How to know what your company culture is?

Tagit: HR, Ohjelmistokehitys, Pilvipalvelut / SaaS, Asiantuntijapalvelut, IT, Konsultointi, Valmisohjelmisto, companyculture, culturebasedhiring


When you want to hire to your company culture, you kind of need to know what your culture actually is, don’t you? Company culture can be understood and perceived in a million ways, I’ve noticed. Every time I talk about it, the opponent has a clear vision of what I’m talking about. Only that it often differs from mine and those of the other people I talked about culture with. Which tells you the whole concept of organizational culture is new to organizations themselves, and there has not been enough of discussion of what it actually means. But don’t be fooled. Company cultures have been studied for years and years. The outcomes just have not entered the business world until during the recent years, because it has been thought of as mumble jumble.

Organizational culture is different than “culture” as such

To start with, I think it is worth to mention, “culture” in this context has nothing to do with ballet or opera or arts. We are not talking about any of the complex wholesome that “includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society“, as E.B Tylor has described culture.

We are talking about organizational culture. Organizational culture, company culture, workplace culture, all mean the same, is something less tangible, less obvious, but all the more powerful than any market factor usually described as critical particles of an organizational success.

It is important to understand the difference.

So just to make sure, just like drinking beer and playing football do not describe the whole personality of a man species, offering coca cola and a pool table at the office are not descriptions of a company culture.

Company culture is like a personality

When you think of any clearly successful global company, and with a closer peek, you will see the company culture having had a significant role in the making of that success. Company culture is not stagnant. It is the personality of your company that adjusts and alters itself over time, just like us people as we grow and go through life experiences and stages.

If you think of it as a personality, I think it will be easier for your to also recognize at least some aspects of it. And the same way us people get along and enjoy spending time with some people better than others, people enjoy working in some company cultures and people better than with and in others.

The same way we end up choosing a life partner, with some company cultures there just is a much better fit, which makes you as an employee a better professional, happier person and eager and willing to think of the good of the other person (the company and it’s people). When you find the best match, you want the other person (the company and the people) to succeed, to feel good, to be happy, and you are more willing to take the extra mile to make this happen. It’s exactly the same way.

So just to make sure, just like drinking beer and playing football do not describe the whole personality of a man species, offering coca cola and a pool table at the office are not descriptions of a company culture.

Competing with market factors is easy, try competing with culture

There will always be another company who has stronger strategy, better products, cheaper prices, more resources, and most likely some of those were copied from you. The real competitive edge comes from developing something special superseding the strategy and any market factors. We keep hearing “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. Well, it’s true.

Highly successful companies have capitalized on the power of building, strengthening and managing a unique and specific company culture. Organizational culture has a powerful effect on the performance and long term effectiveness of organizations. This has been recognized by several scholars and observers over the years. You can fight the facts if you like. It’s just that those who are using the facts to succeed will take the lead while you fight.

Organizational culture cannot be copied. It is the unique outcome of the needs the strategy introduces, the actions and behavior, expectations and communication style of the leaders as well as how the people in the company act, behave, and what they value and expect. When different kind of leaders join the company, the culture changes very easily. When new employees join the company, the culture can also change. The culture is built by and from the people and the strategy needs. That makes it unique, difficult to copy, difficult to build and maintain, but such a powerful weapon.

The big question: How to know what your company culture is

There is no simple answer to this, because recognizing the culture 100% requires 100% of the employees to participate in the process. It takes time and effort, a lot of questions to be answered and analysis to be made. But it can be done. And recognition is not enough. You have to work on it, demonstrate it, hire to it, build on it, strengthen it on a continuous and systematic basis. But, not alone. The entire company will do this when you hire and lead according to your culture.

We here at Heebo have been conceptualizing and developing company culture based hiring for few years now. Whilst there are many, I’m sure equally correct and good ways of recognizing and developing company cultures, we’ve chosen our path and lean a lot on the frameworks, learnings and findings of things like Competing Values Framework, Big 5 personality types, company strategy paths, future of work, Quinn’s management roles to name the few. These seem to us as the most logical and simple enough to extend and scale into the realities of leadership, line managers and human resources development. I personally have a long history of working with company cultures and have always found it very fascinating to see how much power a strong culture has for the employer attractiveness and business results. But I have been challenged it is not possible to structure and simplify something so complex into a software. I’m working on proving those non-believers wrong!

If you are able to read Finnish, the fastest help is currently here, where you can quick test your company culture. This is for employers only. We will soon be able to introduce the first version of the company culture profiling app to employers also in English, as well as a counterpart version of “my preferred workplace culture” to all job seekers and talents out there.

In the mean time, here’s a few tips to help you understand a bit better what your company culture -type might be.

Now type is a type, and all those coca colas, pool tables and dogs at the office are just products of a culture type. Not the culture type itself. The same culture type host dogs or cats or decline them both from the office. This is also just a very, very limited type casting, it takes a whole lot more to make a proper analysis. But so that you get a point.

Choose one answer from each of the 3 questions.

What is your organizational focus?

a) high knowledge, long experience, strong team commitment, lot of traditions, democracy
b) strong on innovation and development, visionary, entrepreneurial, forward going
c) success, achievements, result, winning competition
d) strong processes, structure, efficiency

What would you consider as your organization’s key strengths?
a) human capita, empowerment, commitment
b) product or service leadership, innovativeness, vision
c) market leadership, ability to acquire resources and market share
d) stability, predictability, dependable delivery, low cost structure

How would you describe your leadership?
a) bottom up, mentoring, sparring, paternal, supportive, trusting, giving a lot of freedom
b) visionary, innovative, inspiring
c) highly result orientated, demanding
d) hierarchical

These are the types of characteristics we are looking in and offering you to help you understand better what your company culture is made of. They are very much linked to the company strategy as you can see.

The company culture types are separated into four dominant types:

The A-type (a-answers) companies place a strong focus on people, knowledge and learning as well as on the team and commitment to each other. This culture is most likely described as people friendly, tight knit, family like community of high knowledge and expertise. There is a strong focus on letting people together decide how to work, how to achieve results. Leaders support the teams and people by investing a lot of time and resources on learning, sharing, developing skills, sparring and mentoring.

Company values, traits, reward systems, activities, accepted behavior etc are characterized by the company type. They in turn attract the kind of people who value these very high when considering a new job. The way I see and believe, there is and should be a direct link between strategy, company culture, leadership and the products of the culture. And the more clear it becomes the more you strengthen and communicate it.

The other types are:

The B-type companies are like your startups. Full of passion, vision and entrepreneurship! Attempting to be the Next Big Thing and working relentlessly in achieving their vision. All the learning happens through the innovation, development and building of the company structure, products and / or services. There is no time really for going to school about it. Trial and error are accepted and part of the learning process. It’s often spontaneous and leadership is able to only managing expectations as it’s too busy with the innovation.

The C-type companies are your market leaders. Usually your big name consumer brands who are aggressive, highly competitive and take over. These cultures are the best place of work for individuals who love result, achieving, competing, winning, money, status, reputation. Lot of internal competitions, rewards, celebrating success and pushing for the extra mile for achievement are the characteristics of this culture type.

The D-type companies are your traditional, hierarchical corporations or universities, most often you see German success stories also in this category. This is all about scaling the business through heavy focus on doing things cost efficiently by the book. No solo going on here. This is not a workplace for people who cannot follow orders. But those people who enjoy job security, want to just take the ball to the goal as agreed, this is the best culture for those.

No company is just one thing. Company cultures are a mixture, just like our personalities. But there are dominant characteristics which lead the way and dictate the products of that culture. When you think about the culture like this, you’ll probably see the connection to strategy. For a strategy to materialize, you need people who are comfortable if not passionate to work in the atmosphere the company can offer. Otherwise there will be conflicts. Culture has nothing to do with a person’s skills and experience. But it has everything to do with where you are most likely happiest, most comfortable and even excited to use your skills and experience. Who is going to be the most fitting partner to you?

Who (or which company) is going to be the most fitting partner to you(r company)? That’s what culture is really about and that’s what we here at Heebo are trying to open up, scale and introduce to the whole world. Step by step.

Written by Susanna Rantanen

*Originally posted in Heebo blog

*Read next: Why bundling up positions in a job ad will to work in your favor

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