The culture code is a document that details the values on which an institution operates, that is, that translates its organizational culture. Once presented to internal and external audiences, this code can positively impact the company’s success.
Organizational culture is the set of values that a company has and that is reflected in its practices and, hopefully, in the conduct of its employees as well. For this to actually be possible, a culture code is needed.
In the Portuguese translation, we talk about a culture code and if you still don’t know what that really means, you’ve come to the right post.
What is culture code?
Even if it does not actively seek to define what its culture is, every company ends up developing one because this is natural for what is based on human relationships.
We’ll see this better later on, but already understand that the culture code is something that helps to define and record what that culture is . Therefore, it is an important instrument for the company’s positioning and the conduct of its employees to correspond to expectations.
This is because this culture code makes the company’s mission, vision and values accessible , in the sense that it sheds light on these definitions and guides actions from there.
A culture code , which can also be understood as a culture manual, can be developed in different ways. Either way, it needs to contain:
- Mission and core values;
- Guidelines on how to work according to the company’s values;
- Information about shared traditions and beliefs.
These points need to be addressed clearly and, very importantly, presented to all company employees, from new hires to those who are already “at home”.
Where did the culture code come from ?
As we mentioned, a company’s culture is something that comes naturally . Therefore, it has always been present in the corporate world , although it has taken some time to gain its due importance.
The existence of a culture code , on the other hand, is not so natural. In fact, it was an act conceived in view of the need to document the organizational culture in order to have a kind of “guide”.
It is understood that it all started in 2009 with a well-known company in today’s society: Netflix . That year, the global film and series provider released a document to make its culture clear.
Years later, Forbes published an analysis saying that “Netflix’s organizational culture isn’t for everyone, and that’s just the way it should be.” And this has everything to do with the emergence and importance of the culture code.
When it launched the document, Netflix wanted to send a clear message about its recruitment and selection process , indicating the company’s profile and the characteristics of professionals sought.
What is the difference between organizational culture and culture code ?
Just to be clear, in case you have any doubts, we will clarify the difference between these two concepts that are so closely related.
The organizational culture is the internal set of values and practices of a company that reflects in your employees, joining daily processes and how they are presented .
The culture code , in turn, is the formalization of this culture through the creation of a document that must be well structured and shared with the entire company and the external public.
Why have a culture code?
Okay, but what’s the point of all this? A culture code exists to promote greater alignment of values and conduct between the company and its contractors .
For this, it is not enough just to define the organizational culture – this, in itself, is already an extremely important step. It is necessary to document this culture so that the ideas presented there are easily understood .
Creating this organizational culture code can be important at different times and for various purposes.
Check it out below!
Recruitment and selection
The culture code is important from the recruitment and selection process, when it is still in the planning phase in which vacancies and profiles are thought.
Consider again Netflix’s decision to release the document communicating its organizational culture. In doing so, the company explained “who” it is and what type of professional can be sought and approved in a selection process.
This is positive for the company itself and for professionals as well. First of all, the culture code helps both parties understand if there is interest. With this, a kind of pre-selection is already made.
Furthermore, this alignment increases the success of recruitment and selection, as it brings professionals with greater identification with the organizational culture.
Alignment of expectations and management
The culture code is a document that can also guide the onboarding process and the day-to-day management of people carried out by HR and the organization’s leaders.
Having the culture code is having a guide that indicates expectations. The staff get to know the company ‘s values and know what to expect of it. Likewise, they know what is expected of each other .
This facilitates the relationship between colleagues and employees with the organization. Consequently, it favors the work dynamics and even the organizational climate.
development and engagement
Later on, you will see that culture code can be developed collaboratively . Although its essence does not change, organizational culture tends to evolve as do people and their relationships.
In this way, there is room for the community that makes up the company to engage around this code of culture, which further favors the alignment of expectations.
How important is the culture code for a company?
Since organizational culture tends to change, letting go of it is something that can happen relatively easily.
It is always interesting to keep in mind that the universe of a company is nothing more than a cut of the society in which that company is inserted. At least, it should be so.
Thus, if society presents new demands and perspectives, the expectation is that this will also happen within organizations. Nothing could be more natural since employees are also citizens.
The culture code is the document to which people and the company can return to maintain respect for the listed values, without losing sight of them .
In this way, even if changes occur, the essence of the organization remains through these values.
This is important because mission, vision and values are connected . Once values are not followed, the company can lose strength to achieve its purposes.
Knowing this, you must already be starting to understand that a culture code needs to be done with due care, given its relevance. That’s what we’ll talk about next.
How to assemble an organizational culture code?
The assembly of a company’s culture code is made of processes that demand commitment and attention. It’s no use doing it just to be able to say you have it, you have to deliver a purpose in this document.
Otherwise, the culture code ends up clashing with the reality that the organization lives and wants to live, and will soon be rendered useless.
So that this does not happen and the document is developed in the best way, check out the steps suggested below :
Define code owners
For the creation of the culture code to stop being just a plan and actually happen , it is important to define those responsible for taking this project forward.
The most appropriate thing is to have members of the HR of the company because their contact with the different departments can only help.
Furthermore, we are talking about professionals who have the knowledge to carry out research, approach people and carry out important analyzes to define the culture code.
It is a good idea to create a committee to centralize this effort and allow designated professionals to focus on this task.
Search for other culture codes
It’s okay to be inspired by a culture code developed by another company. In fact, it is very strategic to look outside, to the market, and to understand what is done successfully.
In doing so, however, mirror organizations that have a similar culture to your own company, and remember that there is no point in simply copying.
A culture code needs to be unique and perfectly suited to the reality of each business.
Listen to managers and employees
We promise to better address the fact that this culture manual can be developed collaboratively. This means listening to management and the teams that make up the workforce .
The idea is to know what perception each professional has about the company’s values and what its culture is .
This conversation should also consider the perspectives, that is, how each one sees the future of the company.
For this, there are two ways we can indicate:
- Create and apply an interview script or
- Form discussion groups and allow professionals to present and exchange ideas on the subject.
All of this will help you understand the company’s culture so you can translate it into a document .
It is important to say that it is possible to present new points that are understood as fundamental for the organization, but that have not yet been raised.
Sketch the culture code
The committee assigned to create the culture code can also collaboratively develop an outline.
After searching for inspiration and listening to employees, it becomes easier to set a direction for creating the code and know what kind of information the company wants to include .
Based on this, you can ask employees what they like and what they think needs improvement to outline what the company wants and needs to be.
A very valid reflection here concerns the difference between what a company is and what it would like to be. Your organization cannot create a culture code saying “we are X or Y” if those who are part of everyday life know that this is not real.
The code, however, can serve to guide the company in the desired direction.
Consolidate the information and create the document
With all the information in hand, the next step in assembling the culture code is to write the document and reach its final version.
Keep in mind that the code must reflect the reality of the company. If the idea of values and culture involves a light, inclusive and informal environment, it is interesting that the culture code also encompasses these elements.
Disclose the code to the company
With the document created, it’s time for disclosure. It is from this that the code can be put into practice, which begins with its wide dissemination to all people in the company.
Remember that outreach can be more than just sharing. It may be worthwhile to organize a presentation so that the ideas are well understood by everyone.
This is because the culture code cannot be understood as “just another report” by the company. It is something that needs to be part of day-to-day reality in practice and employees need to be engaged in this.
Thus, it is worth explaining the reason for each question presented by the code, its importance and other guidelines.
Define actions to strengthen code values
Remember how we said that organizational culture comes naturally? Over time, code values can be internalized or forgotten .
This is natural, even with good disclosure, because our behaviors and expectations are shaped by various day-to-day situations.
However, as we also said before, the culture code serves as a guide so that no situation is able to take out of sight the values that the organization has defined as fundamental.
Thus, moments of integration can be great opportunities to reinforce ideas, highlight conduct aligned with the company’s values and remind everyone about the code and its importance.
Disclose the code to the external public
A good culture code can be, among many other things, a tool in favor of strengthening the employer brand .
If the external public ― society and the market ― are more clear about the organization’s values, they can get to know it better and identify themselves or understand what their strengths are.
This can work as a competitive differential in addition to, as we have seen, favoring cultural fit in the recruitment and selection processes.
follow the results
Almost nothing in people management just ends. Once created, the culture code serves as a “supreme guide”, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be tweaked and updated .
Don’t just consider the possibility of changing values as, in general, the essence remains the same. But changes in the way these values are communicated may be necessary.
To discover this, it is necessary to monitor the results and know how the code is impacting the organization’s day-to-day life and how it is perceived by the market.
This task is not just for HR. As they are closer to the teams, leaders also need to see if values are being respected and which ideas may not have been properly understood yet.
How to register your company’s culture code ?
The part of actually creating the document usually generates doubts and can even become an obstacle to the completion of the project. So, we have some guidelines that can help:
- The size and format of the culture code are at the discretion of the committee formed by HR professionals . It is worth remembering that the more detailed, the better, but that each piece of information needs to have a purpose , it makes no sense to be wordy;
- It is advisable to seek a form of communication that facilitates understanding. The culture code needs to be internalized as much as possible by everyone in the company. This means that professionals need to understand every message before anything else.
If it makes sense with the profile of the staff, it is worth writing a more “traditional” document in plain text. It is also valid to think of slides with callouts, animations or a video, for example.
Support materials such as folders or boards can also be used to reinforce the messages of the organizational culture code.
What are the benefits of an efficient culture code?
To be efficient, a culture code needs to be well structured following the tips we’ve given so far.
Having a committee formed and destined for the creation of the document, the process tends not to be as complicated as it seems, but it demands attention. To make this effort worthwhile, there are benefits your business can look forward to.
Internal benefits of the culture code
We like to point out that the employment relationship is a two-way street. Employers want the best people who, in turn, also want the best companies.
You may already know that this is not just about pay. Increasingly, there is a concern with the alignment of values ― something more present among younger people, as we told in the post about generational diversity .
With that in mind, we highlight the following points:
Increases motivation and productivity
When a professional works for a company with which they identify, their levels of motivation and engagement are higher. Consequently, employees tend to be more productive.
Improves the organizational climate
By generating identification ― including because it makes the recruitment and selection process more assertive ― the culture code positively impacts the organizational climate .
This consequence is expected because the sense of belonging becomes stronger among employees and teams . Something that favors collaboration and inclusion as well.
It is always interesting for companies to develop internal education programs. However, in the path of professional evolution, much depends on the involvement of the professionals themselves.
The search for self-development is always appreciated, especially when it follows a direction that benefits the worker and the organization.
The culture code is an instrument in favor of all this because, thanks to this document, the behaviors and skills sought are now clear to everyone . It’s like a compass.
Contributes to more autonomy
Taking the hook on this compass idea, the culture code allows employees to be more clear about what the company expects from each other. This makes it easier to make decisions on your own.
Keeping respect for the defined hierarchy, workers guided by the code are able to reach answers to eventual doubts on their own because they are aware of the type of attitude expected;
Minimize dissonances common to remote work
The home office, which was already a trend in the world, has become a reality for many workers and companies due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
As a result, some organizations opened up to the idea of moving forward with remote work or a hybrid work model . In both cases, in addition to the advantages, there are management and communication challenges.
Having a well-structured culture code helps to avoid dissonances of conduct and values that the lack of face-to-face interaction can cause.
It favors recruitment and reduces turnover
We have already extensively explored the relationship between the culture manual and the recruitment and selection process. Thus, it remains for us to emphasize that in addition to helping to attract the right professionals, the culture code helps to retain them.
Just consider the benefits mentioned so far to understand why a well-crafted code prevents high employee turnover .
External benefits of the culture code
We mentioned before that the culture code can also be a brand strengthening tool. Let’s see, then, some benefits linked to this having the external public as a reference:
Make the company more attractive
The internal and external universe of organizations is related. The increased identification by hired professionals increases the chances of positive and free advertising in the workplace.
This contributes to improving the image that the company passes on to the market, making it more attractive to available talent .
Makes the company more competitive
In addition, the strengthening of the brand makes the company better known and recognized. This increases its prestige before the public and the market.
As a result, the organization has more power when it comes to choosing its business partners and other stakeholders.
Culture code example: Google
One of the steps in the process of assembling the culture code that we present is precisely researching examples of culture code that can serve as inspiration.
There are several that are available for consultation on the internet and there is a good chance that you will find one that you consider useful according to the values of your own organization.