Recently I read a post on LinkedIn where an individual claimed that his company has now been certified as one of the “Best Places to Work”. Very surprisingly, that post had no comments nor proclamations of excitement from anyone. I would have expected some of his colleagues to have commented on it, which would have validated his announcement.

 I was amused by the irony of this that a company has to get itself ‘certified’ as a best place to work. I understand that there are several such accreditations, but nonetheless, I would rather have a company been ‘perceived’ as a best place to work than ‘certified’ by people who have never worked there.

I have worked with some of the best companies in my corporate career spanning close to two decades and at key positions. I’ve visited several clients at their offices as well as multiple partners/vendors at theirs too.

I have experienced how the first few days are made easy when the new recruit is handed over the joining toolkit which contains all the rules, policies and guidelines to make his/her life in the organization easier. It also includes guidelines about filing reports, putting forth applications and solving problems, applying for leaves and submitting expenses. There are templates for everything that are available online on the company website which you just fill and submit.

Everyone around you is so warm and friendly, getting to know you as you make new friends and look wide eyed at everything that’s happening around. I remember being excited at my very first meeting in the office to which I was not supposed to be invited but I got myself to because I just wanted to see how a corporate meeting is conducted! With experience, I can certainly vouch that it is the unwritten norms that set any company apart and makes it a good (or best) company to work for, because all companies do have almost similar written rules that make up its basic constitution.

Written rules are basically just that- rules one should follow. They also come with the rider that when one doesn’t follow, they would have to face some disciplinary action. Written rules generally come out of norms that get hardened in a company. Like the HR policy document, the Standard Operating Procedures or the Standing Orders. Some rules are adopted because they are so mandated like the inclusivity policy, the gender equality policy or the sexual harassment at workplace policy which every company must adopt and follow without fail.

Then there are all those norms that actually form the warp and the waft of the company’s fabric. These are the unwritten rules that everyone knows but are rarely written. It is these unwritten norms that are the basis of the organization’s culture.

Organizational culture – the bedrock of everything good of a company

Francis Frie and Anne Morris, write in an article that the unwritten norms pick up where the employee handbook leaves off, adding that culture is what the people do when the CEO isn’t in office! A lot of what shapes the organization culture is derived from these unwritten norms, something that employees may not be mandated to do but they follow, nonetheless, out of sheer loyalty to the organization. Take for example punctuality. Most large organizations don’t have strict rules for senior managers to reach office. Those who take advantage of this unwritten norm, would habitually turn up late without any valid reason. Those who adhere to the ethical yardstick, will make it a point to reach on time, come what may.  Read more....