Great company culture is visceral. We’re talking about the type of culture that is so real, it envelops you from the minute you step into the office. It’s refreshing, like splashing cool water on your face in blistering hot weather. It radiates from every person in the business.
Having a strong company culture is the secret ingredient to modern success. Airbnb’s Brian Chesky has gone so far as to proclaim company culture as the sole subject of a company’s legacy. Company culture, he says, is the foundation for all future innovation. It’s that important.
Related: Time for a Company Culture Audit
Most companies want great company culture, but only a few do what it takes to actually have it. It certainly doesn’t come easy, but pinpointing your weaknesses and shifting your work environment will put you on the right path.
The first step of improving your culture is to identify where it’s lacking. Here are five indications that your company culture may actually suck, and solutions to make it better.
1. Your culture relies on perks. It can be tempting to say you have good company culture since you have a company-sponsored happy hour every Friday or because you recently hired an in-house barista to make lattes every morning. But culture does not come from perks, it’s rooted in a shared philosophy that brings your people together. Perks are used to empower your culture by supporting the company philosophy.
Buffer, for example, has a philosophy of transparency. One of the company perks is a free Jawbone’s Up wristband so that the whole team can share their sleeping, eating and activity information in full transparency. In this case, the perk supports the philosophy while helping build strong relationships among a remote team.
2. Your company has a generic mission statement. It’s not enough to simply plaster a mission statement from your first business plan across the office wall. Your company must have strong core values and a noble cause at the foundation of everything you do to achieve great company culture.
A noble cause captures your company's higher purpose and what your team is working to accomplish every single day. It is a statement that defines the direction of the company, everything from business development to new employee orientation. The company’s core values and shared beliefs are the soul of a company and its foundation for outstanding company culture.
3. Your culture only exists at work. Great company culture doesn’t drop off when you exit the building, it is carried out into the world by your people, ambassadors and witnesses of your culture. It is internalized and adopted by your team, shaping them as people and helping them to evolve at work and beyond.
At Digital Telepathy, we empower employees from the inside out through betterment bonuses. Every year, our team members each receive $1,500 for a project to simply better themselves or others. They choose something they have always wanted to do, work on the project throughout the year and share their experience with the whole team.
Betterment is a core value at Digital Telepathy, so as our team betters themselves, they are evolving our culture inside and outside of the office.
4. You hire skills, not people. Every person you hire either adds or detracts from your company culture. Employees who don’t fit into the culture, no matter how talented they are, will not contribute to the longevity of your business.
A study from RoundPegg found that new employees with strong cultural fit were 27.2% less likely to leave within their first 18-months on the job. If you don’t have job applicants going through intensive, culture related interviews before you hire, you may want to rethink your hiring process. Consider using a personality profiles, in addition to a skill tests and reference checks, to help decide if an applicant is a cultural fit.
5. You discourage risk. Part of learning and growth is trial and error. Not everything can be predicted, practiced and projected. If your company culture awards short-term performance and punishes risk takers, you’ll be cultivating a norm of anti-innovation. Allowing employees to fail quickly without repercussion encourages your team to explore possibilities and be more innovative. Your team will feel more valued when it has a voice and that will benefit your business.
The bottom line: Building great company culture is about being inclusive of all employees, creating a shared philosophy to guide your decisions and protecting that foundation by bringing on and empowering the right people.
When you have great company culture, you’ll feel it, and so will everyone in and around your company. It is not easy to achieve but, once done right, it can't be ignored.