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posted: 9/10/2019 1:00 AM

Corporate Culture: Why Should I Care?

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Corporate culture: why should I care? That was a question used during the promotion of the Corporate Culture Series' first event on Aug. 8. I was honored to be included as a panelist along with two culture enthusiasts: Sirmara Campbell of LaSalle Network and Jacki Davidoff of Davidoff Mission-Driven Business Strategy. The moderator, Mary Lynn Fayoumi, CEO of HR Source, asked some direct questions that exposed how culture is viewed in the business sector.

Culture, as in organizational culture, was the Word of the Year in 2014 on the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. The most researched word. Every organization has a culture. What is culture? I like this explanation: Culture is composed of a set of underlying values, beliefs and assumptions that drive collective behaviors such as how decisions are made, how people lead and interact with each other and what is encouraged or condemned. It may be explicit or assumed.

The key word is behavior. The culture of any organization is the behavior that is permitted or enacted. Families have cultures. Groups have cultures. Every business has a culture. The conscious thought in most progressive organizations regarding culture has become: "is our culture good?" There are tests to determine the exact stage of a culture, but the simplest way is to observe behaviors. People treating each other with respect is an indication of a good culture. Another would be employees acting with integrity.

Campbell stated during the session that culture is not just Ping-Pong tables. Her point was well received. There is a clear distinction behind perks and cultural behaviors. Perks should be the reward for positive behaviors, not just an alternative time consumer.

How does a positive culture impact a business entity? The following are four advantages of a sound organizational culture:

• Culture cannot be replicated whereas products, capabilities and services can.

• Prized culture attracts and retains top performers.

• Culture underpins competitive advantage and higher financial performance.

• Culture engages employees, inspires loyalty and increases discretionary effort.

Tasty Catering, our company, has worked diligently on improving and maintaining our culture. Positive behaviors are rewarded. Not following the values results in disciplinary actions. As a result, our reviews on social media consistently mention how wonderful our staff treated clients and vendors during events. That is in alignment with the first advantage listed above. Every caterer should have high-quality food. However, not all caterers have exceptional staff.

The second advantage addresses a statement made during the session. A recognized great culture attracts like-minded staff. All things being equal, we buy from people we like. Or we buy from organizations that we like. Tasty Catering is known in the events and hospitality professions for having a great culture. In the rare case when a job opening is posted, the candidates pursuing employment quite often state that they were attracted by TC's culture. They want to be treated with respect. They want to work for an ethical company. Retention eliminates incredible costs of recruiting and training. Our industry has a turnover norm of 49%. Tasty Catering has had a 4% turnover during the past four years.

The most important factor for every individual in a job setting may be considered happiness. Very few people are fortunate enough to state that they are happy at work. Our staff can. In 2018, the American Psychological Association named Tasty Catering a Psychologically Healthy Workplace. Practicing a positive culture results in happy people, not just Ping-Pong games.

•Tom Walter is co-founder and chief culture officer of Elk Grove Village-based Tasty Catering. He is a co-author of an award-winning book on employee engagement titled "It's My Company Too!". He has co-founded 38 businesses.