Investopedia defines organizational culture as “…the beliefs that determine how a company’s employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions.”
That makes sense, but it’s fairly abstract for something that impacts almost every aspect of a business — according to one survey, 86 percent of business owners say that company culture is directly linked to productivity.
Where does “culture” happen, then? It is built and expressed whenever you communicate with your coworkers or clients. It’s about how culture is developed and transmitted as much as it’s about what the culture is. That means the more you communicate, the stronger it’ll be.
That’s where instant messaging for business comes in.
What does “good organizational culture” look like?
Before we dive into IM’s role on the front line, it’s helpful to first understand what success means when it comes to company culture. HR Daily Advisor offers a helpful rundown of a healthy culture’s characteristics. They include things like:
- Frequent and appropriate communication from management and HR
- Teamwork is encouraged
- Employees know how their role fits into the big picture
- The organization behaves in a way that’s consistent with its values
- Consideration is given to work-life balance
- High employee morale
This list provides some guiding principles that make IM’s importance in the culture equation clear. Here’s why it’s valuable:
1. Low barriers to communication
One of IM’s great strengths is that it makes communication immediately accessible. There are no hoops to jump through, meetings to arrange, emails to draft or calls to schedule.
In presenting such a low barrier to communication, informal internal comms become possible – and that’s where culture often organically grows. When employees chat back and forth with one another, they’re strengthening valuable bonds. We used the word “valuable” for a reason: getting along with your coworkers means you’re seven times more likely to be engaged at work.
That ticks the “morale” and “teamwork” boxes.
2. Gateways to other platforms
We’re not staking the claim that IM is the be-all-end-all of internal comms. It’s part of a wider communications toolkit, and should be treated as such.
If you’ve created a culture document, chances are it can be found on your company’s intranet. IM is a great way for leaders and HR managers to regularly highlight culture-building resources that might exist outside of the messaging platform, particularly if your comms platforms are integrated.
“Frequent and appropriate communication from management”? Check. "Communicating organizational goals"? Check.
IM can serve several purposes at once. It’s a fantastic platform for delivering important company updates and for productive remote collaboration, but it doesn’t have to exist solely for the bottom line.
It’s a useful tool for fostering positive organizational culture when it’s used right. Create a channel for coworkers to thank or validate one another, for example, and you’ll have communicated that morale and internal support are valued at your business.
“Behavior consistent with values” is in the bag.
As the previous point suggests, your IM platform can be shaped to suit your cultural needs. Investopedia highlights the fact that culture dictates the way in which people interact, and you, in turn, have control over that. How? With a communications policy.
Another of IM’s strengths is that it doesn’t demand the same attention as a meeting, but it’s more immediate than sending an email. Define exactly how you’d like people to use the platform, and it’ll impact your culture.
Create an urgent notification system, for example, and people will know when they need to respond quickly and when they can leave it until they’re ready. Encourage the ‘snoozing’ of notifications outside of work hours, and you’ll be helping staff to invest in a healthy work-life balance, which ticks off another of those culture benchmarks.
On stage, and behind-the-scenes
Instant messaging is the front line for organizational culture and leadership because it’s both a place where culture is organically developed, and a place in which culture is most clearly and most often expressed. It’s got the potential to enable culture success, as long as you take an active role in managing your internal communications.