Understanding and Creating a Great Company Culture


What is Organizational Culture?

In your last interview, were you asked what kind of culture you were looking for in your next role? Ask any hiring manager today about a good vs. bad “fit.” What did you notice about the waiting area – were people energetically buzzing about, or did you notice a more reserved atmosphere? These are all key questions to consider when assessing any potential work opportunity. So, what exactly IS organizational culture? Simply put, “culture is the environment that surrounds you at work all of the time.” It is found in what people work on first thing in the morning, what time they leave at night, how they interact with clients, and more. See this piece from The Balance. Workplace culture isn’t just a bunch of clichés thumbtacked around your cubicle; rather, it is a mosaic of shared values and expectations that directly informs behavior.

Shaping Company Culture

Effective leaders rely heavily on a strong company culture to produce results for their business, and as such, are responsible for creating it. Doing so requires business owners to spend time considering what their “vision” is for the company and how best to achieve it. While it starts at the top, devising a culture isn’t done single-handedly. Though it is “influenced by the organization’s founder, executives, and other managerial staff… every employee has an impact on the culture that is developed at work.” Check out this article in The Balance for more.

In his Forbes.com article, Chuck Cohn sheds light on some of the best strategies leaders can use to build their ideal culture:

Strategy 1: Be upfront about expectations

Encouraging regular, honest discussions about core values and goals will help bring an organization’s culture to life. Roadblocks often occur when people fall short of marks they don’t know about, or that are inconsistent. To maximize success, leaders should openly display what the business stands for in written form for clarification and, more importantly, inspiration.

Strategy 2: Invest in your culture

Memorializing your culture in writing (or on “vision boards”) doesn’t guarantee success; it’s all about the actions that follow. As an employee, would you say that your manager sets a good example that can be emulated by others? As a manager, how would you say that your employees experience company culture at work? Our office holds a Monday morning “huddle” to set the tone for a productive week, as well as highlight team members whose work is exemplary and demonstrative of our core values. This practice is highly motivating, as it reminds us what we are all working toward. You might consider what other benefits or practices can serve a similar purpose. Whether it’s open office plans, flex time, company events that everyone looks forward to, or something else, the options are endless. However, Cohn cautions that offering perks will only take a company so far, and that “the culture that emerges within a company is frequently the result of interactions that team members are having with one another.”

Beyond these strategies, leaders must also hold people accountable to produce quality work while bearing in mind who might be watching. After all, a strong company culture isn’t only for interpersonal benefit; people outside the company take notice, too. In this interesting piece, Drew Welton tells us that “culture and values are important because… clients and candidates want to work with like-minded businesses.” Employees and leaders should consider the clientele they hope to attract and how their culture addresses their needs.

Focus on Culture of “Innovation”

If you had to come up with a list of companies with “innovative” cultures, which ones come to mind and why? (Google, Apple, anyone?) Now more than ever, businesses are feeling the pressure to level up. Feeding this esoteric ambition means doing things differently.

Ric Kelly shares an interesting account in his Entrepreneur.com article. He highlights the story of 3M, “where 15 percent of employees’ time was dedicated to innovation.” During this time, it is believed that the Post-It Note was created. This is a prime example of investing in a culture of innovation. When given a precious resource (time) and permission to redirect focus, great things can happen.

It is safe to say that a staple of innovation is risk-taking. Not many people are comfortable with risk, and understandably so. However, when it comes to helping your business reach its greatest potential, some risk is unavoidable. In view of company culture and innovation, this can be accomplished by encouraging trial and error. According to Daniel Newman in his Forbes.com piece, this means “teaching your teams how to celebrate failure,” and that this can make “challenges from competitors feel more like games than obstacles.” That is to say, when a leader empowers people to try out different ideas, whether or not they are the “right” ones, they are investing in a culture of collaboration, boldness, and ultimately, greater success.

We take pride in a culture that prioritizes excellent client service, passion, courage to do the right thing, commitment, and of course, innovation. How would you describe yours?

The Culture Counts blog is a discussion of law firm culture and legal innovation, including topics such as effective leadership, employee engagement, workplace culture, ideal work environment, company core values, and workplace productivity.  

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About the Firm:

Klemchuk LLP is a litigation, intellectual property, transactional, and international business law firm dedicated to protecting innovation. The firm provides tailored legal solutions to industries including software, technology, retail, real estate, consumer goods, ecommerce, telecommunications, restaurant, energy, media, and professional services. The firm focuses on serving mid-market companies seeking long-term, value-added relationships with a law firm. Learn more about experiencing law practiced differently and our local counsel practice.

The firm publishes Intellectual Property Trends (latest developments in IP law), Conversations with Innovators (interviews with thought leaders), Leaders in Law (insights from law leaders), Culture Counts (thoughts on law firm culture and business), and Legal Insights (in-depth analysis of IP, litigation, and transactional law).