today I wanted to tell you about something that is very important in my company. It may even be the thing that I appreciate the most about Estimote. It is our culture. This will be the first post in a series where I will describe how our culture looks, how we create it and what challenges we face.
In later posts, I will go deeper into the description of our culture and how we build it. Here is my plan for this series:
- Estimote Culture - Introduction
- Estimote Culture Book - part 1
- Estimote Culture Book - part 2
- Estimote Culture - How do we create it?
- Estimote Culture - Challenges
If you don’t know what the word “culture” means in this context, I’ll try to explain it and show some key elements culture from our company in this blogpost.
What is culture?
This is not a question you can get a simple and exhaustive answer to. When I asked this question to our VP of Culture he sent me a 21-page PDF with a summary of academic research on this topic. This convinced me that whatever I write here won’t be enough, so I will just try to be concise. Here is one definition that resonates best with what I think culture is: ‘… the set of attitudes, values, beliefs, and behaviors shared by a group of people, but different for each individual, communicated from one generation to the next.’ (Source: Matsumoto, D. (1996). Culture and Psychology. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company.)
Here are some examples of how I understand this definition:
Set of attitudes, values, beliefs, and behaviors
- we believe that we should be respectful of each other.
- we believe that you should solve the problems you see and not wait for others to do that.
- if someone gives you feedback, he/she does it so you can improve, not to make you feel bad.
shared by a group of people, but different for each individual
You can say that each of these groups has a specific culture, but certainly, each person inside the group understands it differently and finds different elements more or less important.
- Estimote employees
- the students of a school
- a nation
communicated from one generation to the next
In the case of Estimote when a new person joins us, he/she quickly learns which behaviors are desirable and which are not. I think there are three main mechanisms here:
- learning from available resources (onboardings, culture book, code of conduct, some guides).
- learning by observation — if everyone acts respectful then he/she intuitively feels that shouting at someone is not the best way to communicate.
- learning by feedback — if you do something well, others will tell you. If not — they will also tell you.
I’ve presented some of the elements of culture from the Estimote, but it’s applicable to any group of people and I hope that at this point you get the picture.
Why is culture important?
Before we start answering this question, let’s get one thing straight — there is no such thing as “no culture”. Every organization has a culture. So there are actually two questions: why having a great culture is important and why being conscious about it is important.
Why is having a great culture important?
The first question should be — what makes a great culture? Again, a question without a definite answer. For a great culture is one where you can feel safe, motivated and be able to develop yourself for a long time.
Too general? Maybe it is, but when I learn about what makes people happy in the long term, these are topics that keep coming back, so I think this definition works pretty well.
Ok, so now back to the question — why is it important? Well, the previous paragraph makes it pretty obvious, but there are some additional benefits:
- It attracts people who have the same values as you and repels ones whose values are starkly different.
- It leads to empowered people and behaviours that are welcome.
- It’s a key way to make sure people love their workplace
Why is it important to be conscious of the culture?
I think there are two main aspects to that. One is that describing the culture creates a clear image of where we want to be. And it’s much easier for people to follow it then. The other is that culture is not a constant thing — new people come, old leave and on top of that, we are all changing too. If you are conscious of the culture, you can have better control over how it evolves. If you are not — it’s much harder to control something that you don’t even know exists.
I don’t want to say here that anyone has (or should have) any definite control over culture. However, you can influence how it develops in many ways, e.g. by hiring the right people or promoting right behaviors.
How do we cultivate culture at Estimote?
Up to this point I tried to be pretty general and most of that applies to any company. So if culture is so important, how do we make sure that we get it right at Estimote? I think there are three main components to that:
- Culture team
- Code of conduct
- Culture book
At Estimote we have a Culture team. Its mission is “Supporting, evolving and evangelizing the Estimote culture as described in “we are Estimote” (the Estimote Culture Book), and promoting values and behaviors that we think will build an amazing workplace and help our company succeed.” Having people whose main responsibility is cultivating the culture in the organization is the best way to make sure this topic won’t be neglected. They take care of the employee journey and promote our culture inside and outside of the company. Here are some of their duties: support recruitment and onboarding process, organize events, organize training sessions, help leaders in drawing conclusions from past events
Culture team and their responsibilities are a topic for another blogpost. I plan to cover it in the future.
Code of conduct
According to Wikipedia a code of conduct is “a set of rules outlining the social norms and religious rules and responsibilities of, or proper practices for, an individual, party or organization. “ Our code of conduct makes it clear what are the behaviors we will not tolerate and encourages people to challenge them.
Some time ago, we’ve created the Estimote Culture Book. I say we, because everyone in the company was involved in this process. There are five rules that are the quintessence of our culture. These are:
- We all create magical experiences
- We will succeed by experimenting
- We need feedback to grow
- The physical world is diverse, so are we
- We do things instead of just talking
I will go into details of what do we exactly mean by these in the next blog posts.
The main goal of this blogpost was to explain to you what culture is, why we should care about it and give you some basic information about how we cultivate it at Estimote. There will be more in the following posts, so if you don’t want to miss them, please subscribe to the newsletter at the bottom of the page.
If this topic is interesting for you, one of the best places to start are two books by Simon Sinek: “Start with Why” and “Leaders eat last.” You can also watch his videos on Youtube, there are plenty of these.
Have a nice day!