By: Kathy Albarado on March 30th, 2021

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A Review of the Hottest Word: Culture

Business Management & Strategy

A couple years ago, Merriam-Webster announced “Culture” as the top word of the year as shown by the increase in look ups over the prior year.  Not surprising as it seems to appear in regular conversations I have with clients and colleagues daily. 

As it relates to organizational culture, we’re referring to the unwritten expectations of what people perceive is expected of them and the environment in which they belong.  Culture is really the behaviors, values and norms that manifest themselves within an organization. Or said differently, culture drives how the work gets done and that special uniqueness to one company over another.

Over the years, you've probably heard of the term "hiring for cultural fit".  Sometimes that can be perceived as a gut feeling. While we always want to trust our gut, we also want to keep in mind there's risk that we could have some hidden bias.

Download Culture Survey Questions


Rather, we encourage leaders to be intentional about articulating the values and behaviors that define their corporate culture. Providing clarity on expectations and knowing those desired traits help ensure cultural alignment.

Culture influences 80% of our behavior. 

Imagine how powerful that is to know that we could influence that magnitude of behavior by being intentional about the culture we create.

Lately, I have had many conversations about the cultural shifts that leaders say need to be addressed in their organizations.  As an organization matures, scales or restructures, its culture often needs to shift as well. What served you at one time, may no longer be effective.

I had the good fortune of being a speaker recently for the Nonprofit Capacity Conference and our topic was all about “the hottest word”.  We discussed that there are two things needed for an organizational culture to take hold:  1) results and 2) consequences.  Both are necessary to sustain a desired culture.

5 Questions to Ask Yourself to Build the Best Corporate Culture

As you explore your intentions around your organizational culture, ask yourself:

  • Do I have a list of values that inform our culture?
  • Do these values have specific corresponding behaviors that everyone understands and can articulate?
  • Are we providing clarity on our performance expectations?
  • Do we measure results?
  • Do we hold people accountable?

Remember a strong culture will both attract the right people and deter those who may not have shared values or behaviors to be successful.  Getting clarity on culture, being able to articulate the traits that you value and holding people accountable to model those behaviors will create a foundation for a healthy, sustainable (and probably fun!) organization.

Organizational culture assessment tools - download survey questions