Beyond Ping Pong: Keys to Developing a Strong Corporate Culture

HR blogger Kris Dunn of HR Capitalist and Fistful of Talent shares his insights into what defines corporate culture and how to strengthen it within your company.

Beyond Ping Pong: Developing Corporate Culture

Corporate culture means many things to many people. In a previously recorded podcast, Kris Dunn, Founder of Fistful of Talent and Chief Human Resources Officer for Kinetix, spoke with OpenView to provide a clearer picture of what corporate culture actually entails, the secrets to properly identifying your own company’s culture, and how to develop it into something strong enough to be foundational.

What Exactly is Corporate Culture, Really?

According to Dunn, “Corporate culture is all about really what you value as a company, what you value in terms of how you serve your customers, how business gets done, and what you value from a performance perspective across your talent base.” Although he concedes that there is no single definition that could be overlaid across all of corporate America, Dunn stresses that, at its core, culture represents the manifestation of the guiding principles that underpin every part of your company.
“Like style,” Dunn says, “you kind of know good culture when you see it.”
Culture is less about “free soda and ping pong tables” and more about performance, Dunn argues. Keeping a fun workplace atmosphere may be part of the image that your company presents, but what culture should actually built on is an unrelenting focus on factors that “create a DNA map of the type of employee that a company looks for.” Find the characteristics that lead to high-performing team members, and your company becomes stronger and more successful.

How to Identify Your Culture by Asking One Simple Question

Dunn suggests adding a question to your next employee survey that gets to the heart of who is driving the culture in your company:

“Other than the current person that you work for, what single manager in the organization would you most like to work for and why?”

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The answers will not only point to the managers who are most invested in the culture, but also what your employees value in a team leader — and chances are, they’re cultural aspects.
Once you have your survey results, Dunn recommends sharing them across the management team to spark conversations among your team leaders. If you have “two or three names out of 40 that keep coming up” in the survey, and you look at the reasons why, he explains, you can begin to spot the commonalities that define your culture. Plus, it puts a little pressure on the other managers to “challenge themselves to do things better” and to be more “employee-centric.”
Ultimately, Dunn says, “if you take care of your employees, you’re going to take care of customers, and that’s the cornerstone of good culture.”

Getting Serious About Developing Corporate Culture

While it is important to identify the individuals who best personify and drive your company’s culture and highlight them as good examples to follow, Dunn also makes it clear that you need to be willing to fire leaders at your company who are clearly not a good cultural fit.

“If you’re going to define some of the values and potential factors that you look for in leaders in order to build the type of culture you want, not only do you have to be willing to hire for those things,” Dunn says, but regardless of their performance, you’ve also got to be willing to fire those people who are not on board.
Even if managers are getting great results from their teams, if they are detrimental to your culture, then it is time to make a change. “That’s where a lot of companies that have a lot of good ideas from a cultural perspective ultimately lose sight of the big picture,” Dunn laments.
Stay focused on the big picture instead of this quarter’s performance. If you refuse to remove leaders who are getting good results in a negative way, then your company culture will “end up being mediocre at best.”

What are your thoughts on developing corporate culture? Would you be willing to let go of top performers if their management style is detrimental to your culture?

Kris Dunn
Kris Dunn
Chief Human Resources Officer

Kris Dunn is the Chief Human Resources Officer for recruitment process outsourcing agency Kinetix and founder of the HR blogs HR Capitalist and Fistful of Talent.
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