If you want to know the corporate culture of a company or business, simply take a look at their website (… even if a fabulous copywriter has written it).
Corporate Culture is basically how we do things around here (which is totally separate to what services we provide).
If a company’s culture is one of a ruthless robber baron, you can pretty much guarantee you will find clues
How? Take my hand while we go on
Understanding Corporate Culture
One of the most influential writers about organisational culture is an academic by the name of Edgar Schein. Back in the
Schein suggested that you can understand corporate culture by looking at three levels:
- Artefacts – These are the visible bits of a business and include everything from design, decoration, how people are dressed, corporate trophies, “in-language”,
technologyused. Outsiders can easily spot the artefacts, but may not understand why a work unit has an old army boot on display.
- Espoused Values & Beliefs – What a company says they value or believe in.
- Underlying assumptions – These are rarely articulated but are considered to be “unshakeable truths” by an organisation. These are the bits relating to what is assumed to be the right way for people to relate to others, appropriate leadership styles, how decisions are made, how power and resources are distributed … amongst other things. They may or may not match the espoused values and beliefs.
Look Ma … I Just Found An Artefact!
A corporate website is an artefact in the same way that bits of pottery left from a long-lost civilisation are artefacts. What your website says about your company are hidden in the artefacts.
A website tells the outsider if the business values being an early adopter or struggles with the whole technology thing. The colours and design chosen tell outsiders if the business values appearances, or if they are stuck in a 1970’s time warp.
The website words a business uses tell outsiders if the business is so trendy that they wouldn’t possibly understand, or if it is so stuffy and corporate that they should wear a pinstriped suit and stand to attention when the business talks with them.
Espoused values are drop-dead common on a website and in most cases are a total waste of 3 minutes of people’s lives in reading them – so we will leave talking about that bit (… and please feel free to consider leaving them out
What Your Website Says About Your Company: The Juicy Bits
The most interesting bits are how a website can shove a spotlight on the underlying cultural assumptions of an organisation. A website shows everyone how a business “really” believes things should be done, who holds the power and who gets the rewards.
Here’s a few ways that the dirty secrets can be hung out on display on a website.
What is Valued & Rewarded
What Services Are Considered Important
The products and services displayed on a website often
Who Really Holds The Power
Who holds the reins of power in an organisation can often be seen on the About Us pages. Is the CEO worshipped as the “Big Man” in cargo
You can get clues on the leadership style from a website. Things to look for – is the website style and content traditional or charismatic? Is it reserved or engaging? Is the leadership chaotic and messy (the site will reflect this), or is it tightly controlled and everything linked back to a measurable outcome?
Appropriate Ways To Relate
What an organisation believes is an appropriate way to relate is easily seen
Conflict & Crisis Management
How an organisation deals with conflict and crisis can be seen through your website and online presence. How are public negative reviews dealt with? Are they ignored and swept under the carpet; flamed down; are threats of internal witch hunts made (we will find and punish the employee who did this); is there visible support from the executive for their staff; or is the issue calmly and thoroughly responded to without blame and judgement?
These are just tiny glimpses of what you can see from a website as to how a business really does things. So take a look at the websites around you with fresh eyes (or have us take a look at your website content for you) and see if you can work out what is really going on behind those closed doors.