Since joining Orenda I’ve been observing how people view their work. I try to take into consideration the geographical, cultural, and economic factors that change our perspectives and experiences of work throughout our careers. I’ve observed that attitudes change depending on what a person is doing and what they expect to get out of it. I have friends and family members who think of work as just a job to earn a living and others who think of it as something more – I’m not sure what that is exactly but I suppose it is a key aspect to a person’s identity and happiness.
While reflecting on what I want out of my work, from both my current job and career as a whole, I only briefly considered salary, vacation, and other things like status or office perks. I continued to come back to things like purpose, engagement, environment, and learning. These things are often part of what is described as company culture. To ensure our culture here is healthy, and whether there are areas to improve, I brought the idea to everyone in brief conversations over the past year. I wanted to get an idea of how they thought about their work.
Our team is young, each have finished post-secondary schooling within the past three or four years. We have diverse work experiences in journalism, food service, government, retail, education, and even freelancing in another country. In our discussions on work no one mentioned pay, vacation, or titles, except maybe jokingly – the focus was not even on job stability or security, but on whether they would enjoy what they are doing for forty hours per week. The more we talked the clearer it became that company culture is as an important as compensation and benefits.
So, what defines culture? It is a simple but difficult question to answer because we cannot locate or limit culture to a single thing, idea, or process. I’ve noticed that for start-ups, most people will describe a cliché environment and set of loosely based rules that are actually a list of perks and rebranded HR policies. Company culture does not consist of flexible work hours or a ping-pong table, nor is it the company vision, policies or even the behaviours and attitudes of individual employees. I can see, for myself at least, that it is much easier to describe what company culture is not. I think it’s one of the most complex words to define, but I think a good definition is:
It’s important to note that there is no secret recipe to having good company culture. There are no universal best workplace policies and practices that you can implement. Otherwise, a study of the top 100 places to work would give us the conditions and criteria required to inspire people to do their best work regardless of the field and unique blend of individuals who make up your team. What works for one company won’t necessarily work for another even within the same field. In a way it comes back to the classic debate of nature vs. nurture, is it the environment, mission, and leadership that inspire culture, or the organic result when people work together as a team to achieve a common goal? From what I’ve encountered, being respected and motivated to do the work appears to be the underlying common factors in the world’s most successful workplace cultures.
By looking at how work is completed here, we got a better sense of the values, customs, beliefs, and practices that we agree is distinctive about working at Orenda. We compared our workplace values to those of our former employers and have a pretty good grasp of our current culture, but we agree that it should be allowed to change and evolve as the work and teams continues to grow and change.