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Corporate culture is one of those business phenomena that has gone from being a basic catchphrase to a fundamental part of creating and maintaining a thriving organization. Less than a decade ago, corporate culture was barely on the radar in terms of its significance to business success, but leaders today know that the landscape has changed and that corporate culture has become a lynchpin in the overall structure of every organization.
How did corporate culture become such an important thing for business owners to consider?
The simplest answer to that question is that employee expectations have changed dramatically in a relatively short amount of time, as supported by a recent Knoll study. Furthermore, corporate culture has become a way for businesses to self identify, brand themselves, attract and retain top talent and provide clear direction for the company as it grows.
When I founded TWT in 2011, I set out to create the sort of company I would want to work for. I had a clear vision of what that would be, but what I didn’t realize at the time was that I was laying the foundation for TWT’s corporate culture via a set of values I was determined to uphold.
Business values create a kind of energy within an organization, uniting everyone through a shared understanding and purpose. A clear value system paired with a strong employee value proposition naturally attracts likeminded individuals, which puts companies ahead of the game in terms of hiring and overall synergy among employees. In other words, corporate culture has a direct effect on creating a positive, motivated and self-accountable team.
At TWT, for example, our value of freedom allows employees to work as much as they like, wherever they like. We don’t expect everyone to be in the office every day, and we don’t limit the amount of vacation time employees take. We respect our people and trust them to get the job done regardless of where they’re working or how much time they put in. That may seem counterintuitive to good business, but what we’ve learned about culture over the years is that happy employees are loyal and far more likely to exceed expectations than not meet them. Our limitless vacation policy can actually have the opposite effect than the opportunity it provides: There has been more than one occasion when I’ve had to tell an employee to take time off due to their unwavering dedication to their job.
Because values are the bedrock of corporate culture, and corporate culture is the basis for dedicated and happy employees, it’s therefore essential that organizations “walk the talk” when it comes to their values. Anybody can say they believe in job freedom, for example, but it’s another thing to support it.
Employees today buy into an organization not for what it does but rather for what it stands for and the growth opportunities it offers; they align themselves with companies and leaders who inspire them and represent their own personal values. If employees choose to work for you because of the values you espouse and you deviate from those values in any way, it won’t take long for your employees to become disillusioned and ultimately dissatisfied with their jobs — and your company. That sort of drop in morale is devastating to corporate culture and, by default, to your bottom line.
In my experience, dissatisfaction breeds dissatisfaction; it festers, and before long your culture will devolve into a destructive environment with the power to destroy your business from the inside out. Your employees can be your greatest advocates or your biggest critics. Corporate culture is the key influence for both.
Employee retention is yet another major benefit of having a great corporate culture. Along with opportunities for growth and personal development, culture is one of the major factors that contribute to whether employees choose to stick with you over the long run or jump ship. Culture is often the deciding element that keeps talented employees around, which does away with issues of spending time and money trying to replace them. My company has grown from a two-man shop to fifteen employees in seven years, and our turnover rate, I am grateful to say, is almost nonexistent.
Beyond productivity and employee satisfaction, culture plays a major role in corporate identity. Think about global brands like Google, Virgin and Apple. There has been as much said about how great it is to work for these businesses as there has been about their products. Creating a positive corporate culture creates a winning public persona for a company, making customers more inclined to buy from that company over a competitor whose corporate identity is less admired.
If your culture isn’t what it could or should be, you might consider conducting an internal culture audit, a seldom done but very valuable exercise that can transform the dynamics of your workplace in profoundly positive ways. You can start your own internal culture audit by asking five simple questions (keeping in mind that all answers should remain anonymous):
• What do you believe is [company name]’s “why”? How does the company inspire you to wake up in the morning and do what you do every day?
• Do you feel good about coming to work? Why or why not?
• Do you feel involved in decision making, and how does management share information and foster transparency?
• How does [company name] help you to develop your talents, grow your skill set and manage your career?
• Do you feel comfortable approaching others in your organization when you need something or have a question?
Broken down this way, the elements of your workplace culture will reveal themselves, prompting you to either ask more questions or further develop your internal culture. Remember, just as professional athletes make their skills look effortless, making a corporate culture great demands a tremendous amount of vision, effort and practice.
January 31, 2019 at 09:45AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs