How a company shapes its culture

By Siobhan O’Malley, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers

Q: I read and hear a lot about the ‘culture’ of an organisation – but I don’t really know what it

means. I run my own business – we have six people employed. It’s a retail business.

Siobhan O'Malley, Career Coach, Ballinrobe (tel 094 95 42965)
Siobhan O’Malley, Career Coach, Ballinrobe (tel 094 95 42965)

What is the right culture for us – and how do I create it? Recently two staff members left and, though they said nothing untoward as they were leaving, I have a fear they might not have liked something about the work here.

Might that be a problem with our culture? (SC, email).

A: SC, we put this question to two of our career coaches, both of whom have extensive experience of working and leading in large, medium-sized organisations. I hope you find their insights useful. 


MARK MCDONALD, DUBLIN NORTH: That’s a good question, SC.

Culture is the apparently invisible factor in a business that your customers can clearly see. Sounds like a contradiction but let me explain. Culture is the system of shared assumptions, values and beliefs which determine how a business behaves.

Essentially it’s “the way things are done here” and will determine how you and your staff interact with each other, your vendors and most importantly, your customers. Having the right culture in place will directly impact on the success of any business.

As the business owner, you are the person who creates the right culture. That onus rests with you. Firstly, decide on the type of culture you want your business to operate within. If the word ‘culture’ is not clear to you, here is a series of questions that will give you a more concrete sense of what I am getting at.

As a retail business do you value professional customer service? Do you want your staff to be incentivised and target-driven? Are you top end or bargain basement? Do you want a cordial social atmosphere within your staff or do you want them to have their shoulder to the wheel and pushing as hard as they can?

Do you want your staff to develop within the business or stay within their respective grades? Do you want to be viewed as a dictatorial boss or an open-minded colleague?

These decisions will begin to shape the prevailing culture within your business and you must ensure that the people who join your team will suit the culture.

The staff who left may have felt they didn’t suit the style of your business culture. An open and frank exit interview may throw some light on the issue for future reference.


MARY O’BRIEN-KILLEEN, CLAREMORRIS: Staff engagement is powerful in any organisation, SC. If it is feasible, I suggest that you hold morning meetings every day where you outline to the staff members what is expected of them during the day and again follow up with a short meeting at close of business.

At each of the meetings gain input from the staff members and ask them to share their successes and how they achieved them. Monetary reward is often not the highest priority for a staff member – the majority wants to be recognised and made to feel worthwhile and valued.

If you would like to make a booking with any of our career coaches mentioned above, see HERE for CV Preparation and Interview Training.