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The Seven Pillars of Company Culture

by Guest Writter
Chris Dyer, Founder & CEO, PeopleG2

Back in 2009, I barely knew what corporate culture was. My introduction came as the recession hit the United States and my company, PeopleG2, began to struggle. I took a deep look at what I could do to make things better from within, which led me to read, research, and ponder. A few years later, we came out of the recession stronger, happier, and determined. We also performed better, found huge improvements in productivity, and increased our profits. All of this was due to defining our unique culture. What seemed like a new superpower had actually been there all along.

In my research of the best companies in the world, combined with hundreds of live interviews on my radio show and podcast, TalenTalk, I discovered a common set of truths. The market leaders all find ways to use these elements to advantage in their operations:

  • Transparency
  • Positivity
  • Measurement
  • Acknowledgment
  • Uniqueness
  • Listening
  • Mistakes

I call these the “7 Pillars” of great culture. Any company that values these concepts can and will improve performance, productivity, and profits.

But, don’t take my word alone for it. There’s some formidable evidence behind each pillar. At their base lies the work of authors Daniel Pink and Simon Sinek, who urge us, first, to ensure that employees enjoy Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose in their work. Pink has an incredible video on this topic called, Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, worthy of watching often.

Second, to lay the groundwork for better culture, consider your company’s fundamental reason for being. Sinek masterfully provides context for this in his book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Focusing on your “why”—not the what or how—will illuminate your culture through better marketing and messaging.

That’s because building great culture is like mastering a language. The lessons gained from the work of Pink and Sinek are similar to learning the alphabet. We can’t read and write if we don’t know the basics.

With your foundation in place, your company will be ready to construct its cultural framework. Here’s a summary of the 7 Pillars of Cultural Greatness to help you with your blueprint:

Pillar 1: Efficient, accountable organizations promote transparency—open communication and information-sharing across the company, in the form of candid feedback from staff all the way up to internally posting the company’s financial numbers.

Pillar 2: Leading companies exchange a problem-solving mindset for positivity, framing challenges as opportunities to optimize strengths rather than “fix” weaknesses.

Pillar 3: If you want to improve performance, you must begin with measurement—the process of compiling relevant data and analyzing it to reveal trends, make forecasts, and chart a course.

Pillar 4: Great companies routinely celebrate successes through acknowledgment, a system of monetary or symbolic rewards that build team cohesion and cultural awareness.

Pillar 5: Brands are immortalized when companies articulate their uniqueness—those elements that distinguish a business’s people, operations, and products or services from those of their competitors.

Pillar 6: Active listening frees people to empathize, understand, and innovate, which all drive business identity, visibility, and performance.

Pillar 7: The best companies view mistakes not as failings, but as valuable opportunities to change direction or gain inspiration.

As you read over this list, where does your company stand? You may be strong or weak in any of these areas, or perhaps they are not even on your radar. To enhance your culture, continue your great work where you are strong, and begin to discuss with management and staff how improvement in the other areas could impact your business.

If you have several areas to work on, be careful how you proceed. It’s common to want to tackle them all at the same time. Instead, choose the pillar that will have the biggest positive impact, gain internal support for doing so, and dive in. Then deal with the next pillar, and so on.

This model is a proven strategy for improving any culture and for retaining talented employees. With less turnover and greater cultural identity, the ongoing work you do in developing culture will not only make your workday better, but will make your organization stronger and more innovative and competitive.


About the Author

Chris Dyer is the Founder and CEO of PeopleG2, a background check and intelligence firm based in California, and author of THE POWER OF COMPANY CULTURE: How Any Business Can Build A Culture That Improves Productivity, Performance And Profits. He is the host of TalentTalk on OC Talk Radio and iHeartRadio, an in-demand speaker on company culture, remote workforces, and employee engagement, and a frequent contributor to Forbes, Inc., HR.com, the Society for Human Resource Management, and many more. For more information, please visit www.CulturedCEO.com.

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