What Makes Up Your Company Culture?
Company culture is ridiculously underestimated. If you are a decision maker in your company and you are not doing enough to support it, you need to make some changes as soon as possible.
Why? Well ask yourself: What are the most important reasons why you like your job? Is it the salary and social benefits? Or is it the company values, the people that work in your office, the atmosphere of support and working towards a common goal?
If it is not just your pay that makes you get up and go to work every day, then it is probably the same for your workers.
Company culture is a serious driving factor for success, for work satisfaction and for loyalty to an organization.
You need to invest in it, support it and participate in it. This article will lay out 7 aspects of company culture you need to consider and improve.
Company values are not just a pointless list, published on the next-to last page on your website. They should be what unifies all individuals working for the organization and ties them to the ultimate goal.
How to choose company values?
It is never too late to select a set of company values for your organization.
Think about your ultimate goal, your attitude towards your customers, your attitude towards your employees. What was the original idea behind creating it?
Go short. Choose only what is really important to your organization. Ideally, you should be able to fit all on the digits of your right hand.
What are some great company values to have?
- Serving society. If the organization is non-profit or charity, serving society will definitely be a core value. Give your angle – how do you see what you are doing to be of service.
- Eco-friendly. Lay out some policies you have applied to preserve the environment.
- Transparency means a lot of things and if you claim it is your value, you need to apply it to all aspects of business – in building your prices, in forming your employee’s salaries or decisions on promotions.
- Equality and diversity. Keep equal opportunity for men and women, different nationalities, ethnicities, races, religions, and sexual identities. Eliminate the pay gap on the level of your organization.
- Loyalty, integrity and responsibility. Lay out some examples of the difficult decisions you have had to take as an organization to deserve being trusted by customers, partners and employees.
- Ultimately all companies have to profit to survive. Money are often seen as a bad example for a company value, because it looks too commercial. But it is not. Just make sure you express you see profit as a common goal, the result of team work and that you will not pursue it at all costs.
- Talk about your process and the measures you are taking to provide top quality product and service.
- Team work. Having team work as a core value will encourage cooperation in tough moments.
- Fun! Fun is a great value to have. Employees and customers alike appreciate freedom and the sense of humor.
When are company values important?
As soon as interviewing someone for a free position in your company you have to check for personality compatibility. Ask questions, create theoretical situations, check for behavioral signs.
Some people are just not a match. Choosing the right candidate is much easier than changing a person to fit an organization.
Company values are important whenever you communicate to your customers and your partners. Being true to your company values will earn you trust.
Watch James Franklin explain more about core values in this TEDxPSU video.
Wildflower and Oak is a business with a common cause. The makers of baby blankets offer clean delivery kits to hospitals in Haiti.
Warby Parker is an eyewear company that also follows the one-for-one rule. As the Entrepreneur Europe reports:
‘It not only donates glasses to children, but also provide the tools and training needed to administer basic eye exams, as well as selling glasses at affordable prices. The company has identified that across the developing world, just one pair of glasses increases productivity by as much as 35 percent, which in turn increases monthly income by 20 percent.’
The case of Toms
The business model of ‘Toms‘ follows a similar idea. Originally Toms delivered one free pair of shoes to a child in need, for every pair that was sold.
Since then the charitable efforts of Toms have expanded to offer eye care, clean water, and other goods.
Blake Mycoskie, the founder, does not stop his philanthropic work at charity. He is decided on making his employees happy and satisfied.
Here are several of the policies Toms has applied to reinforce the company culture:
- No Meeting Mondays. Mondays are notoriously hated for being the first day of the week back to work. By banning meetings, Toms allows for a smoother transition into the business week.
- Flexible Work Schedules. Strict hours are bad for business. Some of the most creative and enthusiastic employees go for part-time work in order to have time to follow their passions. Some flexibility will allow them to spend more of their time in Toms.
- Eight weeks of paid paternity leave. Paternity leave in the USA is underestimated by government and most companies which only offer modest rations of time for young fathers to spend with their young kids. Toms has provided a solution.
Happy employees are more productive, work harder, and are more loyal to the organization that makes their lives so much easier.
In that way, Toms is profiting from applying policies that will protect them. Working in a charitable business is not possible without creating a culture where employees know their employer has their side.
But there is more than that. Toms instills its values of philanthropy and generosity through another special strategy – creating the Happy Helping Hour.
The HHH means members of charitable organizations visit the office and engage employees in activities that have to do with charitable causes, such as preparing care packages for women who have been victims of abuse. Full-time employers are invited to trips to distribute the shoes allocated to the poor in Nepal and Honduras.
The Happy Helping Hour helps instill in the employees the values of their social mission. Amy Thompson, chief people officer explains:
“Culture is a very organic thing. It is not something you preserve as companies grow. It is something you nurture.”
ENCOURAGE LOYALTY AND RETAIN TOP TALENT
Why loyalty? The short answer is: Millennials.
The long answer? Well, those born between the years 1980 to 2000 are only labeled as lazy and demanding. Truth is millennials are very independent. They have grown up around technology, with large digital sources of information and have learned to depend on themselves and trust themselves.
They do not see themselves as attached to an organization forever. Especially an organization that does not support their needs. Analyses tell us Generation Z is not too different in that aspect.
When loyalty could be an issue for an entire generation, employers need to take notes and make changes. Millennials now account for about 30% of the workforce.
They are disproportionately hired in IT companies, where the median age is lower – about 29 years of age.
How to encourage loyalty:
Forbes say there are four main ways to establish a strong employer-employee connection with millennials.
- Create a culture where they work with you, not for you. Make sure you create a responsibility and the workers will not feel it is just another job. It should be clear how each task contributes to the common goals of the organization. They are partners.
- Have a healthy respect towards the work-life balance. Introducing flexible working hours is a popular strategy to allow employees more freedom. Give a thought to introducing regular home office. Allow new parents to spend more time with their children. When workers have a healthy personal life, they will be able to perform their best at work.
- Only work with constructive criticism. Emphasize on principles. Discuss tasks that can be done better if you know how. Scolding your employees to perform better will never work.
- Be less corporate. Corporate culture could be suffocating for the new generation. Think about the rules you can sacrifice. The dress code for example? Create a relaxation room and encourage your employees to use it for informal meetings.
ENCOURAGE PEOPLE SUPPORTING EACH OTHER
No matter how well your employees are incentivized to work towards your organization goals, how strongly they believe in the common good, and how happy they are with their compensation, bad relationships between coworkers are guaranteed to cause an issue.
How to identify a toxic office environment
- A quiet place. An office where the loudest thing you can hear is the tapping on the keyboards, clicking on and off ball pens and printers pushing out paper is a bad environment. Normally employees should talk laugh and joke even in stress situations.
- Passive aggressive notes and/or emails. When notes take over face to face communication, that means people have the feeling their message will not be taken seriously, or it will be dismissed. Next time you find a note by the printer, the water cooler, or the air conditioning controller, know It is a bad sign.
- Low attendance at office events. You should aim to attract at least 75% of employees at any company event. Lower than that is a clear sign your colleagues don’t want to spend time with each other and your events are boring and cringy.
- Conflicts and drama. While toxic environment most often manifests itself in ignorance and coldness, sometimes tension manages to accumulate and… explode. The longer you wait to take measures the worse the drama will be and the more often it will happen. Prepare for some loud shouting and heavy crying.
- Employee turnover. You are losing personnel. This is what you ultimately want to avoid. Losing talent is not always caused by a toxic office environment. There are some key signs. Ask your employee what was the reason to go. Usually they will you they have had issues. Another good sign is if they only point out better money. If their compensation is the only incentive for working in your organization, then you have failed to create the right company culture.
What creates a toxic environment
Competition. There is nothing bad in gamifying your organizations goals. The best practice is to make your goals SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. However, as soon as you make your employees chase numbers, you are creating an environment of competition. Competition has the nasty habit to turn unhealthy when money are involved.
Lack of transparency. Lacking financial, political and organizational transparency in the workplace will make employees feel uninformed and powerless. That causes losing interest in the company values, results and prosperity.
Inequality. Inequality of compensation or opportunity easily causes interpersonal conflicts.
How to heal a toxic office environment
- Organize FUN team buildings and encourage attendance. Make it cool. Invest.
- Organize team meetings and create a culture where positive feedback is dominant.
- Organize workshops to discuss the topics of equality, transparency and support.
- Cancel individual goals in favor of team goals. Encourage team work.
Companies that help employees realize they have the power to make or break the organization benefit from increased loyalty and maximum performance.
The case of Southwest airlines
Entrepreneur Europe tells the story of how Southwest airlines is gaining credit in a bad moment for the airlines industry. A lot of its competition have been blasted all over social media for double-booking seats and delivering more than poor customer experience.
Southwest airlines, however, has been successful to communicate its vision to its employees. They trust their workers that, when given more power, they will act aligned with the principles that the company wants to adhere to.
With more authority, employees are capable to step in in difficult situations and save the day for customers, keeping them happy and loyal to Soutwest.
The case of SquareSpace
SquareSpace with its great company culture has been voted multiple times one of the greatest places to work in New York City. It has a flat organizational structure which means it has very few management levels.
It caters to its employees, as Entrepreneur Europe reports, ‘including 100 percent coverage of health insurance premiums, flexible vacations, attractive office space, catered meals, stocked kitchens, monthly celebrations, relaxation spaces and periodic guest lecturers’.
How to keep employees involved
- Organizational transparency. Keep heavy corporate talks, meetings and communication to a minimum.
- Ask for ideas. Make sure you allocate some time and communication channels for your employees to give ideas. Be open to collecting proposals for anything – new methods of recycling, changing your internet provider, or adding more plants in the office space. Small decisions will lead to bigger ones. Make sure you always contact the author and give feedback. Make it constructive.
- Organized voting. For some decisions you must ask around. Do it in an open and fair way. A fair election day is a fun way to incorporate your employees in decision making and achieve transparency.
- Give credit for side projects. If someone complains from the working environment, the conditions, or the workflow, give them a side project – let them figure out a better way to work. Compensate them fairly.
INDIVIDUALISM IN COLLECTIVISM
There is ‘I’ in the office. More often than not, individualism should not come up at work.
However, a personality cannot be dissolved in a career. There is time and a place for it.
Breaks and vacations
Most often taking your lunch and your days off is protected by law. And there is a reason for it. Employees are more productive and healthy after a short break. Smart employers will encourage taking time off work regularly to spend time with yourself.
Time with the family
A family is an important part of the life of working parents. Allowing them some extra time to spend with family will increase their loyalty and sense of safety in the organization which will help them contribute more as employees.
Support people with interests
Most interviewers do ask candidates for a job for their hobbies. Interestingly enough they forget about it afterwards.
Remember: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. People with various interests make for a cool office environment. You will have a happy team if you encourage people to follow their passions.
Difference of opinion and freedom of speech
Watch out for censors. You need to make sure there is a free flow of opinions and ideas. No one should feel ostracized.
YOUR PART IN COMPANY CULTURE
Company culture is usually organic, and it can be encouraged or steered in one or other direction. But there is no point in a culture that no one participates in.
Make sure you communicate the importance of being a part of the team to your employees.
You should be a part of the culture or you will not progress
It is true.
The company culture is always there. It could be a toxic one or a supportive and productive one.
But it will always be the people who fit in that progress the furthest in an organization.
- If you can’t beat them, join them! If you CAN beat them, … maybe they will not like you too much. You do not want to seem like competition for the entire team. You can forget about beating and concentrate on leading.
- You will be more informed. Spending more quality time with your colleagues will make you a better fit in your organization. You will feel more confident to discuss both internal and external topics.
- You will work better in a team. A good company culture improves the mood all around and raises the productivity. When you communicate well and like each other you can tackle any challenging task fast and easy.
- You can trust your colleagues when under pressure. Participating in the company culture does not just mean reciting the same company values by heart. It means being friends, talking, sharing and spending time together – in good times and bad times.
How to make sure you are part of the company culture
- Ask questions. You might be excited to learn if you fit in, but don’t be generous with information about yourself. Instead, get to know everyone. It is never too late. Ask questions when you find it appropriate and listen to the answers. Try and see the world from their point of view.
- Participate in events. You do not have the time. You make the time. Even if you don’t make any friends, at least you get free food and free booze. It is a win-win.
- Do something sweet for your team members. Make compliments, appreciate everyone and help them with their work. But don’t leave it at that. Do something others wouldn’t. If you are out of ideas, just get some donuts for your team. You will be the star of the day.
- Get in on the jokes. Feeling like an outsider on all those inside jokes. Create your own. Don’t be afraid to have some fun in your workplace. Just make sure you feel out your audience. Start with other jokesters and slowly win over the others.
Company culture is more than just a couple jokes and several company events you have to attend through the year. Company culture is the first thought that pops into someone’s head when they have to go to the office every morning.
It is something to be invested in. Do I like where I work? Will my colleagues support me and my decisions? Am I useful? Am I worthy? Am I safe at my workplace? Does my company want the best for me?
Yes. You want the answer to be Yes.
That is when your employees will be happy and productive. That is when they will be satisfied in their job and be loyal to your company. That is when you will get the best effort and best results. That is when you will reach prosperity.
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