4 Ways to Zero in on Your Unique Company Culture

Potential employees are looking for great company cultures – so much so that many candidates are accepting or refusing offers based on how a company's culture is portrayed through various channels. Today, company culture is just as important as tactical performance management or recruiting strategies, and nearly one-third of people in North America believe corporate culture needs improvement, according to Ceridian's Pulse of Talent survey.

Simply being aware of the necessity of a distinct culture does very little for your organization's efforts to differentiate itself from its competitors. In fact, knowing just how much impact company culture can have on morale and productivity can be enough to overwhelm any executive.

Culture is highly organic and continuously evolving, but it isn't something that can be ignored and left to itself. Given how impactful it is, why would you want to anyway?

Your corporate culture is unique to you and your team. While there is no fail-safe, step-by step-plan that works for everyone, there are a few basic starting points from which all corporate culture initiatives should proceed:

Determine Company Values

Companies are founded on goals. Sure, those goals all boil down to making money on a good idea, but the way a company achieves that fundamental goal is based solely on the distinct approach the founder took to get there. Your company's values and mission likely grew out of this distinct approach, and all decisions spring from those fundamental beliefs. They're considered core values for a reason.

If your company values aren't written out, write them. If they aren't already implied, chances are they are at least conceptualized. But they should be also be verbalized and written. Don't take your values lightly or render them in generalized or overused terms. They should be an honest, public display of what defines your organization.

"Rather than actionable corporate values statements that truly capture the essence of the organization, leaders often lean on single, powerful words or phrases that they think people want to hear," writes Chris Cancialosi, found of GothamCulture. "Examples of this might be '[i]ntegrity, [c]ommunity, or [s]ervice.' They look good. They sound good. But they are all but meaningless if people within the organization fail to live them in their day-to-day interactions."

Your mission is your mantra, and the values are your guidelines. They tell employees and clients alike what you will do to succeed and where you draw the line. All of that is highly important to your culture; it speaks volumes to the type of people you want in your office, on your client list, and as vendors.

Create a Solid Foundation

With your values and mission in place, you have the beginnings of a solid foundation. Now it's time to focus on discovering what a great culture looks like to your people.

Implement programs and initiatives that support what you want to see in your organization's future. For example, according to the Pulse of Talent survey mentioned above, the top drivers of corporate culture are training, recognition, and leadership development. Those three are great places to begin fostering the elements that will direct your culture.

For example, a small, spry business characterized by a less siloed work structure might benefit from a professional development program that provides stipends for classes and conferences, plus a yearly volunteering program that can serve as a team-building experience. A larger enterprise company with a traditional structure may have a dedicated philanthropy program for monthly fundraising efforts and a corporate health and wellness program that includes an onsite gym.

Collaborate With Employees

Only 12 percent of executives understand the way their people work together in their networks. Human capital management can't always be about knowing every individual on a personal level, and this low percentage is probably partially due to the hierarchical structures of most businesses. However, it does speak to how easy it can be to lose sight of what will actually motivate employees. Proper communication with experts is about the only way you can hope to develop any successful business plan, and company culture is no different.

Lucky for you, the experts are already on your payroll – they're your people, of course.

The best way to gather culture intel depends on the size of your organization. Smaller organizations might be able to discuss elements of their unique cultures in end of the week meetings, while executives at larger companies might need to turn to managers or internal feedback surveys to get a holistic view of their workforces.

Always Be Adjusting

This is a little tidbit of advice that should be an integral part of maintaining your company's corporate culture: Never believe it's done evolving. With every hire, exit, and promotion, your culture will change in some way.

Again, culture is organic but not to be left unattended. Continue to re-evaluate your structure of incentives and philanthropies while keeping an eye on the new, innovative perks that may suit your company. Each year, the workforce in your office is changing – especially in terms of generational demographics – and with those changes come new motivators.

Ultimately, zeroing in on your unique corporate culture means having a clear view of the people who make up your organization.

A version of this article originally appeared on the Ceridian Blog.

Maren Hogan is founder and CEO of Red Branch Media. You can read more of her work on Forbes, Business Insider, Entrepreneur, and her blog, Marenated.