How to build corporate culture from the ground up


Corporate culture building, according to Tony Robbins, is best summarised by his recent podcast, broadcast across the world:

“It’s the businesses that chase a vision that will truly change the world—and the market. But the vision must start internally. From the company’s employees to the company’s core values, every aspect of the business must embody your mission if you want to thrive. This is why establishing a powerful company culture has transitioned from something that is ‘nice to have’ to something that is a ‘must-have.’”

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Brian Chesky ( AirbnbEO) famously said that corporate culture is the ethos on which the brand is built. He further went on to say:

“Our culture is the foundation for our company. We may not be remembered for much after we are gone, and if Airbnb is around 100 years from now, surely we won’t be a booking website for homes. We will be far past this in our evolution (not to mention that kids 100 years from now will be asking their grandparents what websites were).

The thing that will endure for 100 years, the way it has for most 100-year companies, is the culture. The culture is what creates the foundation for all future innovation. If you break the culture, you break the machine that creates your products.”

In its essence, corporate culture is the bread and butter of your business. Here’s how you can go about building it.

#1 Employee audit: You need to take a thorough audit of obtaining truthful and honest information about how your employees feel about the company, its vision and mission (if they are aware of it), and their current level of satisafaction with it. Without the honesty, this exercise fails completely and is just another “corporate” gyaan session. You need to select one HR executive to conduct this exercise and anonymity must be assured along with clear directions for questioning and analysis. For example, asking employees of an IT service that makes shipping and logistics software “On a scale of one–five how happy are you with your job?” is a pointless exercise. Instead, the quesitons should be along the lines of “Do you feel in line with the company’s goals and objectives,” “Do you feel empowered in your current position?” etc.

#2 Upper-management training: After you have guaged the real perceptionof the company, you need to assign the task of training upper management to ascertain real empowerment to create cultural change in the company. The upper-management executives need to take the reins and guide their employee to one mission and vision that is universaly scalable and market-friendly.

#3 Create your vision and mission: Every corporate culture exercise needs a vision statement from the founder. For example, Apple is all about innovation, while Samsung is all about customer service and growth. Nike is about passion in sports while Puma is about empowerment and sprints. Every company has their own style of running and it’s the job of the CEO to set the pace. What does your company do that’s unique in a minor or major way to your employees? Maybe it’s something  as small as “friendly environment” or “lack of bottlenecks.” Envision that utopia for your company and come close to it.

#4 Communicate the mission and vision: After the mission and vision statement have been worked out, you need to focus on how you’re going to actually communicate it to your employees. First, you need to meet with upper management and explain to them the importance of effective corporate culture, and how best they can arrange smaller internal meetings with key employees to explain the culture better. Second, you need to find network nodalities, i.e. which one or two employees influence a larger group of people. It could be the star innovator or the cool charismatic one. These employees must be taken under your wing early on to really drive the message home. Lastly, the scalable version of this is corporate communication channels like emails, corporate chat groups, office branding, stationery, on-boarding processes, memos, corporate events and parties, and leader motivational conferences.

Remember to be honest with yourself and build a company where your employees want to work for you every day.


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