Company Culture

Part of my current job is to design and coordinate the integration of back-end IT systems when we acquire companies.  To successfully do this I am in A LOT of meetings with other major departments such as Finance, Enterprise Services Applications, Audit, Facilities, the Business Unit purchasing the company, Marketing, Sales, HR and even the CEO/President of the both companies.

A meeting the other day really hit me in the gut with my current situation. A couple VP’s at the company we bought were complaining of the lack of culture since they were purchased.  They stated that their people were number one priority, followed by customers and then stock holders.  This is how they were able to be successful in business and keep great people working for them over a long period of time.  Now they felt like their people were last in the list.

After listening to their concerns in this area, which mainly revolved around how long it took to get issues resolved (both HR and IT) and the lack of communication about new processes, the HR representative was given a chance to respond.  The direction HR was going to take to fix this was to educate them on how much charity work our company does, how the users can get involved with charities of their own or the ones the company works with, and other special moral boosting actives we do within offices.

I didn’t think this was a very good response at all.  Neither did our CEO/President, who responded by telling them that nothing has changed so far within their company and if there’s a culture problem than it has to do with the managers there, who are the same managers as before the acquisition.

This exchange made me sit back and think for a minute.  I have been in the office of this company a few times during the acquisition process and completely agree that they do have a great culture.  You could feel it when you walked in the office.  People were working hard but still smiling.  They talked to each other in a polite manner at a minimum.  Twice I saw disagreements and then later that day the individuals were talking like nothing happened. So what was it that makes people see these perceived changes in culture?

The meeting made me take a look at my own experiences and what I think goes into a “culture” at work.  Personally, culture at work has multiple parts and the sum of those parts will make each person decide if the culture is to their liking or not.  These parts may include:

  1. The freedom to make decisions and have managers back them
  2. Managers who communicate well, both in praise and criticism
  3. Clear direction on where the company is going and actions/decisions that back it
  4. Ability to work from remotely, as in from home or anywhere you can connect from
  5. Working with other forward-thinking managers/peers
  6. Able to attend training classes and/or local free events
  7. Having peers that you enjoy being around, not just working on a project/technology
  8. Being rewarded for hard work above and beyond the norm
  9. Ability to move to other positions within company
  10. Using work time to volunteer at charities

I have worked at four different companies (two divisions within one of them) and each had a different feel when I started than when I left.  Some shifted over long periods of time while others changed quickly.  A shift over time can be bearable for most but a quick shift is usually fatal for the company as it can lead to employees leaving quickly.  Some examples of changes that lead to a quick change in culture are:

  1. A new manager that tends to yell a lot, isn’t clear on direction of company or goals.
  2. A realignment of resources without a clear layout or goals for it.
  3. A manager who uses improper ways of “encouraging” staff, such as criticizing in front of peers.
  4. When the economy tanked in 2008, our team quit going to lunch together most days, causing a change in the relationship between everyone.
  5. Peers leaving to advance their career with another company.
  6. When good employees leave and are replaced by others who don’t want to learn or work as hard.
  7. Outsourcing parts of the

It’s a tough time for managers as they need to know what drives each employee and how to recognize when a good one is unhappy BEFORE they submit their resignation.  It really comes down to how you “feel” at work.  Different things make different people happy.  But when you are happy you will stay with a company longer and go the extra mile.

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