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All companies talk about it, but what does ‘Company Culture’ mean?

To understand ‘Company Culture’ we need to remember that companies are merely a collection of individuals.

An individual’s culture is something that forms, grows, and is reconfirmed over time – it is a reflection of recurring behaviour.

When a group of individuals working within the same business display the same behaviours, we identify these behaviours as ‘Company Culture’.

As individuals our behaviours are shaped by two sources: ‘Innate’ and ‘Conditioned’ events:

‘Innate’ behaviour is rooted in our biological makeup. It is genetic and determined by our DNA. From birth, it shapes who we are and how we interact with our environment and other people, but only for a certain amount of time in childhood. As we become adults this innate behaviour is overridden by conditioned behaviour.

‘Conditioned’ behaviour results from and is reinforced by life experiences and repeated events. ‘Conditioned’ behaviours become programmed and are instinctive responses we display as a result of repeating activities – positive, negative, and learned ones. These are powerful in establishing our individual values and increasingly dominate our interaction with others.

‘Conditioning’ is achieved by repeating activities that we chose to perform, hopefully, positive and self-affirming ones. An example is learning to play a musical instrument or to excel in sport. We repeat this training based on what we enjoy, actions that result in success, and activities that bring satisfaction. Our brains are conditioned over time – the more we practice the more we repeat, and the more we repeat the more conditioned, programmed, and predictable our responses become.

The same is true in how we identify Company Values. They arise from individually repeated behaviour, and when those behaviours become collective, we see these as ‘Cultural Values’.

In business, why does this matter?

Well, companies inevitably become who they say they are.

Individual shared values ultimately become conditioned and collectively shared values.

Collective values dominate the way a company behaves and crucially how the company is perceived.

The more a group of people say who they are, the more that group, (the Company), behaves in that way and lives up to the narrative.

Therefore, it is essential that companies determine, define, list, and live by their values, because:

If you have decided on what your Company’s Cultural Values are, then it is CRUCIAL that you only ever hire people into the company who share the same values.

In establishing if candidates share these values you need to focus your interview questions on life events, those that are repeated, practiced, and programmed – those that are ‘Conditioned’.

Businesses are a collection of individuals who inevitably become who they say they are, and it is their ‘cultural values’ which shout the loudest.

In growing and acquiring new people, the company becomes even more of who it says it is, and quicker.

Companies who get it right have stronger more compatible, more collaborative teams. They reflect an identifiable ‘Company Culture’, recognized by all. They make fewer hiring mistakes and have far lower attrition. Birds of a feather…