Creating your company’s own culture code

The culture code documents are a detailed documentation of your organisation’s culture. They cover what you do as well as why you do it. You can consider culture code as the employee handbook of the 21st century.

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A great culture code is expected to cover your organisations:

  • Purpose
  • Values
  • Behaviours
  • Recognition
  • Rituals
  • Cues

To describe these six areas of culture, it’s crucial that the culture code is clear as well as consistent culturally. Clarity implies that all the readers should understand the culture code in the same manner. Cultural consistency implies representation of culture in the same manner as it really is.

How can you develop a culture code?

For starting with a corporate culture code, following are some simple steps to help in getting started with its creation:

  1. Finding the best existing culture code documents

Identifying the existing culture documents from other companies that you love and hate is the right way to start. Remember that one size fits all model can never work for a culture code. A culture code should reflect the culture across themes, structure, tone and design. Remember that it’s not just about what they convey, but it also matters that how they convey it.

A bit of desktop research can help in consolidating your thoughts around what you require from your corporate culture code.

  1. Consolidating existing documents

An organisation may likely have hundreds of documents providing insights into its culture. Such documents are a great place to start with to build a culture code. Pulling them together may save time and efforts in reinventing the wheel in case aspects of the culture have already been documented. Following are listed some documents to look at:

  • Any current employee handbook.
  • Founder / CEO IPO letters
  • Recent letters or emails from the CEO or MD.
  • Media interviews with founders or management.
  • Engagement surveys.
  • Exit interviews.

3. Revising early drafts with current employees for cultural consistency

What is being done only matters while thinking about the culture, not what is being thought. This is why it’s much important to test for cultural consistency with your employees. It is possible that what matters to the employees about the culture is different from what’s in the current employee handbook. Employees should be asked about what they love and hate about their workplace.

The culture code should reflect what your culture is in reality, not what you ideally want your culture to be.

  1. Making sure everyone understands your culture code in the same manner

As clarity is as important as cultural consistency, the culture code should not be subject to reader’s interpretation. Everyone who reads the document should take away the same thing. A reader should quickly understand what the culture code stands for their day-to-day as an employee. Your culture code should enable a reader to form a strong view about how actually a day looks like in one of your employee’s life. Beyond the traditional high-level values statement, there should be a level of detail.

Your culture code can act as a valuable brand asset for each part of your organisation. It should also stand out as your marketing and management document.