Think about some of the strongest cult-like companies you know. Now think about how everyone else wants to work there. A company can be looked at like an equation with four variables: people, environment, output, and consumer. The company’s culture is the heartbeat that keeps these four frontiers healthy.
For me, moving to the digital services industry (relatively small to medium business category) after being a veteran in the hospitality industry (multinational conglomerate) was driven by the main rationale of corporate culture. At some point, we’ve all asked ourselves something like, “Is this really what I want to do for a living?” For an average employee, productivity and dedication to the job depend on a sense of belonging, self-esteem in their work environment, and their self-actualization within a time-frame. Corporate culture is the air we breathe at the workspace that allows the corporate ecosystem to exist and shapes its variables. It’s the spirit of the forest.
The corner stone of every business is its people. Maslow wasn’t kidding around when he made that “Hierarchy of Needs” pyramid. After compensating your employees fairly, which should go without saying, you need to establish their sense of belonging to your company: corporate patriotism.
It all starts out in the recruitment phase: You have to be picky about choosing who is cut out for your culture and who isn’t, the same way you would when analyzing their skillset. Once you have the right people, start molding them into a family. If your company is your “baby”, treat it as such. Take it out for ice cream, have lunches or coffees with your staff and listen to what they have to say. Making yourself available, as the top rung in the ladder, to listen to your staff’s concerns will help out sort glitches in the system- before they become out and out problems. The leading members of your company have a different point to prove than that of the lower-tiered employees: Listen to all sides of each story.
Nurture and help people to grow under your brand. It’s crucial to every employee to develop their skills and grow their careers while contributing to the company at large. In this day and age, companies that offer the best career development opportunities may still miss the human factor, like the all-important celebration of individuality. Giving people room to be themselves will encourage your staff to give their all, improving productivity and in the meantime, you’re harvesting their versatile efforts. This is your goal state. What you don’t want? The “Hey, at least I submitted it on time,” result.
Cogs And Wheels
Culture is part of corporate structure as well. The way your hierarchy is engineered often times mandates your corporate culture. I say “engineered” because structure follows the basic rule of engineering: “optimization is key.” A good example of this would be Apple elevating their design group to report directly to the CEO, leading to the exceptional results that we’re all familiar with.
A Two-Way Street
Your brand should fit into the community the same way the individuals fit within your brand or family, and the same way your community fits within a larger ecosystem. Your community is the soil from which your forest gets its minerals from. Give back. Contributing to your environment will not only reap direct fruit, but it also will reinforce the sense of belonging your employees and clients alike have for your brand. Hold a reforestation event, clean the beach, do a campaign to collect funds for an active NGO in your city, stage charity dinners, go green… The options of how you can help out with CSR initiatives are endless. Ask yourself, “What’s the company’s legacy?” and take your pick accordingly.
Living The Experience
When it comes to dealing with clients, here’s where individuality pays off. Google is rumored to have “the coolest staff” in the world primarily because their culture was designed to make them seem that way. Don’t let business be just a transaction, make it an experience. Have your clients breathe your company’s culture to better understand and identify with your product. It’s easier said than done, but try any and all of the following:
• Teach personal branding to your employees.
• Hold seminars and/or off-job training sessions.
• Have them project their image to the outside that you nurtured on the inside.
Clients love it when you give them more than they bargained for, and that’s not always about exceeding their expectations- sometimes it’s as simple as showing them that you’re not a machine churning out an end product by rote. Encourage the human (and interesting!) side of your staff.
Right Side Up
Contrary to popular belief, the customer is not always right. In fact, the customer seldom knows what they want, especially in the service industry. Clients tend to act as experts, contradicting the fact that they’re seeking out your expertise in a particular field. If your employees are well trained and coached on how to tell clients that they aren’t always right, it will give them a sense of empowerment and achievement which adds to the value of your product. Lowering your standards to suit one client’s needs will lower the value of your product to other potential clients. Keep your standards up, but coach your employees to be polite and matter of fact about it.
Money is one of the major indicators of success for every business. Know your competition and then educate your employees about your competition. If we can glean any relevant lesson from global politics, it would be that patriotism peaks when the enemy is waving their flag. Once your employees know about the performance and strategy of your competitor, it is then time for them to focus on the financial goals and targets. This is the first step, followed by how each employee in their own way, drawing on their individual strengths mentioned earlier, can contribute to the revenue stream. Everyone from executives to interns can feel, and take part in, the rush of excitement at knowing how much they have contributed and how far there is to go in meeting the company’s goals.
If you succeed, celebrate as a team, and if you fail, learn as a team.