It’s no secret that having a great company culture is a key component to running a successful business and employing a happy, productive workforce. But how do you build and shape that culture? How do you infuse that culture into your daily workflows? And how do you know that investing in your company culture will even benefit your business?
For starters, let’s define what company culture is. Your company culture is the shared values and attitudes that characterize your organization. It can more simply be described as the shared ethos of your organization. Your culture isn’t the work your employees do, it’s the way your employees feel about the work they do—the values they collectively believe in, where they see the company going, and what they’re actively doing to get it there. Culture keeps your employees connected and moving together forward toward a common purpose. Your company culture is NOT your perks or incentives or benefits. Your culture is created from your company’s values and driven by your company’s purpose.
Culture often can be a nebulous concept. Establishing your company’s culture won’t happen overnight. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, company culture can manifest itself over long periods of time and in a variety of ways, including leadership behaviors, communication styles, and even internally distributed messages and corporate celebrations. Because individual companies’ cultures can be difficult to define, organizations may have trouble maintaining consistency in their messages about culture. That’s why it’s important to start by establishing your core values and defining your brand purpose.
Once defined, you can use your core values and brand purpose as a jump-off point for all major company decisions, including the direction of your company culture. After all, core values and brand purpose are just words on a PowerPoint slide until they’re put into action. When infused into your company’s day-to-day methodology, they become the cornerstone of a healthy company culture.
Shared values are at the heart of good company culture. No set of values is inherently right or wrong for a particular organization, but companies need to decide which values they intentionally want to emphasize. Start by asking yourself these questions:
A company with a strong people-based orientation will tend to put people first when making decisions and believes that people ultimately drive the company’s performance and productivity. A company with a strong outcome-based orientation will tend to put tasks and processes first when making decisions and often believes that efficiency and quality will drive performance and productivity.
A company that values stability will highlight their need to provide security and follow predictable, deliberate, “tried-and-true” courses. Alternatively, a company that values innovation will celebrate experimentation and risk-taking.
An aggressive company will strive to stimulate a fiercely competitive, fast-moving spirit, while a company that values attention to detail will often be team-oriented and approach situations and problems analytically.
Take some time to find out where your company falls on this spectrum and begin to shape your brand purpose (and ultimately your company culture) accordingly.
As I wrote in a previous post in this series, it’s important to establish a purpose-driven brand—a.k.a. your company’s higher calling. Kantar Consulting’s Purpose 2020 Study created a three-phase blueprint for turning your isolated brand statement into an actual business-led movement. The second phase of that blueprint is Infusion.
This is the phase where you take your brand purpose (as defined by your core values), and literally infuse it into your day-to-day work, thus intentionally crafting your company culture. In order to truly achieve infusion, living out your brand purpose and cultivating your company culture should be considered a priority in the workplace.
In an article about creating a customized business culture, Maddie Grant and Charlie Judy said it perfectly: “One thing we’ve learned in our work is that if you ask 15 employees of one company what their culture is like, you will likely get 15 different responses. Many contain the same clichés you might see in a corporate brochure: ‘We work hard, we play hard,’ ‘It’s like a family,’ ‘We take time to celebrate.’ While those are nice sentiments, what insights do they really provide?”
To start cultivating an authentic company culture that all your employees can understand and support, do these three things:
To start getting real about culture, you first need a deeper understanding of what it means for your organization. Your culture should clarify and reinforce what is truly valued by your organization, whether through words, actions, or behaviors. Apple, for instance, has a culture that highly values innovation. Amazon has a culture that values urgency and organization. Zoom has a culture that values workplace happiness (they even have a Happiness Crew whose primary focus is to maintain their close-knit culture as the company grows!). Each of these companies has defined their core values and built their culture accordingly.
Do you, like Apple, value innovation? If so, then categorically and genuinely celebrate experimentation and risk-taking. Do you value workplace happiness? Consider crafting a culture committee like Zoom.
Interested in how other companies are keeping their culture real? Check out this article by BuiltIn that highlights 25 companies killing it in the culture department.
According to SHRM, twenty years ago the five largest companies in the world were, on average, 93 years old. Today, the five largest companies in the world are, on average, only 30 years old, with the youngest being 12. Of course, this change is largely driven by technology, but company culture also has a lot to do with it.
Prosperous companies have a laser focus on what drives their success, and they have an unwavering commitment to building a culture that supports it. Take Amazon, for example; they have a cutthroat, fast-paced culture, yet they have never tried to present themselves as anything other than that. “We never claim that our approach is the right one, just that it’s ours,” Amazon’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos stated. “And over the last two decades, we’ve collected a large group of like-minded people, folks who find our approach energizing and meaningful.”
To align your culture with company success, take time to formally recognize your employees who live up to the company culture and provide honest feedback for those with subpar performance. Reinforce the behavior you want to see.
You must involve your whole team, starting with leadership. Start by setting an example. The easiest and more effective way to infuse your culture in your company is to have your leaders intentionally embody your culture daily. Never adopt a “do as I say, not as I do” mantra. If leadership expects one attitude of employees but personally displays the opposite, leadership will start to appear disingenuous and your culture will reflect that.
A strong company culture will attract the right candidates to your company and keep them engaged as employees. According to a recent Glassdoor study, 77% of adults evaluate a company’s culture before applying for an open position. Perhaps more impactful, 56% rank a company’s culture as more important than compensation. Let that sink in—more than half of current jobseekers value culture over salary.
When you think about it, however, that statistic shouldn’t be too surprising considering many current jobseekers are part of Gen Z. Employees in Gen Z are highly connected to social issues and want to make a difference in their jobs as opposed to climbing the corporate ladder. Whether you’re ready for it or not, Gen Z is poised to make up about 33% of the 2021 workforce, and they are the most diverse generation in US history. In fact, 30% of Gen Z employees would take a 10%-20% pay cut just to work for a cause they care about.
The 2020 Jobvite Jobseeker Nation Report reiterated these findings. They found that 40% of candidates believe culture is very important in the application process, with a grand total of 81% of job seekers citing it as deciding factor. 39% of workers cited company culture as one of the factors that influenced their decision to accept a job offer or not. Perhaps even more surprising, of the 34% of job seekers who left a job within the first 90 days, 35% of them cited company culture their primary reason for leaving.
The statistics don’t lie. Company culture is important. Are you losing quality job candidates or even skilled employees because your company culture is ill-defined or even non-existent? Crafting, improving, and cultivating your company culture can be a long journey, but taking decisive steps forward will ultimately benefit your company and lead to measurable success.