5 Levels of Company Culture and How to Impact Yours Positively

5 Levels of Company Culture and How to Impact Yours Positively

We have all heard the famous quote from Peter Drucker, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” While there have been compelling arguments on both sides of the equation, there is no doubt company culture is important.

Unfortunately, most people don’t understand what culture means. LearnLoft defines culture as the shared values and beliefs that guide thinking and behavior. Turns out your organization has a culture and it’s being shaped and molded every single day whether you like it or now.

In order to get a pulse on employee engagement and culture, most company leaders leverage a yearly employee engagement survey. This isn’t enough. Measuring culture is the least important part of the company culture journey. The most important part is impacting it.

It’s Not Your Job to Measure Culture, It’s Your Job to Impact It.

In my Hacking HR talk, I discuss the 5 Levels of Culture from our research, the building blocks that make up the culture and a specific way impact it in a positive way.

What LearnLoft has found from our research is distinct differences in the characteristics of some organizational cultures vs. others. Here are 5 levels of company culture including characteristics and takeaways to help your organization.

Level 1: Toxic

No one wants to work in a Toxic culture. That’s evident because only a small percentage of organizations last when they have a Toxic culture. The organizations that do last typically have a revolutionary idea or technology.

You would be able to identify if your organization has a Toxic culture if there is a “churn and burn” mentality with employees or there is no sense of connection with team members. Tocix cultures make up 11.8 percent of companies researched.

The takeaway: If you are currently working in a Toxic culture with no sign of change in executive leadership, now is the time to start looking elsewhere for employment.

Level 2: Deficient

Deficient is better than a Toxic, but by no means is it a great place to work. An easy way to identify a Deficient culture is by observing a workplace. You can tell a drastic difference between an executive leader and a non-executive. They have separate office spaces, conference rooms, printers, lunchrooms, and parking spaces.

While most would say this is normal because of the traditional workspaces of the 90’s what it does is build physical or invisible walls between team members and their ability to connect. Causing a lack of innovation, creativity, and teamwork. Deficient cultures make up 49 percent of teams studied.

The takeaway: Working in a Deficient culture will take a major toll on your professional and personal happiness. Try and introduce culture building things like pot-luck lunches, or open innovation meetings. These are the first steps to see if executive leadership will get behind new ways of employee connection.

Level 3: Common

Common culture is the second most popular culture making up 23 percent or companies studied. I like to think of these cultures as those where the “few carry the weight of many.” A few top performers are “all-in” and carry the organization about as far as it possibly can go.

Common cultures typically share additional characteristics such as low to medium turnover and struggle to integrate different generations within the workplace.

The takeaway: The best way to get out of a Common culture is to begin changing the attitude and language that team members are used to using. Try reducing workplace gossip and calling team members out who bring a negative attitude to work.

Level 4: Advanced

Advanced is a big step up from Common because you get into cultures wherein people seek out opportunities to be a part of what is going on. There is always a direct connection between the work being done and the purpose of what the organization does in the world.

Executive leaders proactively work to shape and mold the culture daily. It’s weaved in all areas of the business from hiring, to employee development, to constant communication. Advanced cultures make up 11 percent of teams studied.

The takeaway:  Run surveys or host open roundtables across the organization to identify things executive leadership can do to further improve the workplace environment.

Level 5: Elite

Elite cultures are the best of the best. These are highly connected work environments from the C-Suite to the lowest level employees. In Elite cultures, words and phrases are powerful and are used all the time to the point where they become habits. (For example, at any Chick-fil-A restaurant you hear their employees say “my pleasure”)

A few additional characteristics include: teams see a future working together; other organizations look to mimic or copy its culture, and they consistently exceed growth targets. Elite cultures make up about 5 percent of organizations studied.

The takeaway: Staying at the top will be the challenge. As turnover in founders or executive leaders begins to happen continuing to stay connected to the organization’s purpose and core values will be a challenge. But if anyone can do it, your organization certainly can.

Here is the best part, every organization or team has the ability and capacity to be an elite culture. Just know changing cultures takes a lot of time, energy and effort but in the end, it will be well worth it.

Free Company Culture Assessment Discover what culture level exists within your organization for free.

About the AuthorJohn Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company which exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the author the upcoming book Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Successand host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on instagram @johngeades.