As you’re building a company, you’re focused on hiring people, securing clients and staying afloat on razor-thin budgets. You reason company culture is something that comes later once you’ve established the groundwork for your business. But your company has a culture whether you realize it or not. And if you aren't actively building and promoting a specific culture, your employees have probably noticed.
A toxic or lacking culture is a primary reason that employees leave. According to Deloitte's 2016 Global Human Capital Trends report, 86% of respondents viewed "corporate culture" as important or very important to business success. Not only are happy employees more productive, but their positive attitudes will likely result in more satisfied customers.
So despite your ever-growing to-do list, it’s important to establish a positive culture early on. It’s better to identify and promote a culture that you tweak and finesse over time than to realize it’s lacking or negative once it’s too late to fix. So here are a few tips on how to create a great culture from the get go.
Define the Concept of Culture
Before you begin to cultivate a culture, it’s important to meet with your leadership team to come up with an agreed upon definition of what culture is. Much like anything else, you can’t create change if you haven’t acknowledged what it is you’re trying to change. At PeopleFoundry, we believe culture is a pattern of behaviors based on a set of beliefs and values that have been identified and promoted. Your company culture sets up how your employees treat each other, the types of employees you hire and how employees treat your customers. Which is why it’s important to get your team on the same page and create a set of values and expectations for your company.
Create Company Values
The first step in creating a last company culture is to come up with three or four company-wide values that highlight what is important to the company and dictate how you work. Make sure each value is unique, eliminating any overlap that may cause confusion. And though it’s tempting to establish 10+ values, your employees will only remember and actively work on a few, so it’s best to keep the list short. If you’re having trouble getting started, think about what’s already working and discuss areas that employees have identified as muddied or frustrating. Then build from there.
When creating company values, founders should infuse their personality into them. (After all, it’s your company.) Company leaders need to let the values guide the way they work on a daily basis, which becomes easier when the values come naturally to them.
That being said, it’s also important to enlist the help of those who are different than you to widen your point of view and create a culture of inclusion. This is especially helpful if you feel that your company culture isn’t resonating or being picked up by your employees.
Finally, it’s important to toe the line between improving a negative culture and creating such a vast disconnect between where you are and where you’re going that the values become unattainable. Find a way to improve your culture by taking small steps.
Identify Behaviors That Exemplify Core Values
Once your values are in place, define a few workplace behaviors that support each value. How do you expect employees to behave and perform and how do they know they’re meeting your expectations? Make sure these behaviors are something you can see and measure. If accountability is important to you, perhaps you expect employees at their desks by 9 a.m. sharp. If innovation is valued, consider requiring that all employees earn continued education credits each quarter. Whatever your values are, make sure your employees know how to embody them, and make it easy for them to do so.
Communicate Your Values
The only way to turn your values into an established culture is to communicate your values repeatedly and start practicing them. Your leadership team needs to embody your values and lead by example on a daily basis. This helps normalize the culture, so other employees feel comfortable making changes.
You’ll also want to get feedback from your employees once you’ve shared your values. People want to feel like the “own” the culture, and part of that is providing input. When you share your company values, ask employees for honest feedback on a regular basis to make sure the new changes are improving morale.
Another way to clearly communicate your values and their importance is to tie it to a company mission or purpose. If employees have some understanding of why the company is doing what it’s doing and how they fit into the overall goals, they inherently become more invested in your company values.
Hire People That Embody Your Values
Though it’s vital to employ a diverse workforce, be sure everyone you hire understands and connects with your core values. If your laidback office environment relies on trust, delegation and accountability, a regimented manager that enforces an office hierarchy may not be the right fit for your team. Just as a hands-off innovator may not get the best out of team that requires a lot of guidance and structure.
Once values are established, use them as a measuring stick with which you measure all potential employees. And consider posting your values or mission statement online to attract the right candidates.
Whether you’re building a company culture from scratch or trying to repair a broken one, know that it takes time. Your culture won’t change overnight, and it requires constant care—just like all aspects of your budding business. Also know that your culture will evolve over time. Find a balance between holding onto your core values and knowing when change is necessary.
If you’re struggling to find candidates that are a perfect match for your culture or are in need of leadership to help define your company culture, contact the team at PeopleFoundry to access the best talent in the Midwest.