Your Company Has a Culture, Whether You Know It or Not

ColumnistsJun 15, 2021

Your Company Has a Culture, Whether You Know It or Not

So why not make it one filled with happy, productive employees, Sherry Smith asks in her latest column.

Sherry Smith is director of business development for data and consulting company The Edge Retail Academy. She can be reached at
I recently read a great article about workplace culture. 

What resonated most was the basic concept of “company culture” always being described the same way—a shared set of beliefs, values, and attitudes that guide your organization. 

It doesn’t get any more concise than that, and it makes it clear that culture goes beyond a company’s mission statement and vision.

In reading the article, I also was reminded of a few of the recurring misconceptions I’ve heard over the years.

I’ll start with my personal favorite: “We don’t have a culture here.” 

It’s not difficult to imagine that some business owners might not believe they have a defined culture, especially if they’ve never put the work into defining it for themselves, their teams, and their customers. 

However, just because you haven’t defined or articulated what your culture is does not mean you don’t have one. 

All businesses have a culture; it just might not be the kind you want or can identify with. 

Your culture impacts every aspect of your business, from productivity (or lack thereof) and employee engagement (or disengagement) to employee retention (or turnover), client-facing interactions and growth (or stagnation). 

When I hear, “We’re never going to be a touchy-feely organization and besides, it doesn’t affect the bottom line,” it makes my blood boil.

Another misconception is that culture is about everyone getting along.

As many of us know all too well, retail environments don’t always lend themselves to peaceful and harmonious ecosystems. We naturally experience ebbs and flows, as success is celebrated, and disappointments pondered. 

Our teams can enjoy good days, when everyone seems to be pulling in the same direction, and more challenging days, when we must contend with a little tension in the ranks. 

Culture is much more than how people interact. It is formed by management behaviors and practices, by clarity of roles and expectations, by group successes, and by the health of relationships between staff and leadership.

It is revealed in how colleagues treat each another, especially when they disagree. And it is in how the business facilitates healthy debate and disagreement while still providing a psychological safe space for team members. 

 Related stories will be right here … 

Culture drives performance.

When I hear, “We’re never going to be a touchy-feely organization and besides, it doesn’t affect the bottom line,” it makes my blood boil. 

Research shows that detached or disengaged employees cost you an average of $20,400 per year. 

They’re less likely to work hard, feel motivated or meet expectations for their role. In fact, approximately 73 percent of actively disengaged employees are on the lookout for new jobs or opportunities.

Conversely, employees working in a strong, positive environment will thrive. 

According to a Harvard study of more than 200 companies by J. Kotter and J. Heskett, a strong culture will increase a company’s net income 756 percent over 11 years. 

Another study by Performance Indicator found that 94 percent of employees with great managers reported being more passionate about their work. 

On the other end of the spectrum, 77 percent of employees with bad managers hope to leave their current jobs.
In his best-selling book “The Culture Code,” Daniel Coyle writes that business leaders can learn to dial into behaviors that create an extraordinarily effective culture.

Here are seven steps toward creating an extraordinary culture.

1) Dedicate the appropriate amount of time to lay out your core values, as these will be the foundation that guides your organization.

Include your employees to make sure that everyone is aligned, including leadership and management. Use survey tools, such as SurveyMonkey, to solicit feedback from your employees in the development process as well as going forward.

2) Set clear goals and outline the objectives so team members have a clear understanding of what they’re working toward. This will not only help guide individual performance but will encourage collaboration and teamwork.

3) Communicate your action plan and be transparent. A lack of transparency creates a secretive environment and a lack of trust.

Full transparency, meanwhile, contributes to a more collaborative environment where employees are more likely to share ideas with each other. Studies have also shown that a transparent work environment leads to happier and more engaged employees.

4) Celebrate wins, even the small ones. Most everyone benefits from affirmation and recognition. Rewarding employees for outstanding performance or a cost-saving suggestion makes employees feel valued, encourages them to continue performing, and motivates others to up their game.

Also, friendly competition leads to better results. Gallup determined companies that recognize and celebrate employee wins experience 50 percent increased productivity, 44 percent higher profits, 50 percent higher customer satisfaction and 13 percent less turnover.

5) Invest in employee development. When you invest in your employees, you attract and retain great employees. Investing in continual learning shows you care, increases innovation and performance, and improves engagement and employee loyalty.

Consider, for example, offering rewards for conference attendance or a small budget for books.

6) Make time to retreat. Offsite events for your entire team can be instrumental in the growth of your organization. These retreats can range from a one-day event to a weekend retreat and are designed to foster an environment to brainstorm, discuss and overcome challenges. Plan out your year based on your team’s input.

7) Consider serving your community. Choose a favorite charity or two and get involved. Communities love when their local businesses give back. Social responsibility contributes toward a positive identity and helps you stand out.

While there are many more things you can do to create a positive workplace culture, the above suggestions are a great place to start.

I leave you with this thought.

Author Simon Sinek said it best: “Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” 

A strong culture creates a stronger sense of purpose and employee commitment, enhanced trust and cooperation, higher levels of respect around disagreements, and, ultimately, a better bottom line. 

The most successful organizations foster cultures that allow their employees to grow and thrive.

Sherry Smithis director of business development for data and consulting company The Edge Retail Academy.

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