Communicating Culture: 7 Steps to Success

Take a moment to think about your last meeting: maybe it was with your team, maybe your superiors, maybe your board. Try to remember what you talked about. Most likely it was the “hard” side of business such as product/service enhancements, financials, and corporate goals. Of course, these aspects of the organization are most often discussed as they are crucial to maintaining (or establishing) your organization’s place in the market. 

What is not as readily discussed is the “soft” side of business. The soft side of business refers to the company’s culture, morale, and employee value proposition. Creating and nurturing your culture is extremely important, but is rarely given the same emphasis as its counterpart. This is too bad, as your company’s culture is its guiding beacon. Without direction, your team can fall off course or drift culturally, potentially leading to disengagement and turnover. While there are numerous suggestions for what your culture should look like, I’d like to focus on how you’re communicating it. So, let’s crack open a textbook and go back to basics. 

According to Organizational Behavior: An Experiential Approach there are seven mechanisms to transmit culture:

Statements of Principles: Hopefully, your teammates have reviewed your company’s mission, vision, and values. But is it safe to assume that they can explain them, or the company's purpose and direction? Finding a simple tool that reinforces your company’s values is great way to help steer the ship. 

Socialization: Consider how your employees are brought onboard. Are there platforms where they can learn about the people, the company, and the culture? Ensuring you have an effective onboarding process is crucial for creating a foundation, and making your teammates’ first day a great one.

Stories: What’s on your organization’s highlight reel? While I don’t suggest belabouring old stories, explaining how the organization came to be, the highlights, and its history is a great way to gain understanding, appreciation, and commitment. Why not have the CEO or founders create a short video discussing some of these highlights? Not only would this preserve your stories, but newbies could gain a better understanding of the corporation during their socialization phase. Remember to keep the communication flowing afterwards with leader’s blogs or town hall meetings.

Symbols: What do you think of, and what do you want to think of, when envisioning your corporate culture? If you don’t have a symbol or a mascot, it’s never too late to adopt one. In fact, often the funniest company stories and/or minor mishaps can create symbols the whole team can rally behind. Once you have a symbol, consider adding it to company swag to further engrain it into your culture.

Jargon: Every company has its lingo. Try identifying words and phrases that connect your team to your vision and values. You can further reinforce your uniqueness and ensure that everyone is singing from the same song sheet by actively using these words in meetings and around the office.

Rituals and Ceremonies: Regular events spark engagement and interest for your team. Bonus points if these take you out of the office and delve into your communities. Volunteering projects, local functions, and if you’re in Calgary like us, a Stampede event never hurt. Afterwards, you may even be left with new stories, symbols, and jargon.

Heroes: Knowing who your team idolizes is extremely important. If you don’t know who their role models are, you should ask (preferably before they become an employee!). There’s a big difference between Jordan Belfort and Elon Musk. 

There’s a saying in our industry that, “if you allow your culture to develop on its own, you will get what you deserve.” I encourage you to focus on your culture and how it is being communicated in order to better illuminate your direction.

Do you think that there are other ways to communicate culture? Has technology changed the mechanisms for transmitting culture? Let us know in the comments, or by emailing

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