Why is company culture important?

Culture is essentially the personality and character of an organisation. It’s made up of a variety of different elements, including the physical environment, company mission and purpose, values, ethics, goals and expectations.

Edgar Schein defines culture as ‘a pattern of shared basic assumptions learned by a group as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration.’

Schein also outlines that organisations don’t adopt culture in a single day – and it cannot be changed overnight. Culture is formed over time as employees go through various changes, adapt to the external environment and solve problems.

According to Schein, there are three levels to culture:

  • 1. Artefacts and symbols

    Artefacts are all the visible elements that we can see within the organisation. This includes the branding, logos, structure, the office environment and architecture, processes, policies, corporate clothing and more.

    These visible artefacts and symbols are also recognisable for external parties as well as internal employees.

  • 2. Espoused values

    This is about the values, standards and rules of an organisation. How do you express your strategies, objectives and beliefs and how do you communicate these to your workforce?

    Problems often arise when the ideas of senior leadership and management don’t align with the basic assumptions of the organisation. Everybody within the organisation needs to be working towards the same purpose, values and mission statement.

  • 3. Basic underlying assumptions

    These are the unwritten things - the unconscious beliefs that shape behaviour and how things are done. They are deeply embedded within company culture and present themselves as self-evident and unconscious behaviours.

    These assumptions are difficult to recognise from within the organisation, and are often only realised when somebody from the outside steps in to point them out.

Culture is individual to the organisation, so there’s no one size fits all and no two organisations are the same. It’s deep and it’s complicated – but it really is important.

A positive culture can drive higher employee engagement, happiness and retention. By focusing on people and purpose, both employers and employees can benefit, as happy employees are likely to be more productive and efficient, leading to higher profit for the organisation.