What Is The Definition of Corporate Culture?


Citrix CEO Mark Templeton in the video below says that “a culture is about everyone belonging to something they believe in, something of a greater and higher purpose than them.  A company culture is how a company gets things done.  People are the hardware, values are the operating system.”

The corporate culture of a company refers to the organizational components, such as attitudes, values, standards, and its belief system, which are shared amongst a diverse set of stakeholders.  This can include employees, management, investors, vendors, clients, and customer. The ultimate goal or mission statement is the basis of a corporate culture. It is strengthened by additional attributes such as structure, strategies, labor approach, investors, and the larger community of their bigger picture.

The Sergay group says: “A basic definition of organizational culture is the collective way we do things around here. It involves a learned set of behaviors that is common knowledge to all the participants. These behaviors are based on a shared system of meanings which guide our perceptions, understanding of events, and what we pay attention to.”

Understanding corporate culture is important and at MeritShare we help companies reinforce the desired behavior and culture through value-based rewards. We provide the unbreakable link that connects a company’s values, beliefs, and attitude to its employees through peer to peer recognition.

5 Questions To Ask:

Self-reflection is never easy and selective perception can distort the truth.  However, the right set of questions can help articulate a company’s culture.

The Hagberg Consulting Group  asks five straight forward questions:

·       What’s really important?

·       Who gets promoted?

·       What behaviors get rewarded?

·       Who fits in and who doesn’t?

·       What 10 words would you use to describe your company?

The basis of these penetrating questions suggests that every organization has a culture, whether constructive or destructive, they have one. The key is to have a culture that will drive the company in a goal orientated direction and not the opposite.

Here’s the video of Citrux CEO Mark Templeton referenced above.  He has received numerous leadership awards, such as the AeA Abacus Award for Outstanding High-Tech Executive, “Businessperson of the Year” (EVIE Award) and the Excalibur Award. He is also included on Glassdoor’s 2013 list of “50 Highest Rated CEOs.”

HR Geeks: Using Losada Lines To Drive High Performing Teams

Today’s popular post of the day on LinkedIn is an uplifting story about executives at LinkedIn thanking staff and staff returning the favor by thanking ‘upward’ – back to the executives.  One point in this post stood out as its something that comes up a lot when we’re discussing employee recognition programs with clients.

What is the right balance of positive praise vs. negative feedback to give an individual in your organization?

The article referred to a mysterious term called the “Losada Ratio“.  We did some digging to find out more…

It turns out, three key researches have done extensive research into the right balance of positive praise and negative or constructive feedback in organizations.  Marcial Losada, Emily Heaphy and Barbara Fredrickson have contributed greatly to the body of research around the positivity ratio around feedback.  Losada’s research found high performing teams have a P/N (Positive to Negative) feedback score of 5.6, medium performing teams are at 1.9 and low performing teams are at 0.36.  What do these numbers mean? Losada’s study indicates that for every one piece of negative feedback that is given to individuals in high performing teams, they receive 6 pieces of positive feedback.

As Mary Poppins famously sang: A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.

Looking at the P/N ratios of high performing teams vs. low performing teams, you might naturally ask, is more positive feedback always better? The answer in Losada’s research is resoundingly No.   Fredrickson and Losada published an upper band of proper ratios as well. Once you get beyond a P/N ratio of 11.6, the quality of the relationship will languish, just like it can languish on the lower end of P/N ratios.  Therefore, Losada and Fredrickson state that there is a band of optimal ratios.

Keep positive-to-negative feedback ratios between 2.9 and 11.6 to allow your teams to flourish.

Too much positive praise and you reduce the impact of it; too little praise and you demotivate your employees.

It is worth noting, there is a lot of criticism around the Losada line hypothesis and way in which the research was conducted.  Key criticism implies the lower and upper levels of the range may be somewhat arbitrary and may be different for each individual.

Regardless of the exact P/N ratio that you use in managing your team for high performance, the research is directionally clear.  Make sure you delivery more positive feedback than negative feedback, and that ratio should likely be in the 3-to-1, 5-to-1 or even higher range depending on the individual that is receiving the feedback.

5 Ways to Become an Extraordinary Leader

Boss vs. Leader

Some people are born leaders. They always know the right things to say and what needs to be done to achieve their goals. Naturally influential, they easily attract the respect of their followers and colleagues, able to motivate others to work towards a greater objective. But how do they achieve this? And how can others, especially those just beginning to take on a leadership role, emulate their success?

If you feel that you have been unsuccessful in gaining the respect of your employees, have been failing at motivating them, or just simply could not charm your way out of a paper bag, here are 5 ways you can improve yourself as a leader.

1. Do

Do rather than dictate. Just because you are a CEO, a supervisor, or manager, does not automatically make you a leader. Telling everyone what to do and making demands while you sit behind your desk is less than inspirational. Being active and involved in a project, actually getting your hands dirty, will show your employees that you know what you’re doing and that you care about the project. Rather than micro-managing or attempting to control your employees, be one of them. Work alongside them. Just as with team sports, seeing your team captain out there taking hits and putting his heart in the game will inspire you to play harder. Be an example of what you want them to be.

2. Listen

A lot of the time, following your gut and listening to your instincts can be extremely effective. But other times, what you may think is the best solution might not be. Before you make an important decision, get the opinions of others and open your mind to other ideas. What is pressing them? What works for them? What issues are they seeing that you are not? Not only is listening helpful to getting a better handle on the bigger picture and recognizing the existence of other factors, but it also shows your employees that their input matters to you. It shows that you care, and that you are not just out for your own personal interest. Working as team is important, and you must remember that not only are you leading a team, but you are part of that team.

3. Recognize

One of the best ways to bolster productivity and earn the respect of your employees is by showing that you respect them and appreciate the work they are doing. Effective employee recognition begins with finding meaningful and creative ways to make someone feel like the work they are doing is valuable to the company. You don’t have to be their best friend. Just show that you care. Realize that your employees are people who are trying to earn a living and have everyday struggles just like you do. Say thanks, and mean it.

4. Be Positive & Stay Calm

All too often I have dealt with Debbie Downer managers. People who have taken on so much responsibility that they become nervous wrecks, stressing out over anything and everything and taking out their frustrations on their employees as a result. I understand that work can be intensely consuming and overwhelming. With all the fires that need extinguishing, it is easy to forget about the feelings of others. Take a moment to realize that negativity can quickly permeate a room. If you are expressing yourself in an unpleasant way, others around you will might end up feeling anxious too. They will also be less likely to want to be around you or seek your advice. If you want people to follow you, and want to follow you, make it a positive experience. Don’t stress the little things, make yourself dependable and accessible so that others will give you the support you need. That way, everyone wins.

5. Be Extraordinary

As a leader, you are supposed to stand out. The greatest leaders are not just any Average Joes, but people who appeal to a crowd because they offer a new, exciting perspective that people want to be a part of. They are so passionate that they want others to share in it. They are inspirational because they demonstrate confidence and offer something that’s real. People should feel that, under your guidance, they can accomplish anything they strive to accomplish. And they can, as long as you truly want to share your dreams of success with them. Engage them. If you are extraordinary and allow others to be extraordinary, then extraordinary things will most certainly happen.

“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.” —Douglas MacArthur

Is HR Employment Branding A Mistake?

Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 9.25.35 AMMark Riston at Marketing Week thinks employment branding could be causing more harm than good.

Ritson taught brand management at London Business School, MIT Sloan, the University of Minnesota and Melbourne Business School – where he is currently an Associate Professor of Marketing.   His former clients include McKinsey, adidas, PepsiCo, GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Baxter, De Beers, Ericsson, Sephora, and WD40. For eight years he has also served as advisor and in-house professor for LVMH – the world’s largest luxury group – working with senior executives from brands such as Louis Vuitton, Dom Perignon, Fendi, Tag Heuer, Dior and Hennessy. In a recent national survey in the UK Mark Ritson was voted one of the country’s most admired marketers.

It’s important to note that Riston appreciates the intent of HR promoting employer brands and says:

I appreciate that you are only doing what you are doing out of a misplaced sense of purpose and a naive miscomprehension of the branding concept but, please, you have to stop doing this employer branding stuff right now. It is terrible.

Riston’s key points from his Marketing Week Article Employer branding can do real harm so stop it:

  • Branding is fundamentally about the consumer
  • Branding is about differentiation and employer branding strategy all sounds the same.  Empowering Excellence with Integrity and Innovation’) is exactly the same as everyone else’s
  • You have to measure brand equity, yet most HR people are measuring job satisfaction via employee surveys.  If you want to position your employer brand on something, you will have to measure those values and how much employees think they experience them on an annual basis.

To me this sounds like this could me more of an issue of execution than an inherent problem or structural issue.  Do you think employer branding can be done right to support both the customer and the employee?  Please share your thoughts and insights below.


HubSpot: Creating a Company You Love

Improving Company Culture With Foosball

Photo courtesy of Flickr user @robscomputer

If there is one thing that separates the new generation from previous generations, it is that people are no longer willing to settle. Gone are the days when we would fall into a career and stick with it for the promise of stable paychecks. Money is not the top priority anymore. Now, what matters is that we find meaning in what we do, and that we love what we do.

In order to love what you do, you must appreciate the environment you are working in, as well as the people you are working with. This can be attained through working for a company that has the kind of company culture you are looking to be a part of.

HubSpot, pioneers in inbound marketing who help customers make marketing people love, describes in a recent presentation, how they built their culture and why it works for them and their employees.

Here are the crib notes of HubSpot’s 155 slide presentation on their Company Culture [link to the original presentation]:

“A great culture helps attract great people.”

A “culture” is a “set of shared beliefs, values and practices”. Not only do people want to be part of a great culture that aligns with their beliefs and values, but a company wants to create a great culture in order to attract the kind of people they want working for them. They don’t want people who just have a lot of skills or experience, but people who help further the company by sharing the same passion towards their goals.

The HubSpot Culture Code:

1. We are as maniacal about our metrics as our mission.

It’s not just about numbers. Yes, sales are important to the longevity of the company, but staying true to your mission is what will earn you the love of your customers.

2. We obsess over customers, not competitors.

Delight your customers, educate your customers, Solve for the customer (SFTC).

3. We are radically and uncomfortably transparent.

“Power came from hoarding knowledge, and decisions were made behind closed doors.” Now, power comes from sharing knowledge.

4. We give ourselves the autonomy to be awesome.

You don’t need packets full of company policies and procedures to know how to run a company. Use good judgement and remember that results matter more than where or when the work is getting done.

5. We are unreasonably picky about our peers.

Hubspot values employees who have HEART: humble, effective, adaptable, remarkable, and transparent (open and honest).

6. We invest in individual mastery and market value.

Compensate fairly while investing generously in learning and growth. Work hard as an individual and work hard as a team.

7. We defy conventional “wisdom” because it’s often unwise.

“Great companies don’t throw money at problems, they throw ideas at them”. The companies of today are much different from companies of the past. They do not operate the same way. Complexity always creeps in, so take risks and get rid of unnecessary factors.

8. We speak the truth and face the facts.

If you disagree, it is your job to speak up. An imperfect or controversial decision is better than no decision.

9. We believe in work + life, not work vs. life.


It is important to enjoy work AND life, not just working in order to make money so that you can escape to your life. Maintain a balance. Also, workers these days greatly desire flexibility when choosing a career.

10. We are a perpetual work in progress.

“Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without”- Confucius

Always work hard. Never done iterating, learning, or rethinking.

With so many happy employees facilitating a great company culture that is helping more than 8,000 companies in 56 countries to succeed, other businesses striving to achieve the same success should take note. Becoming a great company does not mean being perfect, but doing your best to make your employees and customers happy while staying aligned with your values. Also, having foosball tables and a fridge stocked with beer doesn’t hurt.

The Top 5 Reasons Companies Should Care About Culture

Mark Rothko

In the Harvard Business Review Article, What Is Organizational Culture? And Why Should We Care?  Michael Watkin’s offers many great views from executives on company culture. A lively Linkedin group thread followed in response to the article. Previously we have discussed some of the best company cultures. Every day we see companies build their cultures by reinforcing their core values through peer recognition programs.

Now let’s understand the “why” behind culture and the top 5 reasons a company should care about corporate culture:

1. Culture is the organization’s immune system

Culture is a form of protection that has evolved from situational pressures. It prevents “wrong thinking” and “wrong people” from entering the organization in the first place. It says that organizational culture functions much like the human immune system in preventing viruses and bacteria from taking hold and damaging the body. The problem, of course, is that organizational immune systems also can attack agents of needed change, and this has important implications for on-boarding and integrating people into organizations

-Michael Watkins, cofounder of Genesis Advisers, and author of the new, updated and expanded edition of The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter

2. Culture touches everything
Culture is important, always has been and it will continue to be. Its interesting, the first time you walk into the lobby of an organization you feel something.   Culture defines everything: job design, org design, practices and policies, mission and values, and last but not least leadership behavior. All of these things working together define the culture of the organization and impact the way that people behave and the way that they feel about their organization. It will impact productivity, product and service quality, the customer experience, the turnover rate, the rate of absenteeism, and the reasons for absenteeism. It touches everything. That’s why you should care.

-Michael Kosec, General Manager at Employee Survey Toolkit

3. True culture is what goes on when no one is watching
Culture is what your people have bought into because they believe in it… not because they’ve been told to, but because it resonates with what they respect and value and what they see in others whom them are inspired by. Find out the real culture in your business by listening on the quietest day of the week or day part…. True culture is what goes on while no one’s watching.

-Caryn Gwilliam, U.K. Head of Human Resources at T.G.I. Friday’s, Carlson Hospitality

4. Culture defines your brand
I care about culture because it defines your brand and can be the difference between success and failure. Values and behaviours should fit with the Company vision. They should become something that supports the company’s ultimate purpose. As a leader I want to create a culture where results focused people thrive.

-Sonia Limm, Area Benefits Supervisor, Compass Point Business Services

5. Well defined cultures provide guidance to the workforce
I care about culture because it is the single most powerful attribute contained within an organization. It articulates, through behavior and actions, what the company is really all about. Well defined cultures provide guidance to the workforce surrounding all aspects of interactions between employees, customers, investors, and the community. Values driven cultures offer this guidance through statements of what’s important to the organization that transcends specific products or services delivered in the marketplace.

-John Bushfield, Senior Consultant at The Mulling Corporation

Thanks to everyone above for sharing your fantastic insights.  If you have an additional reason a company should or should not care about their culture please respond in the comments section below.

The 4 Pillars Of A Great Corporate Culture

Vungle's Honeybadger award on MeritShare

Vungle’s Honeybadger award on MeritShare

A well-established corporate culture plays a significant role in the betterment of a company or organization; this intuitive fact is backed by many social science studies on the subject. Author and Professor James L. Heskett suggest that culture makes up 20-30% of the difference in workplace performance when comparing a company with a sound culture against one without it.

Exactly what makes up a corporate culture? They are all very unique in their own way and often have different belief systems in place. When considering various successful companies and their culture, there are several elements of similarity. Here are some of components to think about in building a well-established culture condensed from the HBR article “Six Components Of A Great Culture” along with some of our own case studies and experiences.

1. Vision: An outstanding culture is built upon the foundation of a well-developed vision and mission statement that provides a purpose. This blueprint effectively guides and directs all employees’ decisions. Deeply rooted and well thought out core mission statement not only shapes the decisions of the employees, they can also positively influence the decisions and actions of other involved stakeholders such as suppliers, and customers. Some very effective vision statements are such as The Alzheimer’s Association stating “a world without Alzheimer’s,” or Oxfam stating “a just world without poverty.”

2. Values: The values of a company are the meat and potatoes of its culture. The values offer a mindset, disciplines, and guidelines needed to effectively execute the vision statement; for example, McKinsey & Company has a concise list of values for their employees that help set the standards for colleague treatment, professionalism, and client customer service. Google’s set of values are grounded around the notion, “Don’t be evil,” and “ten things we know to be true.” While many companies have very different methods of implanting company values, they are all practically based on clients, professionalism, and employees.  At the leading independent accounting firm Green Hasson Janks, collaboration is the foundation for their success.  The company reinforces this with peer-based recognition around values of mentorship, team work, and client advocacy.

3. Practices: Values are obviously ineffective unless they are implementing in the practices of a company. If a company conveys that people are their greatest asset, it is apparent that there actions should mirror such a statement, such as investing in their employees in ways that are noticeable to all. The company known as Wegman’s brand themselves with values such as “caring” and “respect,” offering prospects “a job they’ll love.” By actually following through with the relative practices of values, it ranks fifth by Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list. There are some instances where organizational values “flat” the chain of command. During these cases, junior level employees should be included in the resolution discussion without any fear of repercussions whatsoever. Company values should be visible through review material, promotional policy, and deeply embedded into day-to-day operations.

4. Peer Based Recognition: the employee recognition software like we offer on MeritShare is a great way to reinforce and enhance company values. Vungle, a San Francisco based mobile advertising firm funded by Google Ventures, uses persistence as one their primary company values. They created a custom MeritShare award called “The Honey Badger” which enables employees to nominate each other; at the end of each month, founder Zain Jaffer chooses a winner. In complete satisfactions, he states “I love how our team interacts on MeritShare. Our Honey Badge award is a great reinforcement of our values and a fun talking piece to show new recruits our unique culture.”

The above isn’t a complete isn’t meant to be a complete list so please offer your tips and experiences for building a great culture in the comments section below.

Related Articles:

Build Your Culture By Living Your Values

Best Practices: Culture




Employee Recognition: What Employees Want The Most [Infographic]

Once again research shows that what employees want the most is recognition but employers think its about pay. Let’s keep it real simple:

It’s not about the money, it’s about the appreciation.

Mindflash published a great infographic on Visual.ly to illustrate this point. Let’s get to the bottom of this infographic now:

Employee Recognition Incentives












Here’s the full picture:

Workplace Incentives

Top 5 Corporate Culture Tips

I’m a big fan of discovering and sharing new ideas at Quora.  I regularly scan discussions from company culture to the most embarrassing moment in your life.  On the question, “What motivates someone to do their best, and how can a manager best motivate his team/employees?” I really appreciate the response from Dustin Finer whose deep experience includes: COO at Myspace, former head of various corporate functions (HR/ADMIN/LEGAL/etc.) at both public and private companies, and a former employment lawyer.   Here is Dustin’s response:

I answered this based on my own experiences.  I limited this answer to strictly morale and not, for instance, how to create or foster a high performing team.  Those are two different topics I believe.  For morale, the top 5 things for me have always been:

1.  People should leave work each day and each week feeling like they accomplished something.  That means making sure you have set clear goals which are clearly communicated.  Everyone on the team should know what the daily, weekly, quarterly or yearly objectives are.  Can you imagine playing a game of basketball without understanding the rules and what the ultimate goal of the game is?  It is very important for managers to make sure their teams understand what a win is at the end of every day.  If you and your team leave work at the end of the day and feel like you achieved a goal (that hopefully feeds into the larger company goals), you tend to feel like you contributed to the greater good and feel more fulfilled.  

2.  The manager should genuinely understand his/her people.   It makes a huge difference as a leader if you know (and genuinely care) about what is going on in your employees’ lives.  I am sure more than a few people will disagree, but from a morale perspective I think it really matters if your boss knows you have to leave early to watch your kid’s game, knows when your birthday is, etc.  It helps a manager better understand what someone may be going through on a given day or week.  It also helps if your employees feel that you genuinely care about their career and them as people. 

3. Show appreciation for when an individual or a team accomplish something important.  My experience is that this means more than compensation, perks and other benefits.  It is extremely important.   [We couldn’t agree more]

4.  Always be honest and straight-forward.  B.S.’ing or sugar coating only engenders mistrust and is not helpful or effective.

5.  As a leader of a team, ultimately the way you behave will be reflected in those that you manage.  So, walk the walk, dont just talk the talk.