Ranking in at number two for “Best Place to Work” by Glassdoor and achieving an A+ “Culture Score” on Comparably, Hubspot sets a new workplace cultural standard. Since its inception, the company has taken measures to nurture a top-notch corporate culture that continues to drive the success of its teams and business.
But what exactly is HubSpot doing differently from other companies?
They’re viewing their culture—that is, their employees, leadership, internal interactions, policies, and benefits—as an intrinsic and necessary catalyst for the success of their company. To HubSpot, the culture and the service they offer aren’t two separate things; they’re deeply connected. As HubSpot CEO Yamini Rangan says, “At HubSpot, we’ve always said that people are our best perk.”
This connection is evident in their Culture Code—a mega slide deck outlining everything about their culture and values—which they’ve shared publicly for others to reference. Already having more than five million public views, the Culture Code presentation shares HubSpot’s mission, a people-centric approach to hiring, its “no-door policy,” and its general philosophies on results, metrics, and mistakes. As one of the values in it states: “We obsess over our culture, just like our product. Because culture is a product.”
In this article, we’ll unpack how business culture forms and how to mold yours with intention, dedication, and passion for serving your employees and breeding success. We’ll do this by covering:
- What company culture is and isn’t
- The importance of having a defined culture for your business
- How to build a corporate culture for optimum success
What is Corporate Culture?
Corporate culture is the shared values and beliefs that exist within a business. Once established, these principles define interactions with people inside the company. Culture also determines how employees behave around customers and clients outside the company. While culture is not normally explicitly stated, it is modeled by leadership. This is so that certain behavioral standards and attitudes are set for everyone to follow. Usually, company culture takes time to shape, but it can change quickly if someone influential (for better or for worse) is introduced into it.
A business’s level of cross-cultural communication, economic trends, size, and age can also mold its culture. Because of this, types of company culture vary widely across all industries. What might be positive and acceptable within one organization may be reproachable in another.
However, what remains constant across all workplaces is how prospective employees view business culture in their job search. According to researchers, 46 percent of job seekers view company culture as an essential consideration. Additionally, 86 percent of job seekers avoid companies with bad reputations.
Some common descriptors of company culture include:
- Fun and relaxed
Top Benefits of Having a Defined Culture Strategy
- Attracting and retaining talent: Part of having a defined culture strategy means hiring the right people. You want to attract and retain top talent that is going to fit into the culture you are building. Without this clarity, people may be hired that ultimately won’t fit into the culture, despite their qualifications. Attracting and retaining the right employees according to a defined culture will foster a safe, productive, and innovative work environment.
- Driving impact through quality work: Building a team strategically also helps your organization drive impact and meet performance goals. This is because when people are positioned and hired according to culture and provided with a safe and innovative work environment, employee engagement remains high. As a result, they drive more impact both on an individual and a company-wide level.
- Strengthening brand identity and customer recognition: Identity and recognition lead to higher customer ratings and bottom-line results. The reasoning behind this is simple: If your employees are happy, your customers will be too. Furthermore, customers who have a great experience will develop a brand affinity, pay more, and recommend your brand to their friends and family. One study revealed that word-of-mouth marketing drives $6 trillion of annual consumer spending.
What Fosters a Successful Work Culture?
- Vision: A company’s vision is the guiding force of the business. It’s the roadmap that identifies what people are working toward. Ensuring that everyone on the team understands the vision is key to working in harmony towards a common goal.
- Values: A company’s values are the guiding principles and beliefs that govern a team towards achieving the vision. The values also heavily influence the culture. As such, it’s vital that the values are transparent, ethical, and support the vision.
- Practices and habits: This includes the ethics and methods behind the goals, as well as the internal systems established for tracking performance. How are your teams working together? What’s the process for handling problems? These types of questions would fall under practices and habits.
- People: What is the company hierarchy? Who is the leader, and what roles do the other team members play? Is everyone positioned in the right “seat?” Having the right people in the correct positions is key to a thriving work culture.
- Purpose: What is the main reason behind the vision? Does your team understand and agree with it? Leading with a clear purpose provides context for everything else. Without purpose, the vision, values, practices, and people don’t matter.
7 Steps to Cultivate a World-Class Corporate Culture
1. Focus on Creating Shared Values
A rockstar work culture starts with a clear purpose, vision, and supporting core values. What’s your company’s mission and vision? Are there certain beliefs and behaviors you want to be modeled to achieve the mission and vision? What do you want your brand to stand for?
For Starbucks, diversity, customer service, and quality products are some of its top values. With Whole Foods, environmental stewardship and providing responsibly-farmed and organic food products are some of theirs. As you can see, their values support a deeper, purpose-driven company mission, beyond success and profitability.
To identify your organization’s purpose-driven values:
- Assess your current organizational culture: Is your vision supporting a deeper cause or belief system? What is the impression your company is making to others? If you’re not sure, interview colleagues and clients and ask them to describe your organization. Their descriptions will give you a clue as to the current state and impression of your culture.
- Review your strategic business plan and core purpose: What is your main mission, and what is your one, three, and five-year plan to achieve it? Your vision and strategy heavily influence your corporate culture, so having this clearly defined in advance will help you identify your supporting core values.
- Determine what your culture needs to achieve your plan: Once you know your plan and purpose, determine what will be needed. What kinds of expertise will your organization need? How will your teams need to interact? What expectations will your partners and clients have? These questions will help you identify your purpose-driven values and nurture a successful culture.
- Decide if your existing values will need to shift: Maybe you already have a set of values. Are any of them no longer meeting your plan or core purpose? Should any be added to reflect the vision? Examine your values closely and ensure that they align with your mission, vision, and purpose.
- Define what your purpose-driven values mean: Now that you have them, inspect each one and get specific on what it means. For example, if one of your values is collaboration, who is collaborating? Is it internal team collaboration? Or external collaboration with other organizations, partners, and people of interest?
- Incorporate these values into the company habits and practices: From onboarding and training to hiring and promoting, incorporating your purpose-driven values into your organization’s daily practices is key to building a successful corporate culture.
2. Model Companies With the Best Cultures
Examining your company culture to boost performance and success can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, there are many resources out there to help so that you don’t have to start from scratch. Begin by reviewing what businesses with great corporate cultures are doing. What are they doing that your organization is not? Do they have practices that you can integrate or build on? Brainstorm with your colleagues about what values these companies harness and how to integrate them into your own.
Trust plays a significant role in companies with excellent team cultures. Just building trust can boost culture and morale immensely. For example, GM CEO Mary Barra‘s first move as head of HR was to reduce the dress code policy from ten pages to just two words—”dress appropriately.” As a result, she restored an immense amount of trust back in her team, improving the organizational culture greatly.
To generate trust and cultivate a great team culture:
- Build relationships with your team: Spend 5-10 minutes before meetings to share personal stories and build camaraderie.
- Recognize employees: If an employee shares an idea or puts in extra effort to achieve a goal, or improves team communication, publicly acknowledging them makes other team members feel safe and appreciated to do the same.
- Establish clear guidelines: This will help reduce misunderstandings, enhance social trust, and improve project management.
- Provide support: Practicing empathetic leadership is vital for culture. Connect with and support employees during hard times. Remind them they are cared for.
- Celebrate milestones, successes, and company updates: Celebrating and connecting with one another is a powerful bonding tool that helps keep employee engagement and morale high.
- Live and demonstrate core company values: Lead by example. Doing so will solidify the habits and practices you want employees to follow according to your defined organizational culture.
3. Have Distinct Processes and Systems
Success increases when everyone works in harmony toward a common goal. Conversely, when confusion or lack of protocol exists within a company, errors and conflict can reduce employee engagement and morale.
Avoid errors and confusion by establishing clear processes and systems in advance. For example, how do you want the work to be done and measured? What company-wide management programs do you want to be integrated? Is there space for creativity and collaboration? Considering these questions and having clear systems will help your employees do their best quality work.
Take inventory of your current processes and systems by:
- Identifying your current business activities: What are the operational activities currently in place? Do they represent all that the organization needs to fulfill its mission and vision?
- Examining each activity: Look at the process, tools, people, and strategies currently being used for each business activity. Are they working? Are there areas of discrepancy or confusion? Is there a way to streamline anything?
- Looking for ways to improve each activity: What do you want your overall processes and systems to achieve? Look for new ideas, tools, or tactics to add or remove to keep the system clear and efficient.
- Testing and evaluating: After making any adjustments, test them. Is your team working more or less efficiently with the new systems?
- Making improvements as needed: If your team can’t do their best work using the new distinct processes and systems, continue to improve and adjust until they can.
4. Hire A-Players Who Fit Into the Organizational Culture
Having a solid hiring process is essential for building a world-class corporate culture. When you have a defined corporate culture, you’re not only looking for qualified employees that can fill the positions. You’re looking for A-Players who are accountable, goal-oriented, and vision-driven.
Once you know what you’re looking for, you want to ensure your hiring process is thorough and clear, both for your organization and the candidate. For example, if you’re an innovative, independent overachiever with a dash of OCD, that’s what Pixar wants. They know that their culture and core values require creativity, collaboration, autonomy, and excellence, and they’re sure to include that insight when interviewing and making hiring decisions.
Get started hiring A-Players for a great team culture by:
- Writing a job description that attracts top talent.
- Generating leads.
- Reviewing resumes and cover letters.
- Conducting initial screening calls.
- Conducting second phone interviews.
- Extending an in-person interview.
- Meeting for a final in-office interview.
- Performing background and reference checks.
- Extending the offer and preparing them for success with a great onboarding process.
5. Develop an Excellent Onboarding Experience
Hiring A-Players that align with your vision is the first step. Providing them with a complete onboarding experience so they can fully integrate into your organizational culture is the next. This is important because new employees may not mix well into the defined culture without a clear onboarding process. Instead, they may mold their own culture, forming their own systems and ideas around the work. If this happens, it could create conflict with how other employees are working and thinking and can be like inserting a virus into a culture and spreading infection.
To combat this issue, a great onboarding process should include:
- Full team introduction and organizational culture immersion.
- An onboarding packet, employee handbook, and schedule for the first week or two.
- A 30-, 60-, and 90-day goal worksheet.
- One or two independent assignments.
- Regular check-ins with feedback.
6. Be Consistent
Once you’ve written your mission, vision, and values, commit to living by them daily within your company. Establishing a culture with this roadmap requires time and consistency. For this reason, try to avoid frequently changing or adjusting your values. Doing so will create cultural confusion and lead to an inconsistent mixture of employee behaviors, habits, and ways of thinking.
Tips for being consistent with your values and culture include:
- Live your mission and abide by your beliefs, daily.
- Regularly evaluate everything except core principles.
- Hold leadership accountable.
- Be sure all employees, new and existing, understand core values.
- Make sure your brand voice and messaging are consistent with values, internally and externally.
7. Give Plenty of Recognition and Praise to Your Team
Showing recognition and appreciation for your employees is huge for building a world-class corporate culture. A Gallup survey revealed that recognition reinforces a team’s sense of meaning and purpose and that 74 percent of survey respondents said they felt their work was valuable and useful when they received praise.
Giving praise and recognition to employees when it’s earned fosters an all-around good cultural feeling and sense of morale. It also improves the quality of work and builds trust in relationships. When the morale is high, the performance is strong, and employees trust their leadership and work environment, a world-class business culture is bound to flourish.
Effective recognition strategies include:
- Sharing gratitude.
- Creating customized experiences to honor employees.
- Recognizing people on an individual level.
- Encouraging peer recognition.
- Giving specific and direct feedback.
Be Intentional About the Culture You’re Cultivating
Forming a culture strategy is like baking a cake. Knowing what kind of cake you want to bake is great, but without having or knowing the right ingredients, measurements, and temperature, it’s not going to come out the way you want it to. Of course, you can try improvising the recipe and “winging it,” but cakes rarely turn out well without careful attention and the right ingredients.
Business culture acts in a similar way. It’s a delicate balance between hiring and training A-Player talent, fostering morale, meeting performance goals, and leading by example. Likewise, if any of these elements are off, the whole culture is affected. However, if you get the balance right, the benefits can be abundant.