I’ve always been interested in the culture of businesses. Each company has a unique way in which they treat their customers and staff and each has a unique set of values that guide the decisions they make. Culture makes a company an enjoyable place to work… or not.
While it is important to get a read on the culture of any prospective employer, it is even more important to be a culture carrier once you are a part of that organization. A culture carrier is someone who has intimate knowledge of the company values and can have an intelligent discussion about why their company does what it does. They are ambassadors for their company and passionately work to promote the company values in their day to day dealings with clients and coworkers.
Some companies are exceptional at facilitating culture. Their employees are automatically immersed, and it is clear why the company makes its decisions. One company that is famous for this is Hewlett-Packard. Their “HP Way” has been written about countless times; employees who worked at HP during the era of Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard have described the way in which the values were reflected in everyday life at the company. If you are unfamiliar with the values, here they are:
The HP Way (c. 1992)
We have trust and respect for individuals
We approach each situation with the belief that people want to do a good job and will do so, given the proper tools and support…
We focus on a high level of achievement and contribution
[A]ll HP people, especially managers, must be leaders who generate enthusiasm and respond with extra effort to meet customer needs…
We conduct our business with uncompromising integrity
We expect HP people to be open and honest in their dealings to earn the trust and loyalty of others…
We achieve our common objectives through teamwork
We recognize that it is only through effective cooperation within and among organizations that we can achieve our goals…
We encourage flexibility and innovation
We create an inclusive work environment which supports the diversity of our people and stimulates innovation…
This definitely sounds like somewhere I would love to work! However, it is important to note that written values do not equal culture. The reason the HP way is so famous is that the entire company actually displayed these values in their decision making and interactions.
*Side Note*: The full text that accompanies each value in the HP Way is awesome. I’ve included snippets above; the full version can be found here : http://www.hpalumni.org/hp_way.htm
In his book Why I Left Goldman Sachs, Greg Smith describes the gradual shift in culture while he worked at the iconic investment bank. While the official company values remained the same, they became watered down in their execution and one unwritten value proceeded to consume the culture : profit over client. Goldman Sachs had traditionally been highly respected as an investment bank that did right by the customer. Smith writes about how the bank’s reputation was eschewed in favour of higher profits, regardless of the outcome for their clients.
Culture discrepancy is the first and greatest reason why it is a necessity to be a culture carrier in your company. How can you know what to prioritize without an understanding of the culture behind it?
Here at Granify, we place tremendous emphasis on honesty and integrity. In fact, it is listed as one of our core values. The Granify values are as follows:
Constantly pursue excellence and self-improvement. Leave behind the status quo. Seek answers with relentless curiosity.
Proactively demonstrate commitment to our shared vision. Strive towards our collective goals.
Embrace challenges as they come. Enthusiastically understand and communicate our potential.
Eliminate distractions. Monotask our way through the day.
Seek and implement better ways. Work together to create optimal solutions.
Own our actions. Practice honesty and integrity in all we do.
Greg Smith originally joined Goldman Sachs because he was impressed with the reputation and values of the company. Throughout his career at the firm, he always strived to incorporate these values into his work. He was a culture carrier. As the company culture changed and began to ignore its values, Greg became concerned, and he eventually left the company. Had he not been a culture carrier, the shifts and changes in values may not have been as apparent to him. Culture carriers are sensitive to the blatant “wrong feeling” that happens when decisions are made that are not aligned with company culture and values.
Being a culture carrier forces you to critically analyze the decisions that your company makes. Are they profit-oriented or customer-oriented? Do they encourage collectivism or individualism amongst their employees? Are they risk takers or conservatives? If you align with the company culture, it will likely be quite easy to be a culture carrier. If not, you will find that it feels like you are continuously swimming against the current. In the process of engaging with company culture and actively trying to become a culture carrier, you will very quickly see what fits for you and what doesn’t. In this way, your job is no longer simply a series of daily tasks but rather an extension and expression of your personal values and goals.
Finally, being a culture carrier improves your experience with coworkers. In their book Built to Last, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras describe the intensely potent culture at Nordstrom. They discuss how those who fit the culture of Nordstrom are incredibly happy and fulfilled…and how those who do not fit leave quickly. While this may seem harsh, the truth is that it is a waste of time for someone to work in a culture that they do not agree with.
Being a culture carrier allows you to become more tightly knit with the other culture carriers in your company, finding synergy and drive in the decisions that you make as a team. This is not to say that you should shun those who are not culture carriers — quite the opposite in fact! Good culture carriers are infectious and spread the company values to coworkers. As in the Nordstrom example, this is a good thing because it forces employees to engage with culture and over time removes those who are not aligned with the company values.
To recap, there are three main reasons why it is important to be a culture carrier in your company:
- It provides you with a true north for day to day decision making.
- It forces you to decide if you “fit” in the company or not.
- It allows you to form stronger bonds with other culture carriers in your company
If you found this article interesting and are looking for further reading, I would highly recommend reading Chapter 6 (Cult-like Cultures) of Built to Last by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras. Chapter 6 (Concerning the Going Concern) from Ben Horowitz’ The Hard Thing About Hard Things has some great thoughts on culture as well.
Thanks for reading! If you’d like to discover if you are a fit with Granify and our values, check out our careers page.