How to Understand Your Current Company Culture
The Green Apple Podcast does weekly “Green Apple Slices”, where John Garrett and Rachel Fisch discuss a recent business article related to the Green Apple Message. These shorter segments are released each Monday, so don’t miss an episode by subscribing on iTunes or an Android app.
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Good morning and happy Monday. It’s John Garrett coming to you with another episode of Green Apple Slices where every week, I always call Rachel Fisch to talk through an article about employee engagement, corporate culture, things like that. Just trying to make the workplace a better place to be and start your week off right. So here she is, Accountants and Alliances, Sage Canada, Rachel Fisch.
Rachel: That seemed really long and drawn up. Hey, John. How are you?
John: It gets longer and more drawn out. I’m trying so hard to not put other words in your title to make it even longer and more drawn out.
Rachel: Yeah. No, please don’t. No. Although it’s always funny to see what my title is on any given day that you introduce me.
John: That’s true. There was a time when you were the Oprah of Sage Canada.
Rachel: There was.
John: But then you got, I guess, demoted.
Rachel: They wouldn’t give me business cards.
John: Yeah. Oh, man. They’re so uptight with that stuff. But yeah, we always chat it up. I found this article on the balancecareers.com. I thought it was interesting just “How to Understand Your Current Company Culture,” because I think a lot of people are just in complete denial as to what their culture is at their firm and at their organization.
Rachel: Yeah. There’s been some studies that we’ve talked about over however long they’ve been doing this like, “What? Two years? What?” Anyway, a long time on this topic.
John: It sounds like you feel it’s that long, Rachel. Good Lord.
Rachel: Oh, darn. Sorry. So some of these surveys that we’ve talked about in articles that we’ve talked about really point to a huge disconnect between what people’s perception of their culture is, what they want it to be and what it actually is. Usually, what it actually is is not at all even close to what they think it is or what they want it to be, especially when you’re talking about leaders within the organization a little bit.
So I think this is really good to give suggestions on how do you actually figure out what it is because once you can figure out what it is, what it currently is, you can see if it aligns with what you want it to be so that so many other things can come into place, right? So that it will affect then your interviewing and your hiring and your retention strategies. All of those things are all driven by your corporate culture as well as things like how you market, how you sell. It really does touch every part of the organization or at least it should. So then if you don’t know what it is, then you’re missing.
John: Yeah, I mean chasing ghosts basically. A lot of people maybe don’t think that it matters. It does so much, so, so much. But you really have to be intentional with creating the culture that you want in order to support all the things that you said, both from hiring and retaining top talent to attracting and retaining top clients. It works in all aspects of that. You just need to take a bit of a third party lens to it from the outside looking in and just take a look at the current culture, just observing people in action. I love this where it’s, “Watch for emotions,” because emotions indicate values.
Rachel: Yeah. I think that was a really good one. I think it would be very difficult to pretend that you are impartial when it’s your organization and you are personally invested in that. So I think it would be really difficult to try to disconnect those two and try to see from a third party lens. But that next one, that’s kind of empirical, right? Are people laughing, smiling, talking?
I had a chiropractor appointment a couple of weeks ago. Everyone was laughing. The clients were laughing. The receptionist was laughing. The chiropractor came out of the room. He starts laughing. So I mean there must’ve been something going on, but everybody felt safe to do that. I immediately thought, “Wow. It must be pretty great to work here when you can just laugh like that.” So watching for something that’s very specific like that, that again isn’t perception based. That is a little more empirical than that. Then that definitely helps.
John: Yeah. If you’re able to have those emotions, then it shows that people are letting their guard down. They’re going deeper than the veneer of — they’re showing the person behind the professional, if you will. There’s a firm in San Antonio, Texas, ATKG. I had Teryn Grater on the podcast last year. At their firm, everyone puts in to a bucket list, writes down a lifetime bucket list type of a thing. So they put two or three into a bucket. Every quarter, they pull one. Then the person, up to $2,500 I believe, goes and does the thing.
Like someone always wanted to be a chef, so they bought him really nice knots and went to this chef training thing. Someone wanted to go see the 9/11 Memorial in New York City with their husband who’s a fireman, so they both went and did it. But the key is you go and do it, but then you have to come back. At the all staff meeting, you have to present to everyone what it was that you did and why it was so important. And that causes emotion. I mean people are crying. People are laughing. I mean those things that you don’t typically see in an office. But that’s what pulls everyone in together psychologically. And it’s huge, such a huge thing. It’s been great for morale there. Teryn’s done a great job with building up that culture there where, “Hey, it’s cool that you have something else that’s important. Let’s make it happen,” type of a thing.
Rachel: Yeah. There’s something about sharing emotions with other people that connect you in a way that any other similarities in your personalities or professional life just can’t do. It just can’t connect you in that way. So that’s pretty cool as well. In talking about some of the ways that you can identify culture within your organization, right, we talked about trying to be a third-party view, watching out for emotions. The next one, it says, “Look for objects and artifacts.” So what kind of posters are in your space? What things get posted on, like the staff board? What kinds of things do staff have at their desks? Do they have personal items or things that make them feel a little more comfortable or a little more at home? Then these things also then turn into talking points, right? I see a picture of your kids, “So how are your kids doing? What are you up to?” that kind of thing. So if those are missing and part of having a — I’m trying not to slam on open concept workspaces, but by not having a personal space, you eliminate the ability to have personal things in their space, right? I don’t know. I still think that there’s guests. There’s collaboration spaces which are amazing. But if you’re expecting everybody to work in an open concept or in hoteling environments, you’re just missing that personal touch up work.
John: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Sometimes, it’s impossible to do. But if you can work around it or be cognizant of it to maybe create a possibility for that to still exist, even given the parameters of a number of people working there or what have you, that’s definitely a huge thing. But yeah, it also talks about just assessing your culture and just doing a walkthrough interviewing people. That’s what I do when I consult with firms now. It’s just talking to people. I don’t even bring a notepad. I don’t want to know your name. Just, “What’s it like to work here? Why do you come in here? What’s the one thing that you would tell someone that was looking to work here about the organization? Or a friend, what would you tell them? What kind of people succeed here and what kind of people fail?” And just getting it from the ground, it really helps to understand what’s happening.
Then sometimes, yeah, sure, you got to do a survey to benchmark things. But talking to people and getting out from behind the desk is always the most effective, always the most effective. So that’s it. If you want to read the whole article, it has a lot more than it goes into here by Susan Heathfield. You can go to greenapplepodcast.com. The link is there. Don’t forget to hit subscribe on the show, so you don’t miss all the fun antics that Rachel and I have every Monday and then on Wednesdays, me interviewing a professional known for a hobby or passion. They’re always really, really cool. Yeah. So check it out. We’ll talk to you next week, Rachel.
Rachel: Talk to you later, John.