Can a corporate culture differ between offices?

Corporate culture: the DNA of every company

Satisfied employees who are committed to implementing the company's strategies, contribute their own ideas, drive innovations and feel at home in a harmonious working atmosphere - this is how it should look in your company? The scenario is not a dream, but can be realized with the help of a successful corporate culture.

Last updated: 07/19/2018

A company's DNA is reflected in its corporate culture - and there are as many different cultures as there are companies. How does your company deal with its employees, what values ​​does it represent, how does it affect customers, partners and suppliers? Corporate culture not only shows itself internally, it also has an external effect and has a decisive influence on reputation in the market - and ultimately also on economic success. In our dossier you will find out everything you should know about corporate culture. And here how you shouldn't do it.

Corporate culture - what is it actually?

The culture of a company reflects fundamental norms and values, which are reflected in factors such as internal and external communication, social commitment, employee motivation and, last but not least, economic goals. A common language, certain rituals, for example to celebrate successes or to welcome new employees, dress code and style of clothing, but also a certain code of conduct - all these facets create a unique corporate culture that defines the essence of the company. In this way, it gives the employees a framework, a common direction and identity and ultimately stability and security - factors that are decisive for satisfaction in the company.

Suit or rather "casual"? The dress code and the way people work are per se a defining element of the corporate culture.

The will to change

However, this also means that this culture needs to be cultivated. It must not stand still, but should develop in order to make and keep the company fit for the future. It thus plays an outstanding role in economic success - and it is precisely in this change that the challenges lie. If long-established rules and values ​​are shaken, the opposite of what corporate culture is supposed to emerge initially arises: Security becomes uncertainty.
To prevent this from happening, it is important to invest in the corporate culture. How established companies integrate constant change into their culture and still offer a climate of security and appreciation - and why this is also important for your company, you can find out in our article on investing in corporate culture. Those who score in corporate culture secure economic advantages.

Culture change: How to change your corporate culture

Business is not going well and you haven't seen smiling faces in your company for a long time? Would none of your employees recommend their company to others? Then your corporate culture is not in very good shape. Time for a culture change. But how do you change a corporate culture?

Change demands togetherness

Before everything becomes new, you should know what should be changed in the first place. With tools like kununu engage find out what your employees want and what they are dissatisfied with. You can start here. There are these questions before implementation:

  • What should be changed?
  • How do we do that?
  • Who does what?
  • What is the goal?

Changing corporate culture is a time-consuming process that needs to be cleverly planned. The "wind of change" must be planned and supported from above. However, the employees play an at least as important role: They support the process initiated from above with their actions and ideas. These in turn are implemented by the executive suite - or at least one should communicate openly why they are not (yet) decided. Feedback on the implementation of the new strategies and processes is then immensely important: Is the change working and where are there inhibitions? Adjustments may be necessary.

Possible stumbling blocks

Individual measures are of little help here. The culture of a company is not determined by foosball tables in the break room or team trips to the amusement park - but by fundamental values ​​and recognized behaviors. Changing them poses a number of hurdles. The greatest are in the employees themselves. As a rule, they are creatures of habit. Changes are scary - for the traditional office space, for habits that we have come to love. Even if the changes are the way to get better. But there is a trick with which it works: Focus on the benefits of a change. If you would like your employees to have more say and include their ideas in the corporate strategy, you can start a raffle: The ten best ideas win a lucrative prize. If a certain performance is to be increased, bonus payments or even promotions are attractive.
The culture of a company is not determined by foosball tables in the break room or team trips to the amusement park - but by fundamental values ​​and recognized behaviors.

Ricochet out?

In every company there are employees who do not go along with the cultural change despite all the strategies. However, the new norms and values ​​must apply to everyone. They can and should be adjusted even if the initial feedback is negative. However, you should clearly distinguish constructive criticism from ricochets. In the worst case, those who do not fit have to leave - despite costly new hires. You will then have the chance to get employees on board who fit in with the new corporate culture.

The culture has to fit the company!

Flexible, creative start-ups or traditional medium-sized companies - two types of company that couldn't be more different. With the first, in most cases you can expect an agile working atmosphere in which ideas and new solutions are celebrated. Medium-sized companies prefer to proceed more cautiously and are committed to stability and long-term growth. Both types of company attract employees who identify with the respective culture.

The furnishing of the office - i.e. the office design - also has an influence on the corporate culture.

And that is how it has to be - in the medium term at the latest, everything else means that your employees do not feel comfortable, do not use their skills profitably and use their collective know-how to find a company that suits them better. Older employees from medium-sized companies expect neither the halfpipe in the yard nor equipment with which they can work from anywhere - but much more likely sports and health offers as well as a safe workplace. The creative mind in the start-up, on the other hand, does not want a nine-to-five job, but rather flexible working hours and a place in the home office.

The individual DNA

Even more: Those who copy a corporate culture from others can only lose. Every company has its own DNA, which has grown over the years and is shaped by bosses and employees alike. Some unspoken cultural facts have emerged from goals, individual activities or history. A company that fought for its survival with a small workforce for years and that rose to become a global player after a successful solution, will live a completely different coexistence than the group.

Corporate culture and strategy

The core of every company is its strategy: where should it go and how do we get there? The culture has to fit these goals. Should your company become a pioneer in its industry in terms of innovation culture? Only a culture in which all ideas are heard can make this possible. Or are you advertising with a family-friendly company? In this case, the free arrangement of working hours and location is an essential part of the must-do list.

More culture please! How a successful corporate culture fills your pockets

There are quite a few famous examples that show how a successful corporate culture works: Google not only scores points with its employees with colorful offices, a company-owned pub and free lunch, but above all with a lived value system that leaves room for ideas and thus for Innovations. With this central strategy, experiments are possible - which, as is well known, work very well in the case of Google.

The corporate values ​​determined the strategies

The corporate culture encompasses the values ​​and attitudes in the company and these in turn shape all strategies, visions and actions: The way we deal with one another, whether there is a strict or flat hierarchy, communication at eye level and constructive feedback are possible, an environment is offered in which ideas have a chance gain, trust and initiative are lived in daily dealings - all of this shapes the corporate culture and influences whether your employees stand behind their company or prefer to turn their backs on it. Even comparatively simple means such as feedback tools can have a great effect - because they show that the opinion of the workforce counts.

Internal and external effects of the corporate culture

Anyone who is completely enthusiastic about their workplace also radiates this to customers, partners and suppliers and simply does a better job. Internally, too, a motivating corporate culture has a lot to offer: If ideas are not thrown down from above, but encouraged, your people are much more likely to have the courage to address them. And a seemingly crazy idea has not just turned into a global company. Which brings us back to Google, which, for example, once only made people shake their heads with the Google Books service.

A company's DNA is reflected in its corporate culture - and there are as many different cultures as there are companies.

In addition, never underestimate the external impact of your corporate culture: The word of grumpy bosses gets around - as does a climate in which employees feel valued. They will then do a devil and look for a new employer. And you save time, money and resources looking for a replacement for your best minds. Even more: Valuable knowledge and years of experience remain in the company, which can look forward to a huge competitive advantage.
The AOK's 2016 Absence Report also found that corporate culture influences the health of employees - and a pleasant climate can thus prevent unnecessary costs for sick leave.

Corporate culture = economic success

It is worth investing in the corporate culture and thus in more motivation, more innovation, more performance and a positive image: A successful corporate culture is worth real money - and it's also fun, because you work well in a climate of openness and appreciation everyone would rather than in Grantelstein Castle.

Who can influence the corporate culture and how?

The culture is homemade: It is lived by everyone who works in the company, from the board of directors to the receptionist: How do you deal with one another, how are conflicts resolved, how is criticism communicated? This also means that corporate culture is not a rigid construct that is prescribed from above and lived from below.

Leadership role model

Rather, the management team is a multiplier who exemplifies the corporate culture: How they criticize or praise, whether they keep agreements or postpone promises daily until tomorrow, whether strategies and goals are openly communicated or communicated to a selected top team in private - all that will happen seen and shaped the actions of all employees in the company.

Learn corporate culture

It gets interesting when new bosses join the company. You may be used to something completely different from your old company. The corporate culture must first be felt, because many things are not revealed at first glance and may not be immediately understandable to outsiders. If you don't want to be offensive right away, first familiarize yourself with the existing culture - because you can be sure: it makes sense. However, new players can also influence the culture for the better, for example by using the approach that mistakes can also mean progress instead of a cover-up strategy.

Change needs culture

Anyone who wants to change something in the company has to tweak the culture and get all employees on board. If you have resolved that errors will be openly communicated and discussed in the team in the future, you must on the one hand not tolerate ricochets who want to cover the cloak of silence about fatal mistakes and on the other hand you have to live your new strategy yourself.

No corporate culture - no big business

How is your company going to get big if it's not right inside? You may already guess the answer. Exactly: not at all. The corporate culture decides whether growth and innovation will make your company great or whether you will still fight for the best minds tomorrow.

Strong brands need a strong corporate culture

If you look at some of the companies that are celebrating successes in their industry, you will notice: They are doing something. For your employees, for social projects, for new developments on the market. New forms of work are being tested across departments at the MAN vehicle construction group in workshops of the future. At the online retailer About You, anyone can take on a leadership role for a certain period of time. Both companies were recognized at the New Work Award 2018 for their pioneering strategies in terms of corporate culture - and in both cases they are big names in their industry. Awards such as the New Work Award show that corporate culture has played a major part in this.

Trust for innovation

The projects are characterized by respect, trust and appreciation and offer a high potential for innovation. To hand over the executive role for a while to employees who have not previously held a management position, this not only serves to improve the atmosphere in the team. It helps to take on new perspectives and to think outside the box. The hitherto inexperienced boss may have completely new ideas. Cross-departmental workshops offer completely new perspectives on one's own work. The company can only win: Motivation increases, new ideas are put into practice with passion and can have the potential to move the company forward.

In good and in bad times

However, the true value of corporate culture only becomes apparent when success stagnates. How do your employees feel about their company when sales collapse or short-time work threatens? How do bosses deal with increased pressure? Stormy times can do little to harm a strong corporate culture. To do this, however, it has to come from within and be tried and tested. An open, constructive approach must of course and must not be prescribed from above. Conflicts and crises should be addressed at an early stage, criticism and suggestions should be heard. Employees who stand by their company even in bad times are worth gold and can bring the company back to the top - for example, by increasing sales again with fresh ideas that are heard and embarking on the path to big business again.

What successful companies do for their employees and what they expect

Success stands and falls with the employees. If you want to be at the top in your industry, motivation, commitment and new ideas are essential. And employees can only do this to the full if they feel comfortable with you - and your company offers what they expect. The basis for this is a corporate culture in which they can develop, which offers space for innovation and openness.

Corporate culture is becoming more and more important

Numerous studies show that corporate culture is directly related to success in the market. Including a survey by the management consultancy Siers & Kollegen and the University of Jena: Around 80 percent of the test subjects believe that corporate culture is important and will continue to gain in importance in the future. The networking of culture and the structures in the company play a major role - and the manager turns the adjusting screws.

What the best minds really want

What services do companies use to convince promising applicants and high potentials in the company? The StepStone 2016 trend study "Customized Jobs" allows a look at what employees want: For specialists and executives, the work-life balance is central: health, partnership and family are at least as important to them as their jobs should enable a balanced relationship between work and leisure time - for example with flexible working hours or decentralized workplaces.A pleasant working atmosphere and collegial cooperation are also at the forefront and increase the attractiveness of the employer considerably. As well as sports and health offers.

More participation!

More co-determination plays a role for specialists and executives, especially after a career jump, but it is an important building block for a successful corporate culture for the entire workforce: Tools like kununu engage not only offer employees the opportunity to contribute ideas and express their opinions, they are also a mood barometer for you - and you can take countermeasures directly if, for example after a changing process, the atmosphere should change for the worse.

That's what successful companies do

Flexible working hours, company health management, a trusting and open atmosphere - three points that many successful companies offer their employees. Another study gives examples: In “Job Trends 2017”, Kienbaum and the Staufenbiel Institute present some of the benefits that companies offer their workforce. Flexible working hours are in first place, closely followed by company pension schemes - by the way, a point that employees do not find that important.
A home office offer, bonus programs, health care and sports programs as well as a company car are further goodies that are already the order of the day in many companies - and which are rewarded by the employees. Before the survey period in 2016, the 297 companies surveyed received around 736,500 applications and conducted more than 177,000 job interviews - they are therefore quite successful players in their industries.

The corporate culture is decisively shaped by the employees.

The importance of values ​​in corporate culture

The hard facts are not everything: The industry, company size and sales figures say nothing about what holds your company together at its core. The soft facts take care of that - and they form your corporate culture. How it is communicated in your company, what the feedback culture is like, what appreciation is shown to employees - all of this shows how a company ticks. Central are the questions of which values ​​and norms employees and management are guided in all this and which basic attitudes prevail in the company: teamwork or elbows, flat or steep hierarchies, maximum turnover or long-term growth?

Show me your values

Edgar Schein, a pioneer in corporate culture in the 1970s, identified three levels that define a company's culture:

  • Basic premises
  • declared values ​​and norms
  • Artifacts

As Basic premises are social norms that are no longer questioned and viewed as normal by employees. The general image of man is meant here or the question of what role the job actually plays in life.
Expressed values ​​and norms are in principle accepted standards of behavior in dealing with each other in the company. This includes teamwork, competitive behavior and the freedom of individual employees.
As Artifacts Schein denotes a system of symbols that has emerged from the values ​​and norms: These can be certain behavior, but also structures and processes that have prevailed: furnishings, style of clothing, tone - all of these are artifacts.

Gains or losses? The values ​​decide

According to Schein, this creates a clear corporate culture that is binding for everyone and is also passed on to new employees. Above all, the values ​​have to fit, because they are the basis that is reflected in behavior. And precisely in whether everyone fights for themselves - and at some point gives up in frustration or rushes forward regardless of losses - or whether solutions are worked out together in a team. Values ​​and norms are decisive for success because they have to fit the strategy. Have you set out to be elected the King of Customer Friendliness? Then elbows are out of place and should be replaced by a service culture. Would you like to shine in the industry as a family-friendly company? A culture that rewards part-time, home office and absence through parental leave with a career break will certainly not succeed.

How can the success of a corporate culture be measured?

A pleasant, open working environment, feedback and constructive criticism, space for ideas, trust and appreciation: factors like these shape the corporate culture. But how useful are they for economic advancement - and what can you do to ensure that it is and remains successful?

Who am I - and what can I do about it?

“Just somehow” is never a good idea if you want to know how your corporate culture is doing and how it affects the performance of your employees. You should be able to answer the question “who are we actually?” Clearly. After all, corporate culture is not just about the mood in the company and whether employees appreciate goodies such as health offers. Above all, it comprises the norms and values ​​that guide all strategies and the basic attitude towards cooperation: teamwork or elbows? Socially or for profit?

Methods of measurement

However, it is not that easy to measure these factors in the company. And it's time consuming. However, it's also worth it. Because the analysis reveals weaknesses and can thus contribute to increasing success. Entrepreneurial goals can only be achieved if you can turn the adjusting screw on corporate culture if necessary. On the face of it, the mood is high, but are departments really working against each other? Or do most of the employees only work according to regulations?
To find out, methods such as the Employee Net Promoter Score or Repertory Grids have proven themselves. “Would you recommend your company?” This simple question is behind the Employee Net Promoter Score, which can reliably measure moods and changes in mood. With the help of special questioning techniques, repertory grids primarily collect unconscious knowledge and needs. Tools such as kununu engage also bring the background to light: How the mood in the company is and what has caused a change can be analyzed with a few simple questions.

Good things take time

The measurements must take place over a certain period of time in order to produce valid results. And then it's time to act. Even if the corporate culture is positive and your employees are motivated, you cannot lean back comfortably for a long time. Culture wants to be cultivated - for example, in which the executive suite sets a good example.

The iceberg model

Classically, the iceberg model is used in communication psychology to explain communication. However, the frosty mountain shouldn't be an indication of how your company's communication culture is doing. Rather, what is meant is the structure of the iceberg: Most of it is under the surface of the water, only ten to 20 percent are visible. And so communication is always shaped by an invisible part: experiences and other personal backgrounds. The founder of the iceberg model was Sigmund Freud, and cultural and communication scientists such as Friedemann Schulz von Thun and Edgar Schein have further developed it.

It simmers beneath the surface

Corporate culture also has a lot to do with an iceberg. Most of what is important in the company lies beneath the surface and cannot be recognized straight away: What are the values ​​behind the strategies, what are the rules of the game in meetings or projects? On the other hand, things that are shaped by the invisible are visible: the office design, an - even unwritten - dress code or the appearance of the employees.

No above without below

As with the iceberg, the surface and the base cannot be separated from each other. What the offices look like depends on the underlying values: Those who take their employees seriously and value them also want to offer them motivating furnishings. On the other hand, duckies who can't open their mouths are the result of a strict hierarchy that leaves no room for free development.

Corporate culture can only be understood if you go down from the tip of the iceberg - and this is the only way to make changes happen.

Success factor corporate culture: opportunities and challenges

“Those who score in corporate culture secure economic advantages.” This is the conclusion of the change study by the management consultancy Capgemini Consulting “Culture First!”, Which sheds light on the chances of a digital corporate culture and the successful path to it.
If digitization is actually to generate significant added value, according to the study, it is not only important to adapt the technology, but also the corporate culture: A climate in which changes are seen as an opportunity, employees are committed to the path and contribute their own new ideas - all of this is necessary to make the company fit for the future.
Today, companies are not only faced with the challenge of growing digitization, but also with numerous other factors that call for change: Demographic change is making it necessary not only to bring sought-after young professionals directly from the university to the company, but also to do so to use the know-how of the experienced workforce - and to motivate them sustainably for new strategies. And employees now expect more from their company than they did a few years ago: a good salary is no longer enough. You want to have a say, feel valued and do a meaningful job.
This creates a need for action, especially for the HR department: How do you attract the best minds with an attractive corporate culture? And above all: How can the highly qualified employees be kept in the company? This is where strategies come into play for the HR department that make company culture measurable. This does not develop by itself - at least not in the desired direction.

The dark side of corporate culture

However, an established corporate culture can not only move companies forward. If it is not constantly adapted to changing circumstances, there is a risk of losing touch and remaining in crusted structures. The Capgemini study also warns against this: According to its results, the majority of the companies surveyed have not yet internalized the need for change: The existing corporate culture is often defended with hands and feet, but real innovations only make slow progress and digital change is hindered and ultimately harms the progress and success of the company.
The reason for this often lies in the strategy with which changes in corporate culture are tackled: Those companies that make the transition to digital culture a top priority, for example, can implement changes better and motivate the workforce to participate collectively. If the departments are left alone with this, poor communication, unclear structures and thus unsettled and ultimately demotivated employees are the result - and that ultimately has an impact on success. Capgemini also found out that companies with a pronounced digital culture operate more successfully in the market and employ happier employees than those who place less value on it.
Corporate culture is a matter for the boss - that is clear from these results. How strongly the management team influences the individual culture of the company is also shown by the fact that the corporate culture is a highly individual matter.

Individuality wins: show who you are!

No company is like the other - and not just in terms of its products, solutions, goals and strategies. The DNA of every company is the corporate culture that decides who works for it, how comfortable the employees feel, what goals they achieve together - or whether they do their job according to regulations and don't just lean out the window when it comes to innovations. Everyone has heard of successful corporate cultures. Google is an excellent example of this - and yet the culture of the Internet giant does not suit every company.
Especially in medium-sized companies, an established and very independent corporate culture, based on the norms and values ​​of the company founders, has often been anchored for many years and fits in with the values ​​and the employees. The culture is successful - and yet medium-sized businesses also have to react to changes. Here, too, the management is asked not only to exemplify these values, but to actively use them strategically - in order to lead the SME to success in accordance with the existing corporate values. However, there is good news for medium-sized businesses: they are often characterized by greater flexibility. This is reported, for example, in the study “Working worlds 4.0 - success factors in medium-sized companies” by the management consultancy Deloitte. This also observed a higher proportion of women of 18 percent in management, compared to eight percent in large companies. The option of working in the home office is also more pronounced among SMEs: around 59 percent of those surveyed enable their employees to work from home - corporations make up around 30 percent.
Flexibility in strategies, freely selectable jobs, a high proportion of women, the compatibility of family and work: It is factors like these in particular that promote the satisfaction of the workforce - keyword work-life balance - and also have a positive external influence on the company's reputation - Keyword women's quota.

Love your company like yourself ...

When do employees love their company? Studies and experience show that some factors are particularly important in this regard: Flat hierarchies, appreciation and participation are at the forefront. Above all, the desire to influence strategic decisions and products as well as the executive suite has increased in importance in recent years, explains a study by the personnel service provider Hays.
How exactly do you succeed in offering your employees this? This is where the leadership comes into play. Measures that show appreciation range from flexible working hours and a pleasant office environment to corporate health promotion. However, it is even more important that the manager recognizes the performance, promotes potential and gives constructive feedback. In its study “Success Factor Appreciation”, the personnel consultancy Rochus Mummert found out that this promotes employee satisfaction. Around 90 percent of employees in companies with a pronounced feedback culture still feel comfortable after their first year in the company.

What you don't design yourself will be designed: Establish and develop corporate culture

Corporate culture is always there. The only question is whether it is strategically planned, lived and constantly adapted to new conditions or has developed by itself - and so you have little influence on its development. The corporate culture today must have the potential for constant change in order to lead to constant success on the market in the increasingly fast-moving world of work. The Haufe Academy has identified five steps for executives that lead to a flexible corporate culture:

  • Detect: What is the current corporate culture?
  • Achieve: What should the culture look like in the future?
  • Determine: What are the consequences of the changes?
  • Energize: Why are changes necessary?
  • To execute: Which ways and strategies are necessary for implementation?

The same applies here: clever planning is half the battle. Corporate culture is not a sure-fire success, it has to be checked and maintained again and again.

Success factor corporate culture: How to find and retain the best minds

The corporate culture has a direct influence on success. This is what studies such as the Penning Consulting leadership barometer report.

A representative study carried out in 2006 by Great Place to Work® Germany on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs shows that an employee-oriented corporate culture and the associated higher level of employee engagement can explain more than 30 percent of the differences in the economic success of companies. © 2012

But what does a corporate culture look like in which motivated, committed employees ensure that the company continues to grow? Here we show you how not to do it. And here are the factors that lead to a harmonious culture in the company:
To learn from mistakes: Something went wrong? As a manager, constructive feedback and open communication are now important. Mistakes hold potential for growth and learning - this applies to you as well as to the members of your team.
Promote freedom:Work where and when you want? This is not possible in every form of organization and freedom does not necessarily mean being able to choose the place of work flexibly.Rather, freedom comprises above all trust that the work will be done - where and how this actually happens can in many cases be confidently left to the team. The manager should be available as a contact person, lead and take on a mentoring function in the event of problems.
Agile structures:Innovations need space for creativity. Why not think outside the box, why not try out new ideas, albeit initially in a protected setting, for example in an agile team that develops new ways of working a little apart from day-to-day business. Brainstorming, project work, using synergies - these are the ingredients that lead to new ideas and solutions.
Goodies, salary and working atmosphere: Money alone does not make you happy, but goodies play a major role in terms of satisfaction: a good salary, the equipment with notebooks and smartphones, but also a harmonious work environment that is optimally tailored to the processes, creates places of retreat and space for communication - all of this is part of a corporate culture that shows appreciation.

Do you still have questions about corporate culture? Then write us an e-mail at [email protected]
Anything else to smile about? 🙂 Here you will find step-by-step instructions on how you are guaranteed to drive your corporate culture against the wall.


Video: Corporate Culture & Employee Engagement