The Culture of Communication: Maintaining Company Culture with Multiunit Operations and Cross-State Companies

By Kristen Perez

kristenperezAs business owners, there are a multitude of aspects to concentrate on concerning of your employees. We all try to be diligent in our efforts to keep employee well-being a priority, as retention of top talent translates to the overall well-being of the company itself. From the efficiency of operations to maintaining a union-free environment; their satisfaction within the company cannot be overlooked. Oftentimes the main indicator or source of employee satisfaction within the company comes directly from the company culture itself.

However, when your company is expanding or you find that your locations are geographically widespread, maintaining company culture is no longer as simple as it once was when operating one or two locations. This is why it is important to dedicate thought and time into implementing a sophisticated company culture system within your network.

Too often do we presume that company culture is created by the mission, environment and personality of the company. These factors do effect culture, however, they do not solely create it. There is far more to culture and its maintenance than these aspects can account for, especially in large multiunit or geographically widespread operations. The key is to create and implement a system that will translate whether you have one location or hundreds. This can be accomplished by changing your thought on where company culture comes from which is simply: communication. The culture of a company is an evolving quality of the practices and styles utilized by your company in its communication tactics. By designing your culture of communication you can keep the culture you love as you grow.

Begin with the end in mind. There are a multitude of organizational cultures to sort through and it’s imperative that you acquaint yourself with the varying types of elements. Once acquainted, you must then determine what type of cultural element you desire most for your company. Is ‘transparency’ most important to you? Or is a ‘teamwork culture’ your ideal? First, define what type of element you see as the most beneficial to your company’s health and longevity. This will impact several factors for how you go about creating your culture as each trait caters to certain characteristics over others. If it is transparency that you are aiming for, your leaders must always be transparent as well, even if it means delivering less than desirable news. If it is a teamwork value that you wish for your culture to adhere to, everyone — from the hourly employees to your executive team — must be able to work congruently and smoothly as a unit and embrace group activities.

Foster Culturally-Focused Leaders. Once you have decided upon what type of cultural element you wish to centralize your company’s culture around, assign a representative who is implicitly involved with the general staff or structure to be directly responsible for culture. Assign someone who is responsible for hiring candidates or managing the team to set their priorities on maintaining culture simultaneously. As for the remainder of your leadership team, make sure they too embody the type of culture you desire. Their influence within the organization will directly impact the company’s culture, for when leaders act, employees view that as the accepted and desired action.

Organizational Structure Drives Culture. Ensure that the hierarchical structure of your company allows for the type of communication that your ideal culture fosters. If your goal was to implement a transparent company, allow for transparent communication between each rank, such as with feedback. This can be accomplished through channels such as a suggestion box or a companywide survey. However, employees will only feel compelled to provide their real feedback if they feel it is safe to do so and if the possible changes are genuinely considered.

If a team environment is your goal, create a structure that includes group activities. This can be done by incorporating quarterly or monthly office outings that are engaging and allow people to enjoy themselves as coworkers and people. Be creative with these outings and mix them up so that every type of personality will enjoy something and not expect the same event each time. Monotony is the enemy of excitement and you want your employees to be excited about work outings if a team atmosphere is your goal.

Continuously communicate. As culture is dynamic in nature, it is also prone to adaptation, or in the case of diverting further from your original goal: mutation. To protect the integrity of your company’s culture you must fight against the natural phenomena of mutation in your culture. By continuously reinforcing your ideals through constant communication and instilling proper “check lists” as part of your routine, you can protect your company’s ideal culture from such deterioration.

Company culture is a multifaceted and dynamic entity in an organization. However, as your company grows, it is a crucial element that will guide employees to act or behave in certain ways, even in times of uncertainty. It is the element that employees will not only carry within their day-to-day work demeanor, but will also project onto new employees or those outside of work. As such, your culture must be deeply rooted into the structure of your organization and cannot simply be empty words on a mission statement. With its integrity intact, culture can provide the framework that propels your company’s success, whether you operate a single location or a hundred.