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Employers everywhere are paying close attention to company culture. But the term ‘company culture’ can mean so many things. Are company values synonymous with culture? Do perks, like ping pong tables or team lunches, create stronger cultures? And can a company culture get too homogeneous, to the point where it stops evolving?

To answer these questions, let’s get back to the basics with a quick Culture Q&A. Here are three of the most common company culture questions:

What is culture, exactly?

Company culture is a system of shared values defining what is important, and norms, defining appropriate attitudes and behaviors for employees within an organization. In other words, your values, whether expressly stated or interpreted based on rewards and recognition, are the roots that your culture grows from, spurring the development of norms, behaviors, and other cultural activities.

If values tend to be conceptual in nature, then norms and behaviors become the building blocks that characterize your culture and give your values meaning. Take innovation as a value, for example. What does innovation mean in terms of behavior? At OutMatch, we’d say that innovative cultures are characterized by employees who are willing to experiment, who are comfortable with risk, and who are quick to take initiative—these are the behaviors that underpin the value of innovation.

How can we manage corporate culture?

While culture as a concept may seem a bit intangible, it is something that can be managed (even on a large scale). Traditionally, companies have managed culture thorough 1:1 interactions, consistent communication, and alignment of incentive systems. More recently, new survey and analytics tools have emerged to help capture and measure company culture, which is a key challenge, especially for companies with large, decentralized workforces. The more insight a company can get about its culture, the more proactive leadership can be in aligning talent management strategies to meet and reflect that culture.

What’s the difference between employee engagement and culture?

The terms culture and engagement are often used interchangeably. They both involve an employee’s relationship with their workplace, but there is an important distinction:

Employee engagement is how employees FEEL, whereas culture is what employees BELIEVE and how they ACT.

Engagement is more volatile and can fluctuate from day to day. Culture, on the other hand, is deeply rooted and slow to change. Looking at the relationship between culture and engagement, you’ll see that cultural strength predicts employee engagement. A blow to engagement on a team with a strong culture will rebound over time. Which makes sense: If employees are highly aligned around the beliefs, values, behaviors, and incentives that drive how they act in the workplace, then strong alignment will lead to less social friction and higher productivity, which in turn leads to higher employee engagement on average. Low engagement accompanied by a trend toward lower cultural strength, however, means there’s a breakdown in beliefs and behaviors happening on that team.

To learn more about why culture matters, and how to successfully onboard new hires into your company culture, check out our webinar: How to Reinforce Your Culture with a Strong Onboarding Process.

Company Culture Questions

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