We are constantly being told that company culture is an integral part of business. With the average person spending around 35% of their total waking hours at work, the culture within a workplace can affect everyone, and permeate across every aspect of an organisation. I think we all struggle with intangible benefits of culture and how to create it.

Like many things, it’s a balance… winning vs. being cutthroat, high performance vs. dog-eat-dog, valuing a team vs. carrying some individuals, empowerment vs. alignment, innovation vs. core capabilities. So what’s the balance when it comes to culture, and do you have to counterbalance cultural objectives?

Our corporate culture at Pure Storage has been shaped organically, thanks to a founding team who poured their hearts and souls into the business. But our tone is set locally in ANZ, where our mode of operations and characters create our own culture. This leads me to believe that while corporate culture and values may come from the top-down, the true nature of culture is set at the mid-management. So, here’s what I’ve picked up along the way.

  1. The culture of a company or a subsidiary is driven by individuals. People have a known brand and an operating personality that is formulated in their professional life before they get to you. What’s more, people very rarely change their modus operandi because they join a new company. Hire to values and demonstrated behaviour. Don’t expect ducks to turn into geese or wolves into lapdogs… it just doesn’t work.
  2. Corporate culture can’t be head office exclusive. Internationally, many teams aren’t interested in, or even rebel against, US head office culture. This only leaves room for an ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ mentality that breeds animosity. Companies have to help their subsidiaries find and create their own version of culture, allowing for cultural difference and distinction.
  3. Culture is easy when you’re winning, and everyone is successful. It’s when the going gets tough that we can lose our cultural values or forget what’s important in a company. Lack of clarity and transparency in times of stress provide a breeding ground for culture to be sacrificed for short-term objectives. It can take years to truly build a culture and one quarter close to tear it down.
  4. Celebrate achievements for the right reasons. Everyone likes to be appreciated, but disingenuous praise to make people happy for the sake of it is cultural poison. People can see straight through fake appreciation and resent it deeply. If you want a culture of performance, then assess fairly, appreciate challenges, protect people through tough situations, and above all support contributors to the business.
  5. Re-engineer processes and fix problems that make people’s lives miserable. There’s no point in having a culture of ‘customer first’ or ‘agile’ if it drives staff to do poorly engineered processes, faster. Nobody likes doing senseless things over and over again with no commitment from the business for improvement. It’s all about making the lives of staff and customers easier, which will in turn boost corporate culture and performance.

Building the best team doesn’t happen overnight. It’s critical that business leaders build a corporate culture that walks a fine line of being empowering, results oriented and enjoyable for their teams. Without a positive corporate culture, employees will struggle to find real value in their work, which can lead to a variety of negative consequences.

Business leaders looking to shape their corporate culture need to develop healthy habits like understanding their team, allowing for a culture of ups and downs, and celebrating what’s happening on the ground. It doesn’t take a huge effort, but these customs are hugely meaningful to people and contribute to overall business success.