For the success of any business, the culture of the company is as important as the business strategy. They say, “The company culture eats business strategy for breakfast’. It is true that behind every successful company, there is a huge role played by the company culture. That is why, every company strives to create a unique and distinctive identity as part of its culture, for which it is known.
For instance, when we talk of Google, innovation is a key element in the Company’s success. Googlers are known for their innovative minds and the Company itself is known for allowing employees to experiment, let loose their creativity at work and come up with innovative ideas. What’s more, the Company understands that people may fail in this process, and simply allows them to.
On the other hand, Amazon, a competitor of Google, has a very different culture. Customer obsession is the highlight of Amazon’s culture. The Company strives to keep the customer experience at a high, and this has become the key to success for the e-commerce firm.
“For me, distinctiveness comes from finding an element that is truly experienced and practised by all, and not just from fancy terms”
Naveen Narayan, chief people officer, Biocon Biologics
Though the two Internet giants are rivals, they have very unique cultures.
P. Dawarakanath, former non-executive chairman, GSK, shares that the key element of GSK’s culture is, ‘Giving a healthy and quality life to people’ so that the Company works towards building products that make people healthy and enhance quality of life.
There is no doubt that companies should strive to develop a culture which is unique to them and separates them from others. “In today’s talent market, every company needs to uniquely establish and position themselves as employers with distinctive cultures. Their uniqueness is the key element, which separates one company from another or gives one an edge over the other in the talent market,” says Dwarakanath.
As per HR leaders who spoke to HRKatha, companies often fail to develop that distinctive identity or create a true culture in the organisation. “Very few leaders in India know how to develop a distinctive culture. Although they manage to write the cultural values of the company on the walls, they forget about them soon after,” observes Satayajit Mohanty, CHRO, Crompton.
To understand how cultures are made distinctive, we need to first understand how cultures are created in the first place. Many HR leaders feel that during the initial days, companies rarely make a conscious effort to define their cultural values. The initial culture gets developed on the basis of how the founders or other leaders in the company behave.
“The cultural difference lies in the manner in which each company defines its values and then puts them into practice, in reality”
P. Dawarakanath, former non-executive chairman, GSK
There are two key elements that define the culture of an organisation. The leadership behaviour and the line of business the company operates in.
For instance, GSK is in the pharmaceuticals business. Therefore, it strives to develop a culture of providing great health and quality life to people. Dwarakanath, who has also worked with Max Healthcare, shares that being in the insurance business, Max was highly focussed on providing the best of services to its customers.
Additionally, “The leadership of the company plays a significant role in culture building,” points out Naveen Narayan, chief people officer, Biocon Biologics.
For instance, the Tata Group was founded by Jamshedji Tata. Thanks to this inspirational leader, the Tata brand has succeeded in creating a culture of ‘trust’. This trust exists in not just the customers and consumers, but also Tata’s own employees. “I started my career with Tata Motors and the distinctiveness of the Tata’s is known to all. It is a global benchmark of culture and a brand that stands for trust. The Company sets the highest standards in terms of employee care and commitment towards society,” states Milan Chattaraj, chief people officer, MTR Foods.
Giving his own company’s example, Narayan shares that Biocon has a 40-year legacy. He recalls how they started to ponder over some of the values or elements of Biocon’s culture, which are experienced by all in the Company, and which have made the brand successful. “We came up with one string value — ‘problem solving’,” reveals Narayan. “For me, distinctiveness comes from finding an element that is truly experienced and practised by all, and not just from fancy terms,” asserts Narayan.
“Very few leaders in India know how to develop a distinctive culture. Although they manage to write the cultural values of the company on the walls, they forget about them soon after”
Satayajit Mohanty, CHRO, Crompton
For Chattaraj, uniqueness comes from the purpose defined by the Company. At Orkala, (parent company of MTR Foods) the purpose of the brand is, “Friend in Everyday Life” and the culture values are defined as ‘brave, trustworthy and inspiring’.
Many a time, companies are observed to have the same cultural values. For instance, everybody wants to be innovative or high on integrity. Yet, some companies end up having a culture that is distinctive and different from others. How? “The difference lies in the manner in which each company defines its values and then puts them into practice, in reality,” says Dwarkanath.
For instance, when it come to a performance-lead culture, high performance will be defined very differently in different companies. Also, as per Mohanty, the negative behaviours in an organisation are picked up much faster than the positive ones. That is why, companies fail to actually develop the culture they really desire to. “If it was possible to plan culture, every company would have had the same culture,” quips Mohanty.
“Uniqueness in culture comes from the purpose defined by the Company”
Milan Chattaraj, chief people officer, MTR Foods
Companies do strive to keep their culture distinctive, but how far they succeed in doing so depends on their efforts to practise those values, so that the desired culture can be developed.