I loved that definition. It was simple, all-encompassing, and reinforced the belief that a company’s culture is grown from within, that it originates in the hearts and minds of the employees and is perpetuated in their actions.
Company culture remains a hot button in the new millennium. But in the wake of the wide-spread economic changes of the past year or two, I’m beginning to believe that the old definition has been jettisoned and replaced with a new one: “An off-the-shelf quick-fix, purchased from a successful company, and applied at random.”
OK, maybe that was a bit harsh. But a recent Business Week article, “Zappos Retails Its Culture,” opened my eyes to a new leadership quick-fix fad: buying a corporate culture.
The article details $4,000, two-day seminars where executives are immersed in the “essence” of the Zappos corporate culture, and briefed on the company’s policies and practices in such areas as hiring, compensation and customer care.
There is also mention of daily tours of the company’s Las Vegas headquarters, where visitors experience the unique Zappos culture by having “their photos taken in goofy, mullet-shaped wigs” while “staffers blow horns and ring cowbells to greet the guests.”
I don’t doubt that Zappos is a fun place to work, and as a long-time customer, I can attest to their great product and customer service offerings. And I don’t fault Zappos for finding a way to generate “buzz” about their company and products by offering up the Zappos culture and customer experience like a ride at Epcot.
Here’s my issue: a poor company culture can not be fixed by corporate tourism alone. It’s like slapping a new coat of paint on a 2005 Ford Escort with a burned out engine and expecting to win the Daytona 500 – unrealistic and ineffective.
To fix a culture, you have to start from within and assess every aspect of your company: people, processes, products and public image. What’s more, you have to be committed to taking bold actions to address any aspect that is out of sync.
Your corporate culture is more than a slogan on the wall, or a logo on a coffee mug. It’s your company’s DNA, and the one element that – for better or for worse – cannot be replicated by your competitors.