In today’s hot job market nearly all of us are trying to “build a better mousetrap so the world will beat a path to our door,” as the saying goes.
We are all authoring our employment brand, and trying to one-up our competitors. And a lot of that work revolves around understanding and then documenting/describing our culture.
Culture is such an ambiguous and challenging thing to describe (regardless of medium) that most people don’t know what the hell we are talking about. When people ask us about our culture, our mouths are suddenly filled with the corporate mumbo jumbo that turns off employee interest like a light switch. So then we start explaining it by talking about our company’s mission, vision and values – and the eye rolls ensue almost in unison.
Why do we as HR professionals go down this path? Why do we insist on using babbling corporate speak to describe what it’s like to work at our company, selecting words seldom used outside of our workplaces to describe what our “culture” is all about?
I love strategies that extract the corporate lingo (employees would call this BS) from our vocabularies. Strategies that force us to talk to employees in real terms, simple and understandable. Approaches that encourage us to interact and talk with employees like people, as we would on the outside, away from work. I started thinking about how to describe company culture using words and phrases that we use every day in our lives, not just at work. Those things we say, attempt to live out and aspire to every day as people.
Here are a few that immediately came to mind for me:
- You can’t judge a book by its cover (diversity)
- It’s better to give than receive (community, giving back)
- Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for life (employee development)
- Honesty is the best policy (integrity)
- Two heads are better than one (collaboration)
- The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have done unto you (teamwork)
There are literally thousands of these.
Many have a religious basis. Some have notoriety only in their country of origin. But most use simple language to describe how we should act in the most important culture of all … our lives and our world. And most of these truths resonate with us as people regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion or national origin.
Work is just a microcosm of life whose script has been written and rewritten endless times by millions of people way smarter than me. So I found myself questioning why I feel compelled to feebly attempt to rewrite the script again. How can I write the words that will define the unique culture of my company, words that will appeal to the existing and future workforce, and provide them insight about what we value at work … our culture.
And then I quickly reach the conclusion that the many who came before me wrote it better than I ever could. So why not pinch what they wrote, and use their universal truths. Find the ones that resonate most with our team, our workforce, and our employees and use that instead.
Because it’s easier to critique than create.
Wow, there’s another one.
P.S. So what are your company’s universal truths? What are those words to live by that employees won’t be hearing for the first time when sitting in your employee orientation? What are the words that describe your culture and what you value? Give it some thought and hit me in the comments.