Culture: Take Your Values Off the Wall

Workplace culture. Everyone’s talking about it. There are 1,001 ways to define it. What does your culture say about your company? More importantly, what do employees say about your company’s culture?

Culture constitutes the beliefs, expectations and values shared by employees and transferred from one to another. Some say it’s what employees do when no one is looking!

A Harvard Business School study reported that culture has a significant impact on an organization’s long-term economic performance. The study examined the management practices at 160 organizations over ten years and found that culture can enhance performance or prove detrimental to performance. In the books Good to Great and Tribal Leadership, they look at what separates GREAT companies from good ones. The most important ingredient they found? A strong company culture.

According to Kristin Graham, VP of Engagement and Communications at Expedia, who gave an inspiring presentation at a recent NHRMA Conference, “Company culture isn’t a poster. It’s a living, breathing organism that reinforces your core values.” In fact, the right company culture can:

  • Enhance customer experience: Zappos
  • Drive innovation: Google
  • Instill a sense of employee pride, camaraderie and enthusiasm: Umpqua Bank
  • Improve company’s performance/Be a competitive differentiator: SW Airlines uses culture as a way to attract and retain talent ? It’s also part of their employee value proposition.

ZapposZappos is renowned for its culture. Tony Hseih, CEO and author of DELIVERING Happiness, suggests that what matters most is that a company defines its core values and that you commit to them. Hseih reports that “50% of our performance reviews at Zappos measure how employees are furthering the company’s culture.” Zappos’ culture, which is all about customer service, is the responsibility of everyone in the company, not just one department, like Human Resources.

Is your culture company driven or employee driven? Graham suggests it needs to be both. She believes culture has three elements include: 1) Company 2) Leaders and 3) Employees. “Leaders can’t maintain it on their own, but they can kill it.”

“Culture ultimate belongs to employees — they are the ones who create and sustain it daily,” Graham suggests.

That being said, what tools can we give leaders and employees to take the values off the wall and bring them to life? Recognition is a powerful communication tool to let employees know what’s important to the organization. It’s about putting your values in action. It’s less about formal awards and more about celebrating Employees of the Moment!

A recent Deloitte study shows two out of three employees are currently looking for another job. What is your organization doing to build a culture of appreciation and engagement? What is it costing you not to do it?

Get your THANK ON™! Theresa Chambers, Chief Motivation Officer, Recognition Works, helps companies cultivate cultures of appreciation and engagement through consulting, Recognize the Moment® Lunch-n-Learns, and Thankology™ Toolkits and more. She can be reached at or 206/353.8267. You are welcome to share this post. Just give credit where credit is due.