The stronger the culture, the stronger the business

Businesses aren’t just made of people, they have personalities just like people and this, essentially, is what both creates a brand and differentiates it from its competitors. At High Access, we’ve been through a process ourselves, undergoing research with our customers and staff to establish our brand personality of being Professional, Contemporary, Open and Helpful. These traits are reflected in everything we do and how we present ourselves to the market.

But while the brand is the external manifestation of how a business looks and the ways in which it behaves externally, this is better described as being its culture when we’re thinking about its internal character.

This acts like a framework that everyone from the managing director to apprentices can understand and dictates everything from how employees communicate with each other to acceptable dress codes. Once someone’s been working for an organisation for a certain period of time it becomes ingrained. Of course, for those who find their own personal cultures seriously at odds with the business that they’re working in it may mean their stay there won’t be very long.

So that’s what the culture is, but how is it created?

Essentially it comes from the top with the senior management team dictating what it should be and how they’d like it to develop. This doesn’t just happen though. There must be planned steps before it’s implemented as well as close monitoring of it once it’s up and running. It should also be fluid as well carefully planned. This is because once it has been introduced inevitably the participation, or lack of it, by employees will mean that it will take time to settle into a workable form.

Looking a little more deeply into what makes up an organisation’s culture, it can be broadly divided into three areas:

  • Artefacts: these can include everything from the design of the organisation’s building to the office layout and even the art or other items that are displayed on the walls.
  • Behaviours: these include the sort of language and jargon that’s used, the way that different departments interact with each other and the kinds of humour that are used. There are also certain rituals and ceremonies that can help to make up the culture ranging from ensuring every employee gets a card from the organisation on their birthday to running initiatives like Employee of Month awards.
  • Values: these are some of the hardest elements to pin down and define when it comes to assessing a culture but are some of the most important in creating a corporate philosophy. More than any others, they also create the moral and commercial framework that everyone must adhere to. Our own brand values of Continuous Improvement, Working Together, Dependable Service and working in The Safest Way run through the lifeblood of our business, and we actively reward our staff for demonstrating these principles in their day-to-day duties.

As you’d expect, the stronger that these elements are and the more that they fit together, the more robust a company’s culture will be. With a general understanding and appreciation of them all, it is more likely that everyone who does buy into that culture will share the same goals and types of behaviour – two elements that are needed to ensure that a business continues to progress and is a commercial success.

So far so good. But in this age of mergers and acquisitions, a situation that is starting to occur more often is the enforced coming together of two, not necessarily complementary, cultures.

This means that it’s something that should be given just as much thought as every other aspect of a merger or an acquisition with emphasis being placed on finding the points of similarity between the two partners and building on them.

Planned carefully, this can create a hybrid culture that is far stronger than the sum of its parts. But if walked into blindly it can create more issues than you could imagine and make the initial stages of a merger very difficult indeed.

But forewarned is forearmed. So if you ever find yourself in the situation where two cultures must become one just remember to take all these things into account – and look forward to a marriage made in heaven.

Back to blog