Editor’s Note: In the new podcast Masters of Scale, LinkedIn co-founder and Greylock partner Reid Hoffman explores his philosophy on how to scale a business -- and at Entrepreneur.com, entrepreneurs are responding with their own ideas and experiences on our hub. This week, we’re discussing Hoffman’s theory: There are many good company cultures and many bad company cultures, but a winning company culture only emerges when every employee feels they personally own the culture. Listen to this week's episode here.
Tech company culture has been ripped apart in the news lately, slammed for a lack of diversity, the promotion of top executives despite their HR track records, and a host of other complaints from employees and contractors. Despite the frantic news cycle, there are many tech companies with solid, valuable cultures that are rooted in integrity and kindness.
But, how do you get everyone in your tech company on board with the company culture? How do you get them to own it, and share it on their own, not just because you’re telling them to? The idea seems ephemeral, but it really begins with the executive team. I’ve laid out some ideas below that will help show you just how to create a strong, inclusive company culture that will keep you out of the news for anything less than your incredible success.
1. Be inclusive.
You don’t want to create a company with people who are all just like you, of course, so promoting a company culture has to come from a place of inclusion, first and foremost. It is vital in promoting a healthy company culture to take feedback from employees, and welcome diverse viewpoints, especially from women and people of color who are woefully underrepresented in tech companies. Inclusion also asks that you celebrate personal differences, not just merely accept them.
2. Live your values.
Values are set by the personality of the leadership, full stop. How you deal with your team internally, how you treat your staff and how you live your life are a direct reflection of the company culture. When you treat your team (and also your family, friends and perfect strangers) in an honest, kind and helpful way, those values will be mirrored by those who are watching you. Those values need to come personally from the leadership team in the company, who demonstrate what the company culture is all about.
3. Extend company culture to your customers, and have employees do the same.
It’s not enough to demonstrate your values only with staff and your immediate team -- your company culture becomes stronger when it’s extended to the way you deal with customers and customer relations. If you deal with a customer in a dishonest or shady way, how will your staff feel that you are treating them when they’re not looking?
If you want to be a company that cares, you actually have to care and value your customers. How the executive team deals with customers shows everyone in the company not only how to treat customers with respect and dignity, but how to treat each other with respect and dignity, too.
Moreover, the best way to empower your employees to take ownership of the company culture is to encourage them to do the right thing by customers. They feel like they can actually deliver the company culture, and therefore feel ownership over the company culture. You can tell people about the company culture all you like, but if your employees can’t deliver it, they won’t ever really be part of it.
4. Embrace the negatives.
We all mess up and make mistakes -- part of human nature is trying and failing. But, if your executive team is hiding failures, shying away from apologies and sweeping mistakes under the rug, you’re going to have a company culture that quickly becomes toxic.
It’s up to you to model admitting failure with grace, and repairing as quickly as possible. This makes it safe for your team to come to you with mistakes and admit failure. This bolsters your company culture in multiple ways, the least of which is that embracing failure fosters innovation. Also, without admitting mistakes, nothing can be learned or repaired.
5. Hire for strong principles.
Hiring is the best way to make sure that you’re creating a strong company culture. When your team is hiring, be clear to them about the values you are looking for so they hire principled people and principled suppliers, no matter what their personal preferences or diversities are. Celebrating personal differences in the company culture does not conflict with or preclude maintaining the professional values that underlie good business: honesty, integrity, care, kindness, communication, transparency and leaving the planet better than you found it.