MUSINGS ON CORPORATE CULTURE

EVERY COMPANY IS SAID TO HAVE its own culture  and a mission statement reflecting not only the way it works but also justifying  the reason for its existence.  Among the lists and rankings that we are flooded with at all times is an interesting poll titled “THE BEST COMPANIES TO WORK FOR” and while one cannot vouch for the robustness or accuracy of such a poll, we seldom realize how much we are responsible ourselves in the building of a corporate culture at the company we work for.

THE WAITING PERIOD for anyone at the reception of company’s office is probably the first indicator (though not necessarily conclusive) of how efficiently it is run – it is also indicative of the respect a company accords to other people’s time besides its own. A CEO used to leave standing instructions to the receptionist to let him know directly if any visitor is made to wait for more than ten minutes after the visitor’s arrival !

THE RESPONSE TIME to inquiries, suggestions and complaints from customers, suppliers, service providers and, yes, regulators, is indeed a powerful indicator of how adeptly an enterprise is generally run. As a company grows in size it is not unusual to see that much of these functions are also outsourced both in the interests of cost savings and driving improvements in the levels of customer service.

THE WAY A COMPANY TREATS its employees is also a key element of its corporate culture.  The recruitment and induction procedures,  the manner in which  duties and responsibilities are communicated,  the presence or absence of a career ladder, the way employees are remunerated, trained  and retained  – all of this form an integral part of the company’s DNA so to speak. One forgets the name of leading HR consultant who said that the credo of good companies should be EMPLOYEES FIRST” because if the company pays enough attention to its employees everything else will usually fall in place.

THE PREPAREDNESS OF A COMPANY in  handling an internal or external crisis – be it a scandal or an unforeseen emergency or disaster – is a key indicator of its corporate culture. The manner in which corporate decisions are taken, the levels of delegation of authority, the existence of well thought out policies and procedures and their robust compliance and enforcement, the management and avoidance of conflict of interests – all of these are key determinants of corporate governance within the company which forms the bedrock of its culture.

LASTLY, THE SOCIAL CONTRIBUTION of a corporate (not merely limited to the tax deductible it would enjoy in this regard) pretty much tells us how much difference it makes to the world beyond the profits it makes in selling its products or services even if these are in themselves game changers.

IT MAY SEEM THAT ALL OF THE ABOVE should necessarily emanate from company management.  If for example, at the workplace we encounter a situation which has no precedent, we should take it upon ourselves to put in place systems to deal with similar events in the future.  Small elements such as these also go a long way in determining the culture of the place where we spend such a lot of time.
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