Build Your Desired Corporate Culture

Culture is made up of the values, beliefs, underlying assumptions, attitudes, and behaviours shared by a group of people. Corporate culture can be described as the behaviour that results when a group arrives at a set of – generally unspoken and unwritten – rules for working together. It grows out of the values, beliefs and attitudes that are shared by the people in the workplace.  Your organization will be successful as a result of not only what the company does, its strategy, but also how it does it, its culture.

A culture will naturally evolve whether or not the business owner or leader consciously focuses on it. However, to ensure you create the desired culture, leaders will need to take the time to understand the current culture in the organization and take steps to change it where needed to attract and retain the right people. If you are creating a new organization, you should be determining in advance the vision and values of your company, and establishing policies and procedures to encourage the appropriate behaviours to “live” them.


Your organizational culture is crucial to attracting and keeping employees. Many organizations also include questions around cultural fit in their interviews. Employees will be most motivated and satisfied when they feel that the organization is a good fit for them in terms of their values and needs.

Your company’s reputation and “word of mouth” is often based on what kind of culture you have built.  Your corporate culture is what makes you an “employer of choice.” Culture is essentially what is behind people saying “Company X is a great place to work.” It can also be a differentiator in attracting employees when you may not be able to match the pay and benefits of bigger or more-established organizations.


Many business leaders feel that organizations need to embrace a culture of learning to be able to adapt and evolve at the pace required in the 21st century business environment. Below we highlight essential ingredients of a culture that can embrace the continuous change. Based on your particular business focus, you can emphasize different components.

  • Clear Purpose & Direction– An imperative for successful organizations is the provision of clear direction and a well-articulated long-term vision in order to engage employees around a common purpose and to guide decisions that they are expected to make.
  • Employee Engagement– Engaged employees will not only understand the direction and vision of the company, but will direct their energy toward constantly learning and adapting to improve their performance and contribution. If properly aligned, an engaged employee and the company will realize their mutual goals together.
  • Innovation & Creativity– Many organizations in today’s fast-paced environment of change choose to embrace a culture of learning. A learning organization is skilled at systematic problem-solving and experimentation with new approaches so it can continuously adapt to changes in its environment (technology, competition, regulation and changing customer needs).
  • Risk-Taking– An organization cannot continuously learn and adapt, or be truly innovative, unless it encourages reasonable risk-taking and tolerates mistakes.
  • Supportive Managers– Supportive managers are critical to the creation of a learning culture – they are the #1 driver for setting the tone and environment.
  • Motivated Learners– A culture of learning cannot exist without employees who are self-motivated and driven to continuously advance their skills and knowledge.
  • Knowledge-Sharing– This drives innovation and continuous learning; it entails a high sense of trust and collaboration to be optimally effective.
  • Trust– Trust is essential in any learning organization. Without trust, you will not have risk-taking. Without trust, you will not have knowledge-sharing. In fact, it is the prerequisite to all of the other essential ingredients


In Organizational Behavior- Managing People and Organizations, Gregory Moorhead outlines five key steps to creating your desired culture. Organizations will be at different stages and will focus more or less on the specific components. You will need to fill the gaps that exist in your particular case, or build from the ground up in the case of a new enterprise. Moorhead’s steps are paraphrased below:

Step #1:  Establish Strategic Values – Through an environmental scan and strategic analysis, you can determine the strategic values of the organization; these strategic values are essentially the basic beliefs about your environment that shape your business strategy and goals.

Step #2:  Develop Cultural Values – Cultural values are the values upon which employees need to act for the organization to carry out its strategic values (and successfully achieve its business goals). Employees need to value work behaviours that are consistent with and support the organization’s strategic values.

Step 3: Create Vision – After identifying the strategic and cultural values of any organization, the organization must establish a vision that can become a “call to action” for employees to move toward a common future. This vision will portray what the organization will be like currently and what it will be like at some point in the future.

Step 4: Initiate Implementation Strategies – After identifying the strategic and cultural values, as well as the vision, the next step is to take actions to build on the values and help you to accomplish the vision. These strategies can range from developing the organizational design to recruiting and training employees who share the values and will carry them out. At this point, you are essentially ensuring that the organization structure, practices and policies will encourage the desired behaviours.

Step 5: Reinforce Desired Behaviours – Finally, you will need to put measures in place to reinforce the desired behaviours. The formal reward system can be used to reward desired behaviours in a way that employees value. Stories should be shared about employees who engaged in behaviours that exemplify the cultural values and the organization should engage in ceremonies and rituals that emphasize employees doing the “right” things in the “right” way.


What if you look at your organization and don’t like what you are seeing in terms of culture? HR expert Susan M. Heathfield cites key steps to take to transform your culture.  She highlights the two most important elements as executive support and training, as well as listing additional ways to change organizational culture:

  • Executive support: Executives in the organization must support the cultural change, through not only words but actions. They need to “walk the walk” and show consistent support of any changes.
  • Training: Culture change can only take place with behaviour change. Employees at all levels of the organization must be clear on what is expected of them, and they also need to be shown how to do what is expected. Teaching new behaviours is key to success.
  • Create value and belief statements: Use employee focus groups to identify concrete behaviours that put the mission, vision, and values into words that show their impact on each employee’s job; what does the culture “look like” in the workplace; what actions do you see that reflect the culture.
  • Practice effective communication: Keep all employees informed about the culture change process and ensure that they know what is expected of them.
  • Review organizational structure: Make sure the organization is structured in a way that will encourage appropriate behaviours.
  • Review rewards and recognition: Ensure that rewards and recognition encourage the behaviours that will drive the desired organizational culture.
  • Review performance management, promotions and employee selectionpractices to make sure they are aligned with the desired culture.