We hear it everywhere we go and everywhere we work: company culture is important! But it’s much more than just positive feedback or a motivational poster on the break room wall. In fact, according to Deloitte, 88% of employees feel that culture is important, but only 12% think that their company is driving the right culture. This gap can cause dramatic reductions in employee happiness, engagement, and, ultimately, your bottom line.
Here are 5 tips to help you define—or redefine—your company culture and ensure that you have a productive and passionate team.
1. State Your Purpose : Whether you’re an established organization or relatively new, your first action toward developing your culture is to understand and document what you stand for. Understanding your purpose--your why--is essential because it will serve as a guiding principle for you and your team. Why did you get started in the first place? Why are you so passionate about what you, as an organization, do? Why should anyone care enough to join you on your journey? We all love companies with strong purpose because they have heart and personality.
2. Define Common Language : All great company cultures need a common language that allows everyone to understand each other. This encompasses both a clear set of values that are the tenants of your organization and a standard way to measure how those principles are upheld.
If, for example, one of your values is client satisfaction, then you have to consider how you define it and measure it. Are there clear guidelines and expectations to be met? Is it tied to employee review and recognition programs? This common language, common values, and common operating standards contribute to company cohesion.
3. Practice What You Preach: Whether you're the owner of your firm or an individual contributor, you should live your values and let that dictate your behaviors. Naturally this originates at the top, but everyone can do their part. Does anyone doubt that Richard Branson doesn’t live the Virgin way with his daredevil entrances or private island parties? Or that John Mackey of Whole Foods approaches food with a greater appreciation for the quality and integrity of products? They, like many others, and you in your own organization, can and should be the embodiment of their values and culture. Don’t expect your team to live your business's principles while you operate under a different set of standards.
4. Find Ambassadors and Champions : Every organization has their unsung heroes who are unknowingly demonstrating and living the values and culture their firm upholds. Leverage this natural talent and enthusiasm. Appoint these employees to be ambassadors and champions of your culture. Empower them to develop fun programs and activities that bring people together and engage.
These ambassadors will often surprise you with their talents, ideas, and innovation. Your teams will see your commitment to the advancement of positive culture, engagement, and teamwork, all without having to micromanage. These things inspire people and send a silent but powerful message that culture is not a task to complete, but a virtue to strive toward.
5. Hire the Best and Treat Them That Way: There’s a quote that I love from the longtime president and CEO of Campbell's Soup that states, “To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace.” As an HR and recruiting professional, this is my personal philosophy. No company has ever become successful by virtue of their product or service alone. It's the individuals who have contributed along the way that built the success they came to enjoy.
When you're evaluating job candidates, make sure to factor in character. While skills can be learned, it is much harder to develop character and attitude. Take a good look at the individual as a whole, including their motivating factors for wanting to work for you as well as why they enjoy the things they do. Identify their passion and make sure it aligns with yours. Compromising on talent that is “good enough” is a surefire way to disrupt your own company culture and long-term performance.
Once you’ve hired the right people, treat them right. The best advice for long-term retention is to mentor them toward meaningful roles. I’ve found that more than emphasizing compensation and title, pushing and developing people toward their full potential will always bring them satisfaction as well as promote a culture of “best of the best.”