Why Culture Matters

It Isn’t All About the Money: Why Company Culture Matters

News flash for hiring mangers and firm leadership…it isn’t all about the money!

Today’s job hunters take company culture into consideration just as much as, and sometimes more so, than pay rate and benefits. Sure, you might offer your architects and designers a salary and benefits package that leads your local market and to some extent, that may work for you. However, a solid paycheck is not enough to keep the vast majority of top talent if their everyday experience is more like a salt mine than a productive and positive place to work.

What is Company Culture?

Great question.

If you look up company culture you are likely to find a business school friendly definition like the one I used in a previous post in this series. Company culture “is made up of the vision, values, norms, systems, symbols, language, assumptions, beliefs, and habits that are exhibited in the behavior of the organization and the individuals that are a part of it.”


While that definition certainly covers all the bases of defining company culture, it isn’t exceptionally user friendly. Let’s simplify it a bit.

Think of company culture as the personality of your firm. It isn’t a tangible entity that you can manipulate with the flip of a switch. It is about the way your firm sees the world and how it behaves as a result (both individually and corporately). Is your firm collaborative? Open? Driven? Analytical? All of these qualities are aspects of a culture and they are driven by shared behaviors and beliefs.

Why Does Culture Matter?

Why should company culture matter to you as a leader in your organization? There is a long list of reasons why company culture is important to any successful business. Let’s focus on three of the most important reasons:

  • Culture = Profitability
  • Culture Recruits For You
  • Culture Exemplifies Your Leadership

Culture = Profitability

According to Dr. Barry Phegan, Ph.D., “…culture is the real bottom line. A company with a well developed culture, open to all that its members want to bring, easily outperforms competitors with less developed cultures, where people are less involved and committed to success.” Have you ever wondered what is going on at your competitor’s office that always seems to give them the edge over your firm? The short answer, it’s a culture thing…they have a culture that is eating yours for lunch.

Culture Recruits For You

When it comes to finding the right job, it isn’t always about the money for job candidates. Top talent is self-aware. They understand what type of professional environments will allow them to thrive and reach the pinnacle of their potential. If the culture at your firm doesn’t align with their goals, they will look elsewhere. Culture plays a big role in the attraction and retention of top talent.

If the culture at your firm is vibrant and visible it will act as a beacon that attracts talent even when you aren’t actively looking. However, if your culture is lacking or worse yet, flat out toxic, it will act as a public warning for job seekers to run for their lives. Foster the right culture and tell your firm’s story to everyone that will listen on every platform possible and it will pay dividends (More on the importance of storytelling in a later post…stay tuned).

Culture Exemplifies Your Leadership

As the proverb says, a fish stinks from the head. Company culture is influenced directly by the attitudes and behaviors of your leadership team. If you are looking to improve or repair the culture at your design firm, look to influence your leadership team first. Likewise, if you are looking for an additional indicator when evaluating members of your leadership team examine the culture of their team or department to gain insights on their leadership aptitude.

Embrace Culture

As you look to grow your firm, invest the time and effort required to understand and fully embrace your organization’s culture. It directly affects your firm’s ability to be profitable, to attract fresh talent, and to retain and grow the talent that will keep you on top. You can’t have a winning employer brand without a winning company culture.

This post is part of an ongoing series on Employer Branding for architecture and design firms. Learn more by reading the first post in the series: Employer Branding 101 for Architecture Firms

Related Posts:

Employer Branding 101 For Architecture Firms
6 Reasons Your Architecture Firm Needs an Employee Value Proposition (EVP)
Creating Your Architecture Firm’s Employee Value Proposition (EVP)