For many entrepreneurs, when they hear the words “company culture” it seems intangible, immeasurable and out of reach. More importantly, countless small business owners can attest to thinking, “Why is my company culture so important? Isn’t it just industry jargon and lip service?”
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As David Hassell, CEO of the employee engagement 15Five company explains, “There’s a myth out there that company culture is a waste of time. That culture means ‘touchy feely’ dimensions of work and, let’s face it, if that’s what you’re focused on, you’re probably under-performing. Sound right? Wrong. Even if you think you have a great culture, but your company is not reaching its highest potential, you’ll have to think again. Great culture and high performance go hand-in-hand.”
Company Culture Tied To High Performance
By definition, company culture is a set of shared core values and practices. Why is it so important? As Stan Slap, president of the international consulting company Slap explains, “You can’t sell it outside if you can’t sell it inside.” Simply put, a good company culture drives long-term business results – it makes dollars and sense.
Corporate Culture and Performance author, John Kotter has observed through extensive research that, “corporate culture can contribute meaningfully to financial results, and many people do not give this fact enough attention.”
Kotter and Heskett research has found that “companies with cultures that emphasize all the key manager constituencies (customers, stakeholders, employees) outperform by a huge margin companies that do not have those cultural traits.” The study illustrated that during an 11-year period the former group achieved a 682% revenue increase while the latter only experienced a 166% uptick.
Examples of Great Company Culture
When you think of great company culture which companies come to mind? Consider Zappos.com, an e-commerce juggernaut, led by Tony Hsieh and backed by his vision to Deliver Happiness.
Search engine giant Google often receives high marks for their unique company culture. In fact, “Google has people [whose] sole job is to keep employees happy and maintain productivity,” according to KISSmetrics writer Zack Bulygo.
“You don’t have to fear your own company being perceived as human. You want it. People don’t trust companies; they trust people.” Stan Slap
Also consider Herb Kelleher’s Southwest Airlines, where “a consciously developed customer-centered culture is a business advantage that will serve you for years — and inoculate you against competitive inroads. Consider for a minute Southwest Airlines and the lengthy list of would-be category killers that have tried to imitate it …,” The Washington Post reports.
In stark contrast, if it is determined that you run the worst company to work for in America where “346 former or current employees had taken the time to write not-so-nice things about the company,” according to Bloomberg Businessweek, culture should be your first transformative priority.
How To Improve your Company Culture
Creating a winning company culture shouldn’t be hard. Nor should it exist as esoteric industry jargon. Every founder and CEO can make small changes today to build and deliver happiness. Here are seven ways to turn-around your company culture, starting today.
Send out a brief employee survey
Find out if your employees are happy and satisfied. Give them a collective voice and ask one simple question, “What is your overall satisfaction with (insert your company name)? Use online survey software and deploy a 5 point rating scale question to develop a baseline. If you take the time to send out customer satisfaction surveys, show the same care towards your employees.
Make employees feel special
Take a page from the Zappos playbook and institutionalize “random acts of kindness”. Send out a company-wide email and ask each employee to complete one act of kindness towards one of their peers, then ask them to send an email directly to you on a) what they did and b) how they believe it positively impacted the recipient. Southwest Airlines proves, “A card or hug [or] handshake and a sincere verbal thank you from a coworker or leader can go a long way in making an employee feel appreciated. These actions are simple, don’t take much time to do, and don’t cost much money.”
Hold an impromptu town hall and say, “Thank you.”
Your team is busy, but they are never too busy to hear, “Job well done!” Lead by example and share authenticity at every turn. From the front-lines to senior leadership, create a culture of gratitude by illustrating it first-hand. As Happier Human author Amit Amin advises “Gratitude improves our health, relationships, emotions, personality, and career.” Start a Thank You Revolution.
Checkout employee reviews about your company
Take a look at Glassdoor.com to see what employees really think about your company culture. The U.S.-based job and career site offers employees a platform to anonymously dish on the pros and cons of their companies and bosses. Grab a slice of your grandmother’s humble pie and consider that constructive criticism can unlock opportunity for your organization.
Assign a company culture area of responsibility (AOR) leader
Raise up leaders within your organization to brainstorm improvements in your formal policies and daily practices. Moreover, reward them in tangible ways for taking the initiative and sharing results-oriented recommendations.
Over-communicate your desire to improve company culture
Crowdsource happiness throughout your company and share your desire to improve. Start with your vision or mission statement. If you are the only one that knows about it, you are the sole person that can act on it. Make it plain and let everyone in your company know how they fit within your vision.
Create an employee care package
IDEO, a global innovation and design firm, puts a unique spin on espousing company values and culture. IDEO employee Diego Rodriguez received a “taste” of what his company culture advocates while visiting IDEO’s studio in Boston. “I had a packed week of meetings on opposite ends of Boston, and was bouncing from place to place, always on the go.
“While dashing out the door to catch a train, I was stopped by one of my IDEO colleagues, who handed me this tiny bokja and said ‘You look like you could use some energy on the road—take care and good luck with everything!’ It was a brief encounter, but everything about our culture sits within it,” Rodriguez explains. The care package included gum, a chocolate truffle, an energy bar, and a packet of Boston Baked Beans, wrapped in cellophane and finished with a handwritten note. This example alone proves how a small gesture can positively impact employees in a tremendous way.
Company Culture Success––Infographic
All of these company culture tips are designed to set your small business up for long-term success. In fact, happy and engaged employees are essential for a successful small business. From strong communication to perks that boost morale, a positive company culture can yield many rewards. Here’s a closer look at why your company culture matters:
Infographic research and design by Visa Business.
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