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Because of its close alignment with branding and marketing, “corporate culture” is being talked about more frequently in the media and business circles.

Culture is also one of those “fuzzy” topics that most manufacturers don’t talk about. But, with today’s tight labor market and strong focus on attracting and retaining skilled labor, more manufacturers are paying attention.

In this piece, I’ll cover what is culture and the importance of communicating it to current employees and job seekers (and even prospective customers).

The difference between organizational development and corporate culture

Organization Development (OD) is a broad term and field. It’s about helping organizations change and enhance their performance. Within very large companies, OD falls under Human Resources (HR).

Many small companies don’t think about organizational development.

Culture, on the other hand, is a system of beliefs, and the mindset, that drive the norms and behaviors that impact decision making, communication, and results. All organizations, no matter their size, have their own distinct culture.

A good analogy is to think about your family of origin. You know which behaviors and norms are accepted within your family. You have certain ways of speaking and acting. You can’t “see” these behaviors and norms, but you know they exist.

It works the same way for organizations. Culture develops over time as the beliefs and mindsets take hold. When new people come into the organization, they adapt to the culture. When people leave the organization, they don’t take the culture with them.

Understanding your own company’s culture is important if you want to make internal changes, especially if they cross the cultural “grain.” If you don’t understand your culture, and the best way to make these changes, they won’t hold – and you’ll probably encounter resistance.

Knowing your culture is also important when you’re seeking new employees. If your culture values being proactive and solving problems, versus waiting to be told what to do, you’ll have a very hard time attracting and retaining the right kinds of employees if this aspect of your culture isn’t being communicated clearly.

Becoming more aware of your own culture so you can begin communicating it to prospective job seekers

The first step in communicating your company’s culture is to understand it. You can sit down with a corporate culture consultant or do internal workshops or surveys with your employees.

You can ask employees to describe how they perceive your organization’s culture. What do they value? What do they like about working there? What’s challenging? What would they like to change?

Pose these questions to all of your employees. You, as the leader, have a limited view – and often, leaders don’t understand how all aspects of their culture works.

When you ask employees for their feedback, you engage them and help retain them. But, you have to act on the information – otherwise, you’ll lose their trust.

Culture goes beyond benefits and perks – and even morale. People often confuse morale and culture, but they’re not the same. For example, your company’s holiday party may heighten morale temporarily, but it most likely won’t change how your culture operates.

Culture is about expectations and behaviors. “We value people who are proactive or incredibly precise.” Or, “We value ingenuity and resourcefulness.”

When describing expectations, you have to be brutally honest. Enron, for example, had posters saying it valued “integrity” – and you know the ending of that story.
Next, ask yourselves, “What will attract people to our culture? What are we offering?”

Showcase your company’s innovative spirit

Showcasing your innovation is huge. Younger people especially want to know they’re contributing to something larger than themselves.

People in manufacturing are often contributing to the greater good. In one company we worked with, for example, the employees discovered their products save lives as they’re used in the aerospace and aeronautics industries.

Once the employees articulated this, they began viewing their jobs with a much different perspective. What they did was important – and their care and precision was a critical element in adding to the greater good.

Why it’s important to communicate your values on your website and within marketing materials

For job seekers, learning about the company’s values is important because they’re looking for a values match.

“Is the company heading where I’m heading?” “Are expectations clear?” “Is the environment innovative?”

Putting this type of information on a manufacturing website is sometimes counter-intuitive, especially for leaders who come from the old-school mentality of “people should come in and do their jobs.”

But today, more people are looking for a connection. They want to know what your company is about, your relationship to the local community, and what employees say about working for you.

Culture is something you definitely want to understand and give time to. The better you understand your culture and how it works, the easier it is to talk about, as well as create the messages that attract and retain the right types of people.