The importance of "company culture" is getting a lot of attention these days, especially in the startup world. Tech giants like Google have made a name for themselves by offering unique, sometimes luxurious benefits to their employees, while small, nimble startups are changing the rules of office culture, with perks like unlimited vacation time and flexible hours.
Even simple cultural components, like a set of common values or a mission statement, can align workers under a single, identifiable banner.
Culture is heralded as one of the most important factors for a business’ long-term success -- second to the overall business model, of course. But what is it, exactly, about company culture that makes it such an impactful institution?
Keeping the mission at heart
The first job a company culture has is to establish a clear set of priorities which align with the company’s overall goals. As a great example, Google’s simple and open-to-interpretation mission statement is “Don’t be evil.” This applies at the corporate level, as the company strives to do as much “good” as possible, but also at an employee level, with individuals expected to do all the “good” they can at their respective levels.
These priorities also work on both a top-down and bottom-up level: Employees who keep their core mission at heart will be more likely to stick with it, helping the company stay on track with its identity and purpose. A company with a strong purpose, then, may be able to encourage more individuals to buy into that purpose and complete the feedback loop.
If this describes your company, ultimately you’ll have a more focused, more aligned organization, capable of achieving its short-term and long-term goals.
Attracting new talent
Every organization also needs talent in order to stay afloat, but attracting that talent can be a challenge even for long-established companies. You can spend money to post more job ads, hire professional recruiters or head-hunt at professional networking events, but sometimes the inbound approach is easier: If you have a well-established company culture (and a reputation to go along with it), talented people will naturally seek you out.
This works well because the most talented candidates know their worth and are picky about where they work. They tend to want more than just a salary in terms of an office culture that meshes well with their personalities. If your culture doesn’t fit that, they’ll move on -- leaving you only those talented candidates who have filtered themselves as good fits for your brand.
It’s hard to build a successful company if your employee turnover is excessive. Finding new candidates, training them and integrating them into your business takes time, costs money and may lower overall morale. With a strong company culture that encourages people to come to work every day, your retention numbers should go up.
Fortunately, employee retention and company culture have a kind of self-sustaining relationship. The stronger your culture is, the less likely your employees are to leave. And the more your employees stick around, the stronger your culture will become. The key is to find a “core team” of people who fit your culture perfectly, and keep them happy and consistent as your company grows.
Giving people an ideal cultural environment in which to work is about more than just preventing them from quitting; it’s about making them feel truly invested in their jobs. If you create a culture that your employees really love, they’ll feel that the office is an extension of their home, and will feel both excited and passionate about the work they’re doing.
More passionate workers means more productive, more innovative and more creative work (not to mention higher employee satisfaction). In a way, company culture is a tool that keeps employees happy enough to produce their best work -- and that means the company can push new boundaries and tread new ground.
Differentiating brand identity
Last but not least, maintaining a great internal company culture can develop a distinguishing reputation for your brand, in an external context. For example, if you pride yourself on being informal and conversational, your customer service reps may themselves be more conversational and friendly with customers, who in turn will see your brand as more casual and approachable. Unique brands always have an edge over brands that blend in with the competition, so the stronger your culture is, the stronger your brand can perform.
Company culture is more than just a general attitude. It’s more than a brand, too, and it’s more than just a great series of benefits. It’s the combination of environmental, atmospheric and practical conditions that keep your company a company -- and more than just a bunch of individuals who happen to work in the same physical space.
If you can capture and preserve that group dynamic, you should have no problem keeping your company on track to achieve its goals.