Benchmark Business Group

Culture: What's Yours Like?

February 7, 2017

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Every business has a workplace culture. Workplace culture is difficult to point out or describe. It may be easier to describe the air we breathe. We know air exists and we understand our bodies respond to it differently depending on its qualities. Consciously or unconsciously we respond differently if air is clean and refreshing, or when it is polluted with toxins, allergens, or smoke. We may smell a bad odor that is harmless and just unpleasant for a while. We may walk into a smoke filled room and decide to leave. Or, we may not even know about the toxic air we are breathing until we get sick. It may take a few minutes or even several years of experiencing poor air quality before we realize the symptoms. Yet, most of the time we never think about it. However, if it is cut off, if we are underwater, or just have a cold, then we are aware of how important air and breathing is and at times may even be desperate to get it. 

Workplace culture is very similar to the air we breathe. We experience it, use it, and work with it. But, do we really observe it, create it, protect it, or work to make it better? Just like the air we breathe, workplace culture usually isn't noticed until there is a problem - gossip starts, team members are passively aggressive, negativity creeps in, employee turnover increases, customer service starts to slip, and the business suffers. The impacts of culture are significant, but noticing it can be difficult. This is why it's important not to just let culture form, but to intentionally shape it, even if you don't believe there is an issue now. 
Workplace culture can be defined as the energy you feel when you walk in the door of a business, talk on the phone with a business, read its website, or any other interaction a customer, employee or even vendor has with a business. Workplace culture is a reflection of the beliefs and values of a business. It is the "why" of a business that is put into action. It dictates behavior, social attitudes and communication. 

There are many different kinds of workplace cultures. A business may be laid-back and casual, or it may be formal and professional. It may be supportive and positive, or negative and destructive. It can also be influenced by one person or by many. It can be the same for several years, and changed in a matter of minutes. Workplace culture can help the success of a business or drive it out of business. 

With all that being said, you may be wondering about the workplace culture in your business. How would you describe it? How would your employees describe it? How would your vendors or customers describe it? And of course the big question - How would you describe the workplace culture your business needs to grow and thrive? This month we will continue to explore the dynamics of workplace culture and how you can design the culture you want, nurture it, and engage your employees to help keep it healthy. 

To start, our challenge to you is first describe the workplace culture in your business as it is today. Walk through the business, listen to calls, notice how your team acts and communicates with one another and your customers. Then, write down everything you observe. The good, the bad, and the ambivalent all needs to be captured in a way that provides you a snapshot of where your business culture is today. 

Next week we will explore the five dynamics that make up workplace culture, and how you can leverage them, along with your current snapshot, to design the culture that will unleash you and your team to achieve the results your business needs.

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