In the noughties, a bunch of smart guys published books about how organisations with strong company cultures heavily outperformed those without. At the time they bordered on maverick.
Now, of course, the evidence in favour of the theory is manifold, and pretty much every leader is keen to create a successful culture of their own.
For brands like Zappos and Red Bull, culture is the ultimate talent attraction tool – not only as a point of differentiation against competition, but also as a means of filtering out those unsuited to their organisations. For these brands’ employees, the culture is the driving force of their motivation and performance.
Employers can no longer assume their employees are, to quote every losing contestant on The Apprentice, ‘grateful for the the opportunity’. Now it’s the employer’s turn to be grateful, and to create working environments that help people to succeed for as long as they decide to stick around.
Here are a few pointers to help you build a culture to support that environment.
Analyse your existing company culture
Before launching into any bean bag shaped initiatives, it’s a good idea to measure the pulse of your existing culture. Observe the day-to-day life of your workplace, and ask yourself the following questions:
- How do people interact with each other?
- How do conflicts arise, and how are they solved?
- How do senior leaders interact with middle managers and employees?
- How do middle managers interact with reporting employees?
- How do employees interact with managers and senior leaders?
Once you’ve had your fill of observing, go and talk to your employees. Invite a few of them in for a focus group type thing (don’t call it a focus group) to discuss the finer points of your company culture. It’s a difficult concept to articulate, so questions should be indirect – this will help to build a fuller, less biased view. Ask questions along the lines of:
- What do you think of the office environment?
- What do you think of our team bonding activities outside the office?
- What would you tell a friend about us before they started working here?
- What do you think of our working hours?
- Do we offer enough benefits – entertainment discounts, meals out, etc?
- What is the one thing you would most like to change about the organisation?
- What is your favourite thing about working in the organisation?
- Who within the company do you admire? Why?
- How do you feel about the reward and recognition culture within the organisation?
Refine your mission
A mission can determine the success or failure of an organisation. It’s what adds purpose to all your business’ pursuits, and helps marshal employees to achieve a common goal. The best are original, positive and inspirational. Here are some examples:
- Facebook: ‘Give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.’
- Ford: ‘We go further to make our cars better, our employees happier and our planet a better place to be.’
- Perkbox: ‘Build a better society, one relationship at a time.’
- MOZ: ‘"The TAGFEE code" – our mission to be as Transparent, Authentic, Generous, Fun, Empathetic, and Exceptional as possible.’
Pull together champions from each department of your organisation to craft a pithy one-liner that expresses exactly what your organisation is trying to achieve. Try to use plain English, and avoid industry jargon or cliché. It can be as ambitious as you desire, as long as it’s plausible.
Sort out a set of values
If your mission is your North Star, company values are the tools that will get you there. Defining a unique set of principles that will guide everything you do is a critical step.
Zappos is an online shoe and clothing shop famed for its thriving company culture. Within the company, every HR and management system – employee job descriptions, hiring processes, training opportunities and so on – is underpinned by a set of 10 core values that reinforce their culture:
- Deliver WOW through service
- Embrace and drive change
- Create fun and a little weirdness
- Be adventurous, creative, and open-minded
- Pursue growth and learning
- Build open and honest relationships with communication
- Build a positive team and family spirit
- Do more with less
- Be passionate and determined
- Be humble
While these are unique to Zappos, the above examples are stable values that you could steal for your organisation. Whichever you choose should reflect what’s important to your organisation, and what employees should expect from the environment.
Want to know more?
Download Perkbox’s ‘How to build and nurture a winning company culture’ eBook' here.
It explores how defining and nurturing a winning company culture can attract the very best talent, while boosting employee productivity and morale.
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