“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
Slack has created an award-winning workplace culture that employees love. While leaders at Slack believe in hard work and high productivity, they also understand team members have a life outside the company. That’s why they promote a business culture that encourages employees to focus on their personal lives after 6:00 p.m. Slack leaders also appropriately concentrate on creating a company culture that supports clear communication and a closer community. They want everyone in the organization to contribute to and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Culture makes or breaks a company. A company’s culture is built around those intangible elements that dictate how a team operates and does business. Culture comprises the core values, vision, attitudes, and goals that characterize an organization. Even at financially successful companies like Amazon, the turnover rate for hourly associates can reach as high as 150 percent a year. Compare that with a company like Patagonia, which sees a turnover rate of only 4 percent. The main difference between the two is the business culture.
When the corporate culture is lacking, companies have to deal with the negative consequences, such as valuable team members transitioning off the team. Poor culture practices also lead to disengagement, decreased employee satisfaction, and bad customer relations. In fact, 61 percent of customers would rather buy from companies with a business culture that aligns with their values. In other words, ignore the value of company culture at your own peril.
To build a solid company culture where every team member has the opportunity to thrive, learn:
- What business culture is
- Tips for creating and growing a business culture
- How to increase your success and growth through your culture
What is Business Culture?
Business culture involves the values, beliefs, and behaviors that influence how team members interact with each other and customers. In particular, a company’s core values are the most significant factor in determining corporate culture. From there, business leaders create standards that reflect the company culture in every aspect of the organization. From how the leadership team values employee feedback to how team members receive support when pursuing innovation, all of it represents culture.
When a company has a strong team culture, it brings people together as one. A poor culture shaped by vague or nonexistent values causes people to feel disengaged and out of step with team members and the organization. Company culture also gives businesses an identity that employees and consumers can relate to. It can help employees and customers feel more connected and invested in the business, which leads to greater success.
How culture develops in a business:
- Core values: A company’s shared core values show what it considers important and worth emphasizing.
- Vision: An organization should have a view of a better future it wants to achieve.
- Purpose: Business leaders understand why the company exists and how it can make others’ lives better.
- Story: Every company should have a story to tell. The more compelling and engrossing the story, the stronger the business culture.
7 Tips for Creating a Powerful Business Culture
1. Clarify and Communicate the Vision and Mission
The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious.John Scully
Having a vision provides the destination that individuals and companies want to reach. It is your true north. Your company’s vision and mission should be what drives you and others to succeed.
A quick look at other companies’ mission statements can give you a good idea of what they are and how they create a business culture. For example, Southwest Airlines’ mission statement reads, “Dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit.” By dedicating themselves to this mission, you can see how Southwest’s famous culture has contributed to its success.
Keep the following in mind when creating a vision and mission:
- Write both down. Visions and missions don’t help anyone unless you record them.
- Include a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). This will get people excited for what you can accomplish as a company.
- Visualize what you want the company culture to look like.
- Keep things short and direct. A page-long mission statement won’t fire anyone up.
- Focus on problems you want your business to solve.
- Allow room for flexibility over time as circumstances change.
2. Develop Core Values
Your personal core values define who you are, and a company’s core values ultimately define the company’s character and brand.Tony Hsieh
Your core values shape much of what your business culture is. Consider what you’re passionate about and what you want to see infused into the team’s culture. Core values aren’t just about what you stand for but what you won’t stand for. They raise the bar for how your team members interact with your company, which can have a profound effect. Core values often incorporate the ethical values you want to communicate to your employees and customers.
If you need help figuring out your core values, take a look at a few examples of famous companies’ values:
- Adobe: Genuine, exceptional, innovative, involved
- Caterpillar: Integrity, excellence, teamwork, commitment, sustainability
- Delta: Honesty, respect, professionalism, hard work
- Kellogg’s: Integrity, accountability, passion, humility, simplicity, results
- Mercedes-Benz: Passion, communication, fun, integrity, team
- Walgreens: Trust, care, innovation, partnership, dedication
Create a list of three to six values that will form the core of what your company believes. How well you live up to these values will be a significant determining factor in creating your corporate culture.
3. Hire People Who Add to the Culture
Hiring people is an art, not a science, and resumes can’t tell you whether someone will fit into a company’s culture.Howard Schulz
As Dean Carter of Patagonia explained when it comes to hiring, “We’re not looking for culture fit. We’re looking for culture add.” As you hire people to join your company, make sure they add to the overall team culture. Even if someone has all the necessary qualifications and an impressive resume, they may not do well in your business culture. Talent is only part of the equation.
If you determine that someone won’t add to your culture during interviews, don’t hire them. Bringing them on despite the red flags may lead to a negative impact on the culture. All leaders need to protect their corporate culture as much as they can. Every hire influences your culture in some way, so keep that in mind during your interviews.
How to hire the right people:
- Find people who are passionate about your vision and mission and want to run in the same direction as you.
- Ensure they share the same core values and ideologies.
- Try unique approaches that help you learn more about the person. For example, every time Zappos is hiring, they fly the candidate to their Las Vegas office. The person that drives the candidate from the airport to the office is a Zappos employee. Anyone who treats the driver poorly gets disqualified on the spot.
- Find people who are on a mission and running the race to win in their personal lives.
4. Develop a World-Class Onboarding Experience
Train people well enough so they can leave—treat them well enough so that they don’t want to.Richard Branson
Even when someone is the right fit, it may take time for them to integrate into your business culture and work environment fully. That’s where the onboarding process comes in. The first two weeks of your training and onboarding should be strictly about people, culture, and role-specific training.
For example, Eventbrite makes a point of connecting every new employee with the rest of the company through training and onboarding. The company places the new hires’ profiles up to help the other employees put names with faces. Eventbrite also holds social events for new hires to connect with other new employees who are finding their footing. With their onboarding process, Eventbrite makes sure workers get up to speed and feel welcome from the moment they step through the door.
The same holds true for companies that feature remote work. Companies should warmly welcome new hires through messaging platforms and video calls so everyone can get to know them. If anything, leadership teams need to go above and beyond in the onboarding process since face-to-face interactions will be limited.
To develop a strong onboarding program:
- Lay out the core values before new employees and reinforce those values at every opportunity.
- Put the right systems in place so new team members feel comfortable becoming part of the company’s culture.
- Train and equip people to know and follow your values.
- Go over cross-culture communication with them as they look to join your team and work with others.
5. Set Goals That Align With the Organization’s Core Values
If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes.Andrew Carnegie
Goals are how you measure your progress in achieving your vision and mission. For this to happen, goals need to go hand-in-hand with your company’s core values. Some of your objectives, by necessity, will involve your KPIs and OKRs. A company with a healthy and uplifting business culture will work alongside team members to map these goals out.
Most visions take years or even decades to fulfill. However, workers want to see they’re moving closer to the destination. Goals that support your core values provide a handy visualization of doing just that. As you continually make progress and achieve your goals, employees will feel like they’re making a real difference.
While goals can be crucial for achievement, you should evaluate people based on the company’s core values. Metrics work well as a measurable item, but you want employees who hold true to your core values. If they do that, they’ll be well on their way to fulfilling their job roles with excellence.
6. Build Close Bonds With Team Members
Effective communication helps to keep the team working on the right projects with the right attitude.Alex Langer
Only with a culture of safety, trust, and open communication can you help your team members build close bonds with each other. Cultivate a work environment where people have an attitude of helping and supporting one another, not one of competition. Show you are devoted to diversity and inclusion for all people. Establishing these bonds helps an organization develop respect and mutual understanding. It shows that each person is reliable and trustworthy.
Building close bonds can be especially challenging for companies now featuring remote work. Numerous companies, from Nationwide to Shopify, have recently gone remote permanently. But these principles still apply. In a virtual workspace, provide time for water cooler-type moments by establishing a place where others can shoot the breeze and take a break from work with each other.
How to develop close bonds with your team:
- Give your team time to connect with each other outside of work.
- Think of employees as human beings, not company assets.
- Establish a channel where people can share personal, fun stuff.
- Celebrate big occasions such as birthdays or work anniversaries.
- Think of your culture as a people culture, not just as a business culture.
7. Empower Your Team
If we get the right people on the bus, the right people in the right seats, and the wrong people off the bus, then we’ll figure out how to take it someplace great.Jim Collins
In Good to Great, Jim Collins provides the analogy of the bus. First, you need to put the right people on the bus. Once you have the right people, you can then put them in the “right seats,” or positions, to help the bus reach its destination.
This is an example of strengths-based leadership. As team members do what they love and what they’re best at, they create a great culture where everyone wants to show up to work each day. By working in their sweet spot, people can thrive and grow—and so will the business.
The overall business culture stands to benefit because people are doing what they’re supposed to be doing. You, as a leader, need to recognize everyone’s strengths and put them in the best spot to succeed. This may require a bit of experimentation since many people don’t know precisely where they would excel. However, as you empower them, they’ll realize their strengths and gifts while doing their part to achieve the company’s vision.
Creating a Business Culture with Longevity
Creating a strong business culture starts at the top. Business leaders need to perpetuate that culture, instilling it in every employee at every level. Doing this requires developing leaders who understand the culture and want to make it last well into the future. Think of John Maxwell’s 5 Levels of Leadership and focus on the fifth level. These are the rarest leaders who have transformed the world and enriched people’s lives through their businesses. They’re the type of leaders who can inspire others to embrace a positive business culture in all respects.
A Level 5 leader develops a strong culture of leadership based on the company’s principles and values. They allow these guidelines to direct everything people in the organization do.
As a leader yourself, your main goal should be developing leaders at every level who ensure the culture is strengthened and followed. Every aspect of hiring, training, and developing employees should focus on growing them into leaders who will add to the culture. Multiplying leaders in this way ensures the culture will live on.
For more information on culture and leadership development, check out the following articles.