Importance of Corporate Culture

Published on 27 Feb 2023 by Alex ten Klei

The title of this piece is a frequently heard phenomenon: the manager sends an e-mail and expects an answer in no time. Was the e-mail sent on Sunday evening, and has the relevant manager still not received an answer on Monday at 9:00 am? How dare you! While this works fine for one person, this is a reason for the other to look for something new. But to understand why these differences arise, we must look at the corporate culture. After all, what determines a company's culture, and how do you discover whether this culture matches the employees?

What is corporate culture?

As Simon Sinek once defined, corporate culture is determined by the combination of core values and behaviour. This also makes it a bit of an elusive subject. As a company, it is easy to define certain core values, but the behaviour that brings these core values to life cannot be orchestrated. The behaviour should arise naturally from the core values, so you can only influence it indirectly. It will, therefore, also sound logical that the desired behaviour can almost only be displayed if employees can identify themselves intrinsically with the core values. Ergo: the corporate culture should suit the people, not the other way around.

The importance of a clear corporate culture

Without a clear corporate culture, there is no direction within an organization. If you have been able to record the company culture in core values and desired behaviour, this gives the employees direction. And because you give this direction, you can also correct people who do not show the right behaviour. The core values must be formulated so that this does not lead to questions about the desired behaviour.

Take 'honesty' for example; does this sound like a core value? If so, how would you propagate it? I believe 'honesty' is not a core value, but 'always telling the truth' is. This makes it immediately clear what kind of behaviour is required, namely, telling the truth. And now think about 'quality'. Doesn't this have the same pitfall? Quality means nothing, but 'always wanting to deliver the best quality' does.

When you, as an organization, ensure that the corporate culture is clear to everyone, a natural selection immediately arises. After all, is every employee expected to answer emails immediately, even during the weekend? Then anyone who doesn't like this will automatically drop out. This way, you keep the people who best fit the organization, so win-win.

Also interesting: These are the 3 biggest killers of your corporate culture

3 signals of a toxic corporate culture

To assess whether your organisation has a clear corporate culture, it is good to be alert to the signals below.

1. The throughput speed is (too) high
No matter what you try to do about it: it is not possible to bind employees to your organization for a long time. Research shows that one in five employees resign because of the company culture. This indicates that there are also plenty of other reasons to resign, but if you see a large increase in the turnover rate, take a critical look at your corporate culture.

2. Little to no enthusiasm
Look around you: do you see colleagues enjoying their work, or could they also sit in the dentist's waiting room? A negative atmosphere naturally harms job satisfaction but also productivity. So ensure employees are having a good time and actively radiate this.

3. Fear of failure
No one likes to make mistakes in their work, yet there is a difference in the fear people experience of making these mistakes. Is it part of the job, and do employees know mistakes can happen? Or does it almost paralyze them, and are they disproportionately afraid of the consequences of a possible mistake? Then it is time for action to integrate psychological safety into the corporate culture.

3 signs of a healthy company culture

Fortunately, there are also plenty of signs that indicate a healthy company culture. Like the three below:

1. Room for humour
The counterpart of the lack of enthusiasm is when there is room for humour. No matter how serious the work is, when there is room for a joke occasionally, you know you're in the right place.

2. Shared values and behaviour
As discussed earlier, corporate culture combines core values and behaviour. This is a good sign if you feel that the organization operates like a family. Everyone has their personality, but there is a high degree of togetherness because everyone finds common ground in shared values and behaviour. Also, keep this in mind when you hire people so that the chance of early dismissal is small.

3. Lots of support
A company where employees support each other and celebrate successes often has a good corporate culture. Everyone wants to be part of the success, so cohesion naturally arises.

How do you improve company culture?

After reading this article, do you think your organisation's corporate culture can be improved? Look at the steps below and determine whether and at which step(s) there is still profit to be made.

Step 1: are the core values clear?

Is the core values clear without using vague terms such as 'honesty' or 'quality'?

Step 2: is it clear what behavior is desired?

Is it also clear what behaviour employees require to propagate these core values?

Step 3: is this behavior used as a measuring instrument?

Finally: is behaviour actively managed? It sometimes happens that employees who perform well are not addressed if their behaviour does not correspond to the core values. This, then, does not invite others to display this behaviour. So ensure you have a clear policy and use the desired behaviour as an active measuring instrument..


After reading this piece, you have gained more insight into the definition of corporate culture, but you also know which signals there are that indicate whether you are on the right track. So take a moment to sit back and think about three examples of behaviour that fit your core values. And while you have some time, think about three examples of behaviour that don't fit your core values. And is it time for action? Or is the corporate culture okay?

Alex ten Klei

Chief Play Officer

Developing skills and mindsets with gamification and team building solutions.

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