What Does Your Company Culture Look And Sound Like?

Vantage Points Header Joel ElvesonAS A RECRUITER, one of the questions I ask my clients and potential clients is what does your company’s culture look like and sound like. The first part of the questions is usually pretty routine for the HR person or whoever I am speaking with to answer but the second part of the question will almost certainly result in a quizzical ‘what do you mean” answer. In truth a healthy company culture not only looks a certain way in terms of a harmonious work environment, ethnically diverse workforce, etc. but there is a certain sound that is emitted that transmits the signal this is an organization that management has solidified.

In terms of what your company culture looks like one of the items I alluded to above is that it should be visible for anybody who walks into the office unexpectedly to witness the collaborative team effort that is put forth. If bickering or dissension permeate throughout the halls and corridors it is a clear reflection of a company culture where hostility rules the office. Predictably your employee turnover ratio is quite high that invariably lead to an inability to infuse new talent into the organization.

How diverse not only in terms of ethnic makeup is your office but also along the lines of single, married, gay, lesbian with a healthy smattering of veterans be they disabled or not. You can successfully argue the point that not every office is going to have a diverse or as diverse staff as they should but those that do exhibit a culture of commitment to hiring the best talent they can find irrespective to anything except proven ability to get the job done.

Let’s now explore that not so well known or thought of component to your company known as the sound of your culture. We know what the verbal ping pong shouting matches sound like. Yet few recognize the sound of a bad company culture when nothing that sounds out of place is heard. Sounds of leader covertly trying to lead in a manner (you hear it in his dialogue if you pay close attention) that is slanted so that he gets credit for everything good that happens while deftly dodging any negative results that his leadership produced. That is a disastrous sound while not overly audible it is nonetheless heard.

When simple routine morning greetings are not heard being exchanged amongst the staff there is a bubbling caldron of unstated anger ready to explode. The spoken tone of such words like thank you, excuse me and please when mouthed in an either a condescending or in an annoyed tonal inflection the sound of your culture blasts out the words AVOID WORKING FOR THIS COMPANY!

Additional sound-bytes that reflect on your culture are how management orally or via the written word communicates with each other and the employees. While one would not expect corporate dictum to sound like long lost lovers reuniting, the overall tone dictates either a feeling of respect/appreciation for the jobs being done or one of ‘no matter how good you do or no matter how good you are it just isn’t nor will it ever be good enough.’

I would like to get back into the subject of looks as it relates to an office dress code or lack thereof. An office with a “business casual” dress code is not uncommon these days it should not be that business casual means dress as you please. The way you dress directly affects your feelings about your work which is then transported to the eyes of customers or anybody else who may stray into your office unexpectedly. If a spectator were to witness employees wearing T-shirts with obscene messages on them or employees wear clothing with strategically placed slits in them and so forth it would be impossible not to conclude your company culture is one that is reflective in more cases than not an unprofessional organization that invariably produces inferior quality products.

The fact remains that the way your company culture looks and sounds like not just to you (don’t be too surprised if you as the CEO are not cognizant of your company culture or find flaws in it) but to your clients or business partners as well is as vital to your continued viability as a business as is the pricing of your goods or services. While looks can be deceptive or give false impressions the combination of looks along with the now known commodity of the sound of your company culture cement in addition to everything else the values you appear to adhere to. Solid core values must be an intrinsic element to ensuring you have the proper balance of looks and sounds to make your company culture one that others will want to replicate.


Joel Elveson
Joel Elveson
INDEPENDENT Executive Recruiting By Joel is an "up and coming" Executive Search Firm formed and headed up by Joel Elveson whose visionary ideas, leadership & creativity have brought to life a more "user-friendly" approach to recruiting. His clients and candidates form powerful strategic partnerships that we use to help you. Joel’s Firm offers Permanent, Temporary (case by case), & Temporary To Permanent staffing solutions for all of your Human Capital Requirements. Contract IT/Consultants are available if needed. Above and beyond they are experts (by way of their personal industry work experience) with mortgage, mortgage banking, middle-market banking, accounting, along with many others under the vast financial spectrum of disciplines. Their business goes beyond candidate recruiting as they also train, mentor and develop your internal recruiting staff with an eye towards helping you reduce the cost of hiring. They will also work in areas such as compensation, effective onboarding processes and alike. In other words, their business is to help your business by becoming an extension of you by filling in gaps that cause delay or waste. The recruiting methods employed by Joel’s team are time tested that results in a high rate of successful placements. Joel was trained in the art of recruiting by some of the top staffing industry executives in addition to the best recruiter trainers who to this day drive me to exceed the lofty goals he has set forth.

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  1. Great job Joel. I believe the way people dress is vital and I also do not believe in casual Fridays because it tends to turn in casual every day. My experience is that the Sales departments always dress up, ie, women not wearing jeans & tees, and the men wearing sports coats or dress shirts with trousers. This is about self-respect and respect for the business. Keep up the great writing and choice of topics!

    • Thank you, Joanne. I hated casual Friday because I did not feel the same as I did the other says of the week.

    • I also hate rules and being bullied into following any pack. So there!!! BTW, I lived about 15 minutes away from Santa Rosa, CA!! And of course in Dyker Heights in Brooklyn!!

    • Larry, Thank you for your kind words. Naturally, coming from somebody like yourself whom I consider a dear friend not to mention one heck of a writer these words outweigh any monetary value. But, if somebody were to put 1 million dollars in my hand I am theirs. The great thing about you (amongst many other things) is your sense of your humor along with your humanity. As you know my feeling is that we need more Larry Tyler’s in this world.

    • Ken,
      This was very kind of you! When a writer receives comments like these it gives him even more motivation to produce material that readers like you who will read and enjoy it.
      It is always a pleasure hearing from you as well.

      Thank you so much for your loyal readership. I look forward to seeing more of your comments.

      All my best!

  2. In my line of work, though we offer restructuring, modernization, and data-driven business management, culture is our core focus. It’s hard to articulate culture. It’s hard to quantify it. To help with that we focus on these topics to entice our clients to better understand their culture:
    – when and how planning is done
    – how does problem solving and analysis work
    – how arguments and assertions play out in a group
    – what are the assumptions and conjecture of the organization

    From there we can paint a culture that everyone we work with understands.

  3. Joel, I’m often amazed that many executives have no idea what so ever about their company culture. If you interview, independently, the top 3 to 5 executives and ask them to explain their company culture, you often get a combination of these results. A blank stare, or a hesitant referral to the mission statement or employee hand book. Sometimes a series of platitudes and hackneyed theory. Seldom does any response reflect the reality and certainly isn’t the way the rank and file see it.

    I like you comment about dress code. Technically I could have done my job in my pajamas. But, I don’t think our clients, guests, or employees would have viewed me in the same way as when I was wearing a suit and tie. Equally important, as you note, I wouldn’t have viewed myself the same way either and that would undoubtedly have had a negative impact on my performance. I never accepted “casual Friday” as a viable dress code any more than having the sales director wearing cut offs hanging down to the knees and the underwear showing.

    Yes, appearances are important and those should be a part of the culture and pride of self and company.

    • Ken,
      Company culture is not something executives focus on or pay attention to which is why they have no clue what it is like to work in their organization. How you dress and how others dress in the office also reflects on how the office is run along with the culture of the office. The two are intertwined. Thank you Ken for taking the time to read my article in addition to taking further time and effort to post your comment. I look forward to your continued readership and subsequent comments. All my best.