Many companies dream of being more like Google, Zappos, and Netflix…because “they’re cool.” However, workplace culture is not about being cool; and it’s not always about having happy employees. It’s not about free lunches/snacks/beer, secret santa gifts, bean bags or karaoke nights.

Those things are nice. But they’re simply artifacts. They aren’t necessarily what fuels success in your organization. That’s what culture is: stuff that reinforces and clarifies what’s really important to driving success in your business. 

Beyond Foosball

You’ve heard many one-liners from the Management gurus say things like, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”.

Based on our 20+ years of experience working with Fortune 100 companies, what we believe is: Those clichés are all true. They might be a bit exaggerated statements, but they are true. They are only meaningful, though, if they are more than just words…if they are rooted in actions, behaviors, and employee experiences.

Although a company might have a clear strategy and plan for how they will attract and retain the best talent, their culture may end up incompatible with (or maybe even in conflict with) these plans. And in most cases, culture trumps plans.

To make it worse, while companies are busy designing and building that “cool” place to work, the factors driving its success for the company change; and the culture doesn’t.

Workplace Culture is about…

Culture is about what is deeply valued in the system and making sure what is valued is connected to what drives success for the enterprise.

This is important: you can talk about your “values” all day long, but if those values aren’t really practiced –  if they aren’t reinforced by what your stakeholders and constituents experience – then those values aren’t truly “valued.”

Workplace culture is comprised not just of the words behind those values, but also how those values are practiced in everyday life. It is ingrained in every action and behavior. It takes time, energy and intention to manage and maintain it.

Keep the tenets by which your organization works and lives transparent so that your people experience what’s truly valued day in and day out.

It’s going to take more than a foosball table in your break room to make that happen. Measure your culture, analyze your culture, understand your culture, and then activate it.