Cultivating Corporate Culture

How companies are developing sustainable culture practices in a complex and globalized world

Cultivating Corporate Culture

A recent CNBC story about the culture at Facebook reportedly finds employees grousing that culture initiatives at the social media giant are like a “cult where you have to be happy all the time.”

While not always discussed in such a derisive manner, this kind of coverage in the media points to just how critical corporate culture is to any organization. In fact, a widely cited 2016 study from Columbia University found that companies with thriving culture programs only realized an employee turnover rate of 13.9 percent versus companies with no culture initiatives seeing an eye-popping churn of nearly half of their employees – at 48.4 percent.

Cultivating Corporate Culture

In his Entrepreneur article, It Really Pays to Have a Rich Company Culture, contributor Eric Siu, founder of Growth Everywhere, put it best by saying, “The reason for [turnover] is simple: unhappy employees don’t tend to do more than the minimum, great workers who don’t feel appreciated quit, and poor managers negatively affect workers and productivity.” In short: workers like to like where they work and when they don’t, they go elsewhere. Corporate culture is more than merely a set of employee retention programs spearheaded by the HR department, right? Right. Corporate culture – when done well – should be infused in everything a company does from top to bottom.

Corporate culture matters. How management chooses to treat its people impacts everything – for better or for worse.”
– Simon Sinek, Leadership Guru & Professor at Columbia University

Culture Meaning

Inc. Magazine defines corporate culture as “The shared values, attitudes, standards, and beliefs that characterize members of an organization and define its nature. Corporate culture is rooted in an organization’s goals, strategies, structure, and approaches to labor, customers, investors, and the greater community. As such, it is an essential component in any business’s ultimate success or failure.” While that all sounds good, we find that most definitions are a little blue-sky for most companies. What they’re really looking for are practical ways to define and refine their values and communicate them effectively to their employees who will go out there and not only talk-the-talk, but walk-the-walk.

Cultivating Corporate Culture

That’s often easier said than done. As Facebook and other companies know too well, employees don’t like to be told, “Don’t worry. Be happy.” They want to feel invested in creating the culture of their companies. They want to be heard, valued and empowered every day. Through our culture programs, we’ve learned that positive culture deployed consistently results in: shaping the work environment, creating opportunities for enjoyment and satisfaction, building relationships, and reinforcing work processes, so they are relatable and repeatable. So, how do the best organizations start the process of creating a positive cycle of culture? It starts even before an employee arrives on their first day. 

Cultural Fit Interview

We often tell clients that you can teach all of the rules and regulations, but you can’t teach spark. How many times have you interviewed a candidate who had looked perfect on paper, but didn’t quite click once you meet in person? Potential employees either have a special spark – a personality that fits within the organization – or they don’t. That’s not something that can be trained. For example, Zappos is an organization that uses culture fit interviews to ensure that candidates will be a good match. Regularly cited for its company culture, Zappos sets the gold standard for a work environment with an employee-driven culture, so it’s critical they find the right fit for the success of the individual and the company.

Invest in Relationships

Another way companies begin to develop company culture is to create opportunities for investing in relationships. People have one-on-one relationships with coworkers and managers they work alongside, but how often does a large global company create opportunities to bridge the national or international divide? As companies today span across the globe, it’s becoming harder and harder for all employees to feel like they’re all part of one company together. Numerous mini-cultures developed in regional silos can result in a culture that’s fractured and flawed. Finding ways to use travel and technology to tie employees together at companywide conferences and events can help keep everyone connected. 

Culture from the Top

The culture of any organization starts and ends at the top. Successful companies have leaders who are committed to culture. It’s a company’s leaders who effectively communicate vision, mission and core values, both internally and externally. Ultimately, leaders should embrace and embody the culture of their company, and in doing so, set the tone for everyone across the organization. When the culture of an organization is not properly developed and nurtured by its leaders, companies will have a hard time attracting and retaining the right talent to empower their success moving forward. After all, you don’t know where you’re going if you don’t have a roadmap to get there. Leaders provide that navigation. 

In our next article on culture, we will take a deeper dive into what successful leaders do to develop culture within their organizations. For more information on culture programs or to speak with one of our experts, contact Adrenaline at

Related Insights