Is there such a thing as corporate DNA?

Although the phrase “corporate DNA” can be irritating to some, we think it has some meaning in the context of talent discussions. It refers to the traits of the aggregate culture and personality of the organization, including the talent it attracts, the way it treats its clients and employees, and the behavioral imprint it makes on the people who have worked there.

From our vantage point, it’s a trickle-down deal — it emanates from leadership. Everyone learns from their leaders how to treat one another, how to take care (or not) of clients, and what is valued by the organization. Further, corporate DNA is visible in how the company engages with its community (local, national, professional) and how it is viewed by competitors and former employees. (Ever visit Glassdoor.com?)

Here are more examples of what’s directly affected by corporate DNA:

  • How long people stay and the rate of turnover
  • The physical, mental, and emotional health of the employee population
  • The PR reputation and image of the organization
  • The company’s prospects for financial health and future partnerships

One of the most interesting aspects of this is how employees can become “infected” by corporate DNA. Some of the best leaders in our creative community have been mentored effectively in their first jobs in a positive culture. And conversely, if someone has worked in a company where they learn and absorb bad behaviors or habits, they can spread those once they leave.

Note to company leaders at all levels: Your legacy is in the people who’ve worked for you and learned from you. And sometimes people can tell where you’ve worked by how you treat others.