analysed its significance and impact as well as possible risks. In a nutshell, an authentic company culture needs more than a profound poster in the entrance hall:

The culture of a company should capture the essence of a company
and be visible in the actions of its employees.

In reality, however, the ‘official’ culture often does not reflect the core of the company and employees actions therefore do not align with the core values of the business.

These 5 signs indicate a superficial corporate culture:

  1. Inconsistency
  2. Too many core values
  3. Lack of independent decision making
  4. Rewarding expectations to rules
  5. Fragmented culture

#1 – Inconsistency

According to Chris Edmonds, executive consultant and author of Amazon bestseller, The Culture Engine, a first sign of a superficial company culture is if the actions of leaders and employees do not align with the company’s values.

“A superficial culture is deeply inconsistent. One of your company’s values might state ‘people are our most important asset,’ yet leaders dismiss, discount, and demean team members every day.”

Edmonds also clarifies that it influences the culture negatively if there are no linking consequences to unacceptable actions.

“A stated value might be “integrity,” yet people withhold information, don’t deliver what they promise, and poach customers from their peers – with no consequences to their actions.”

How can we fight inconsistency? First of all, it is crucial to enforce consequences for behaviour that does not reflect the core values or your company culture. Especially leaders should act as role models and guide employees through the process of integrating the company’s values in their own behaviour.

#2 – Too many core values

Sometimes less is more. That also applies to the core values of a company culture. Catherine Spence,  COO and co-founder of business culture management and analytics firm Pomello, sums it up perfectly:

“As the number of core values increases, the likelihood that a company is trying to be all things to all people increases. Many companies fall into the trap of listing every value that sounds desirable, not realizing that they are diluting the message they are sending to employees about what is most important, and therefore diluting their culture.”

A smaller number of core values makes it easier for your employees to actually integrate them in their behaviour. This integration is vital for a deeply-rooted authentic company culture! So, it might be a good idea to review your core values with an eye to whittling down the list to the top three that most embody your company’s true philosophy.

#3 – Lack of independent decision making

Are your teams struggling with making decisions by themselves? Or are management mailboxes packed with basic question emails? This might be a sign that your company culture is only skin-deep. If your employees understood the company’s core values and integrated them into their own behaviour, they can use them as guidance to make decisions independently, leading to the better results for your organisation.

“When employees are able to make decisions independently, it indicates that leadership has explained the strategic priorities of the team/company, and that employees understand how their core behaviors influence achieving those priorities.” – Catherine Spence

Rewarding Rockstars

#4 – Rewarding expectations to rules

“He might be a bit moody from time to time but in the end he always delivers amazing results! We should consider him for a promotion.” Does this sound familiar? It is a perfect example of overlooking and even rewarding questionable behaviour in favour of the employee’s performance. A clear sign of a shallow company culture!

Accountability expert and keynote speaker Linda Galindo says this behaviour might occur in the ‘rock stars’ of your company:

“[You may see it] in the form of top performers who are not held to the same requirements as everyone else on the team. Often this behaviour is excused because of the results achieved.”

Typical excuses you could find include “He brings in more revenue so he can turn in his reports incomplete or late,” or “She does not have to attend meetings, she exceeds expectations and her team loves her.” If this sounds like your organisation it is advisable to have a conversation with your top performers to ensure that their behaviour backs up your core values and culture, especially because they often act as role models for other team members.

#5 – Fragmented culture

We at CompanyMatch cannot emphasise ths point enough: A clear defined company culture is the key to success. Unfortunately, fuzzy, incomplete or wildly differing definitions are still a daily reality.

Ask yourself:

If you would ask 15-20 employees what the core values and priorities of your company culture are,
would you receive 2 or 3 consistent answers? Or 15 to 20 different ones?

If you get more than a handful of different answers it is highly likely that your culture is fragmented. This might be due to a lack of internal communication or from having too many core values for employees to really embrace. So take this as another sign to review your key core values or to rethink your internal communication strategy. Also, it might be a good strategy to conduct a survey among employees to determine the true essence of your organisation.

But how can you define your company’s culture successfully?
We had a closer look at the
most essential points of an authentic corporate culture!

Did you ever ask yourself how the company culture affects the recruiting process? In our recent white paper “The true costs of a bad hire”  we conducted in-depth research about this topic and many more! Please, feel free to fill out the form below to download our free research paper!