Company Culture

More Than 4 Walls: How to Transform Your Company Into a Community

Focus on the supporting pillars of your company to create a diverse community grounded in collective purpose.
More Than 4 Walls: How to Transform Your Company Into a Community
Image credit: Maskot | Getty Images
Guest Writer
President of NVE Experience Agency
5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If you've spent any amount of time in the startup community, you're all too familiar with the words "company culture." Entrepreneurs pour lots of time and resources into offering the perks they think will draw and keep talent. But as the evolution of the workforce continues, it’s time to shift the focus from a one-size-fits-all culture balanced on perks to a diverse community grounded in and empowered by a collective purpose.

Communities champion core values and perpetuate a sense of purpose. Wegmans Food Market, for instance, was just named one of the top companies to work for by Great Place to Work. Based on a survey of nearly 1,200 employees, a staggering 97 percent felt good about the ways they contribute to their work community, and 94 percent were proud to tell people where they worked.

Wegmans employees are engaged and invested in the mission of helping people live fuller lives. And that's ultimately what community is all about. A community is more than how people act or where they congregate. It implies ownership, setting the stage for employees to support their peers and work together.

Related: Why Building Community Is More Important Than Networking

Elements of a great company community.

Modern employees want more than paychecks from their employers. Once sought-after perks have become table stakes, and professionals are seeking companies that truly empower them to become the best versions of themselves. Leaders must exercise the belief that fresh ideas can come from anyone and anywhere, and only in environments where people feel comfortable enough to push boundaries can the best ones shine through.

As a team that's experienced rapid growth, NVE has recognized the importance of fostering an approach to our work and our people that's rooted in something real.

Our mantra, The Polished Hustle, wasn't created in a boardroom in order to deliver a set of company values from on high. The people who work at our agency shaped that mantra over time through a collective commitment to embracing every challenge with grit and grace. And we've distilled that intentionality into seven core tenants of community: purpose, creativity, development, mentorship, collaboration, wellness and recognition.

Communities have the power to drive culture, shape industries and transform experiences. Cultivate an inspired community within your company by following these three tips:

1. Hire people who buy into your brand values.

It's more important than ever for companies to focus on cultivating communities of individuals who are diverse in their backgrounds, expertise, opinions and even locations, yet unite around a common goal or vision.

Bring in and champion people who get your brand and why it exists. Company values are not just part of a sales pitch; they tie employee values to brand identity. According to IBM, 80 percent of employees feel more engaged when their work is consistent with the core values of their employer.

Great communities come together because the members share a few collective beliefs that allow them to turn their visions into reality. Marketing and advertising agency Grey, for instance, has united around the common goal of creating work that respects the world's diversity. For every client project, employees are charged with asking themselves how their work reflects the world and its consumers, ensuring diversity and representation are woven into the project.

Related: Unconventional Secrets to Hiring a Great Team as a Startup

2. Don't just solicit feedback. Respond to it.

Many CEOs and business leaders will say their doors are open for feedback. But it isn't enough to welcome feedback if you don't adequately and actionably respond to it. While the "Qualtrics Global Employee Pulse" study found that 60 percent of employers solicit feedback, only 30 percent act on it -- despite the fact that Globoforce found feedback and recognition enhance the employee experience.

That's why we're so focused on spreading a sense of familial belonging and true gratification. We demand collaboration. And when a person (or a team) does something worth celebrating, we highlight those achievements to demonstrate our pride in our people.

Create a constant stream of feedback, responses and recognition to keep employees happy and engaged. For instance, we use a platform called TINYpulse to push out simple survey questions to gauge how employees feel about their working environment, office culture and job duties. The platform also allows us to solicit suggestions for improvements and acknowledge key contributors.

No matter what tool you use, the key is to maintain transparency, ensure honest dialogue, and respond.

Related: How These Entrepreneurs Use Feedback and Honesty to Build a Thriving Business

3. Break down the barriers of excessive hierarchy.

Most businesses need a sense of hierarchical order to function. But it's important to find a balance. If people buy into a common goal, they're willing to be all hands on deck -- and that includes company leaders. Show your team that managers aren’t exempt from work by helping out when things get tough. Not only does this show employees that managers recognize the most difficult parts of the job, but it also removes the barriers that excessive hierarchy can create within a community.

This is true for both mid-level managers and executives. According to CultureIQ, employees' confidence in leadership is the biggest differentiator between the winners of CultureIQ's 2015 Top Company Cultures program and the rest of the applicants. Leaders who collaborate with managers create managers who collaborate with employees. When everyone works together, the company benefits.

Community isn't defined by latitude and longitude, but by the shared values and identifying factors of the people within it. When you can cultivate a community of employees who collectively own a mission, mantra or idea, you'll transition from a business into an institution that empowers people to become better versions of themselves.

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