“Maintaining an effective culture is so important that it, in fact, trumps even strategy.”
– Howard Stevenson
Company culture is the personality of a company. It defines the environment in which employees work. Company culture includes a variety of elements, including work environment, company mission, value, ethics, expectations, and goals.
It should come as no surprise, then, that your company culture begins first and foremost with your core values. If culture is the house in which your company shares the struggles and successes of business, then values are the foundation on which that house is built. Best to make sure they are sound.
Core values aren’t just a list of lofty words or phrases that you pick out of a hat and paint on your office wall. They should be the product of introspection, deliberation, collaboration, and, ultimately, the consensus amongst your company’s leadership. The more time and care you take in crafting your core values, the more cohesive and inspiring your company culture will be. And research has shown time and again that successful companies are those with a strong culture.
Building a strong company culture is however not a simple exercise, and it isn’t something that can be rushed. There’s no magic formula: but having spent a good deal of time thinking about the subject, from both a PageGroup point of view and as part of our client discussions, I’m convinced that a positive culture doesn’t just happen. There are certainly a few fundamental steps towards getting it right.
1. How should the place feel?
Firstly, think about the atmosphere that will achieve the best results. Create in your mind a picture of what it is you want your company culture to look like, and in turn to feel like. You then need to actively gather a team of characters and individuals to shape that environment – people who are like-minded, and who will bring your company culture to life.
2. Establish ground rules
As in any target-based environment, it’s then important to define the rules for how the team will operate, both internally and externally. This involves setting boundaries in terms of the expected outlook and behaviours your teams should follow. These boundaries form the core of your culture, articulated by the values the business will stand for and operate under. Remember, these “rules” are more than a list of agreed tasks on a wall: they need to be codes that each of you work to, because you believe in them.
3. Setting the vision
Once you have this foundation, you can then put in place some degree of common vision and purpose, which your entire group is working towards – and then begin to define each person’s role in the achievement of that.
4. Clear accountabilities
People both wish and need to understand what their role is: given that you’ll have different people at different levels of skill and experience, these roles will help determine the expectations of each individual to the success of your team.
5. Goals and alignment
Work out the correct goals and targets for each individual. Of course, you have to coach and support the individuals towards the achievement of those goals and ends. Your inexperienced people and new hires will require more input as to the culture: in order to get adequate answers to the question of “how does your company culture help me to meet my personal needs?”
6. Appointing mentors
A big part of bringing culture to life comes through mentorship. Your more experienced people, who understand the culture, play a key part in coaching new recruits, especially through their behaviours, leading by example, and often demonstrating how a tricky task can be mastered. They too will have their own career and aspirational needs: you need to define what the company vision looks like for them, and how their role can grow and evolve as the company does.
7. You need to take the time
This point could just as easily be the first. Leaders of companies need to be aware that they are in many ways seen as key representatives of the culture. It’s important that as a leader, you have ample time in your week set aside for communication with your team: listening to their ideas and inputs, and sharing your experiences at having solved problems around the tasks they’re setting out to achieve.
8. Culture strengthens confidence
Over time, if you have a strong culture which is in line with what your individuals are looking for, you’ll in turn have a team of better individuals. They’ll feel encouraged and inspired to want to work and achieve in that environment. Similarly you’ll have greater retention: which will in turn make for a more confident team and a stronger culture.
But why is corporate culture such an important part of a business? Take a look at some of the benefits of a positive company culture:
- Many HR professionals agree that a strong company culture is one of the best ways to attract potential employees. A positive culture gives an organization a competitive advantage. People want to work for companies with a good reputation from previous and current employees. A company with a positive culture will attract the type of talent that is willing to make their next workplace a home, rather than just a stepping-stone.
- Employee loyalty. Not only will a positive culture help recruitment efforts, it will help retain top talent as well. A positive culture fosters a sense of employee loyalty. Employees are much more likely to stay with their current employer when they feel they are treated right and enjoy going to work every day.
- Job satisfaction. It’s no surprise that job satisfaction is higher at companies with a positive corporate culture. Employers who invest in the well-being of their employees will be rewarded with happy, dedicated employees
- Employees are much more likely to come together as a team at companies with a strong culture. A positive culture facilitates social interaction, teamwork and open communication. This collaboration can lead to some amazing results.
- Work performance. Strong company cultures have been linked to higher rates of productivity. This is because employees tend to be more motivated and dedicated to employers who invest in their well-being and happiness.
- Employee morale. Maintaining a positive company culture is a guaranteed way to boost employee morale. Employees will naturally feel happier and enjoy their work more when they work in a positive environment.
- Less stress. A positive company culture will help significantly reduce workplace stress. Companies with a strong corporate culture tend to see less stressed employees, which helps boost both employee health and work performance.
One great example of a positive company culture comes from Sweetgreen. This fast-casual health foods restaurant believes that the most important ingredient to success is a positive company culture. Sweetgreen promotes a positive corporate culture by offering special perks that help boost positivity and morale throughout the company.
At its heart, company culture is one of those things that are hard to put your finger on—and even harder to create. It’s more than just leadership speeches, health benefits, and ping pong tables in the break room. It’s a spirit of collective purpose and inspiration that results in some very tangible returns. But one thing that’s certain about company culture: it begins with core values. By investing the time and energy into developing a set of guiding principles upon with which everyone in your company is aligned, you lay the groundwork for a culture whose dividends will pay off for the life of your business.