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How Management Can Make or Break Your Company's Culture

There are several factors that make a company successful, and one essential ingredient is the company culture. Senior management must take the “bull by the horn” and be actively aware and involved in their company's culture. Their direct or indirect involvement has a direct impact and results in either making or breaking the culture at their company. 

How Management Can ‘Make’ Your Company’s Culture

A good starting point is to take a proactive role and define the core company values, if not already established. Make sure to involve other employees and/or internal stakeholders in the process. Remember to be authentic because your company is unique, and the values and principles of the company should reflect this endeavor. This is valuable time spent because the company’s values should end up projecting the company’s brand message.

From these core company values, employees learn what is important to you, what part they play in the scheme of things, and how they can affect the company overall. Keep the values to a select few, as you want all employees to eventually memorize and start “living the culture.”

As your company grows, and more employees are hired, the HR department should put a plan in place to ensure that your company's core values are shared with new hires. They can utilize various methods to see where potential employees stand and then determine if they are the right fit for your organization. Whatever stage your company is experiencing—whether it is growing, adding new products/services, or going through a "rebuilding" phase—it’s vital to stay engaged with your employees. 

Once your company culture is established and understood by your employees, this enables many positive outcomes:

  • Recruitment of potential top talent by promoting the company’s culture

  • Thriving company culture and positive brand image

  • Positive Long-term financial performance

How Management Can ‘Break’ Your Company Culture

Even if you've established your company's core values, it's easy to lose sight over time and become focused solely on the bottom line. Maybe you have recently lost a few key employees, and your sales have been declining over the past year. Or, maybe you have been in business for a while and feel the company culture is evolving on its own and do not see the need to get involved. Either way, company culture—left to its own devices—leads to a serious disconnect between management, employees, and output. And, this ends up hurting your brand, your reputation, and your company's viability in the long-run.

Several factors may contribute to a negative perception of your company. Externally, top talent searching for a job in your industry may be turned off by your company after reading several negative employee reviews online. Internally, there might be a serious disconnect between management and their subordinates due to non-existent meaningful interaction. Employees might share a common belief that management is only concerned with the bottom line and not their working environment or opinions. This may lead to a higher employee turnover.

Still not inspired or sold on the idea your company culture is worth the investment?

Even successful large well-known companies can make missteps. In 2007, Starbucks was on the brink of financial disaster—sales were drastically plunging and stocks were sinking. A Forbes article  from 2014 describes an internal memo written by Howard Schultz, who at the time was Chairman at Starbucks. In the memo, he laments the fact that management had become disengaged with their “partners” (employees). At the time, Starbucks was facing serious competition from McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts, and to keep Starbucks afloat, something needed to change internally. In 2008, Howard Schultz became Starbucks' CEO and transformed the company by taking radical steps to change the way business was conducted. One example included closing 7,000 stores nationwide for “Expresso Excellence Training.” He sent a clear message to all employees about his “uncompromising commitment to core values.”  Today, Starbucks is known for being the largest coffeemaker in the world, has a prominent brand identity, and has a thriving company culture.

This proves that not only can management make or break a company's culture, but a company's culture can make or break a company.

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