Large or small, every business has its own unique culture. Some businesses create a culture accomplished through careful planning. It’s the kind of intentional effort that starts right from the get-go. Other businesses evolve their culture entirely by accident that often stems directly from the personality of the biggest fish, ie: the owner, president, or COO.
Google is a great example of a planned corporate culture. A trendy, fun, hip vibe runs through the veins of its workspaces with an objective to draw and retain the freshest, most innovative minds in their field. And it works.
For the company with an unplanned culture, attempts to introduce a new one can backfire if not handled strategically.
I once worked for a company that had created a head-down, clock in/clock out environment of fear. This culture didn’t appear to be intentional; it was simply the attitude of two of the key big figures in the company. It felt natural to them and so, without realizing it, they passed the mindset along.
When it was brought to their attention that morale was low, they decided to try to fix it starting with a bar-b-cue hosted out in the parking lot. We were instructed to go out, fix a plate, and go back inside to eat at our workstations.
A few weeks later, they held a gathering in the cafeteria where they awarded plastic All Star trophies to a few chosen employees. And a few weeks after that, they had one of their managers march through the bullpen blowing a party horn and throwing confetti.
Attempts of this nature continued over the course of a few months. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you… it was a bust. And yet those at the highest levels of the company scratched their heads and wondered why this didn’t boost morale around the office and improve the overall culture of the company. After all, who doesn’t love a good party horn?
It’s probably no surprise to the reader that the existing revolving door at that company spun out of control. Clearly it’s easier to establish a corporate culture at the beginning, when you first start a business and while all hires are new. But is it too late for an older company with a culture that has evolved by itself?
The short answer is no, it’s not too late. But it will take patience and determination to bring about change. Culture concepts must be planted and nurtured. And it all starts with the leadership.
There’s much that can be done to build culture. The following 3 tips are merely starting points for a process that is ever ongoing and unique to your business vision.
1. Embrace the team mentality
I once worked for a business owner who referred to her staff as her “worker bees”. This was a mistake as it created a parent/child company culture. A “we’re in this together” mentality would have served her better and would have built a strong sense of teamwork.
A healthy, thriving company is one that operates like a team, working toward common goals with an attitude of camaraderie. Leadership that operates that way is more likely to build a corporate culture that fosters teamwork, and therefore, employee retention, growth and revenue.
2. Know your core values
What’s at your core? What do you believe? If at your core you’re about collaboration, then foster that mentality by soliciting ideas from others and being open to new processes. If your core values include superior customer service concepts, begin practicing those concepts with your staff. If you’re creative, constantly exploring innovative ideas, then you must foster this in others who share that same wiring. Open up dialog to talk about new ideas and implement the ones that you think might work. Let those thinkers run with their ideas and support their efforts toward success.
Know who you are and radiate it. Let those attributes shine a light in all the dark corners of your business.
3. Hire those who fit your culture
A friend presently works for a company with two levels of interview process. The candidate’s first interview is with the person that would serve as their supervisor. That interview is all about skills, education, experience, career goals, and industry knowledge … all the usual stuff.
The candidate that passes that level will go on to the second. A meeting with the big dogs: The owner, the COO and the CFO. In that interview, there’s no talk of school or degrees, experience or skill sets. Instead, they’ll talk about hobbies, great vacation destinations, or their highest level on the latest video game. The point is, the big dogs already know the candidate is qualified for the job or they wouldn’t have made it to the second level. What they want to know is if this candidate has the personality to fit in with the corporate culture.
In the end, a qualified candidate may not get the job if their personality isn’t a fit. That’s how important culture is in that particular company. And they’re thriving.
Fact is, employees who fit with their work place culture tend to be more satisfied and therefore, stay longer than those who do not… even if their skills are superior. This is a terrific return on investment for the business that sinks time and money in to training staff. Start with those three points and build from there to create the culture that suits your business to a T.