Love Where You Work: The Essential Elements Of A Meaningful Company Culture
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A common word that everyone encounters on a regular basis in the corporate world is “company culture.” It is the unspoken rule that culture shapes behavior and continues where the employee handbook stops; it shows employees what values are most important; it guides them on how to act, react, and respond to expected or unexpected events; and it draws the framework of co-working and collaborating for the common goals and objectives of the company. Company culture dictates whether an employee feels comfortable to tell their boss about new ideas or existing problems, for instance.
According to the Bayt.com Ideal Workplace in the Middle East and North Africa Survey, good ethics and practices (53%) and friendly company culture (37%) are the top two most attractive business values to job seekers. Culture tells employees how to take their own daily decisions and what to do even when the manager isn’t present to provide guidance and feedback. Each company has its unique corporate culture. However, the common thought is that culture relates to employees and ensures they have a productive yet engaging work environment.
A question that often arises is why should a manager or a shareholder care about the company culture, and why should they invest in developing, defining, and communicating this culture? The simple answer would be that employees should wake up every day energized and excited to head to their office, rather than dreading the idea of working. They should be looking forward to their working day. Or at the very least, they should feel comfortable, safe, valued, and respected in their workspace. In fact, employees who are happy with their jobs find it hard to leave their company as they enjoy the challenges associated, their co-workers, and the whole working environment. Some job roles are challenging and require handling difficult tasks and many responsibilities, which is why work culture and work environment should serve to encourage, comfort, facilitate, and reduce stress.
But it isn’t merely an issue of engagement and attrition. Attracting and hiring talent are also largely influenced by company culture. The Bayt.com Ideal Workplace in the Middle East and North Africa Survey also revealed that one in two professionals say culture is a determining factor in joining a company or another. That is another big reason as to why shareholders and managers should be concerned about workplace culture.
DEFINING YOUR CULTURE
Company culture plays an important role throughout the recruitment process. Job seekers look for companies that have a positive reputation and a healthy culture. It is unrealistic for instance to look for independent talent who has leadership potential when the company’s current practices and structure severely limits employee autonomy.
As a manager, you know that the type of talent you are able to attract and compete for in the market is influenced by what you can offer them in return. The highest caliber of talent can be demanding, not only in terms of expected pay and benefits, but also in their ideal work environment and culture.
But talent needs should serve as a basis for defining your company culture. Is your business in need of creative people? If so, do you offer the environment, tools, and policies that encourage less-restrictive and creative practices? What about communication practices? Can you adopt open communication strategies in your company? As soon as candidates step into your company, they should feel that your work environment is well-aligned with their expectations of your company culture. In a survey conducted by Bayt.com, Top Industries in the Middle East and North Africa 2018, only one in two MENA professionals are satisfied with their current work culture, which can be seen as a red flag.
Once you focus your company’s attention on the workplace culture and environment in light of your targeted talent, then you’ll automatically be able to create the guides and principles that everyone will be working within, and you will be known for the values or work styles you choose to highlight in the job market and your respective industry.
COMMUNICATING YOUR CULTURE
It isn’t enough to come up with the different values and elements that make up your company culture. Communication is the next essential step in ensuring that, one, your entire workforce is aligned and in harmony with your culture, two, you are using your work culture to gauge and improve metrics related to talent retention, and three, you are communicating your culture externally to potential talent. Bayt.com’s Ideal Workplace in the Middle East and North Africa Survey has shown that word of mouth (25%), followed by online company pages targeting job seekers (24%) and social media (22%), are perceived as the best ways to promote company culture among job seekers.
Nowadays, many companies are turning to what is known as “employer branding” as a method to show their unique culture and everything that makes the company a great place to work for. An effective employer branding tool affords companies the ability to visually showcase their work environment and cultural elements, target relevant talent groups, communicate and engage with target talent through their content, and measuring and analyzing the power of their employer brand.
HIRING CANDIDATES BASED ON CULTURE-FIT
According to Harvard Business Review, employees can be split based on their culture-fit and performance. For instance, employees who work hard and are highly productive but don’t fit within the company culture (also known as “vampires”) can be incredibly problematic. The hard truth is, these employees should be dismissed as their thoughts and approach could be harmful to the company’s culture, which reflects directly on the company itself.
Employees portray the company’s image in public and in any place or event they attend. Any work-related conversation, even in a casual setting, can convey the perception of the individual about the company they work for. If the employee fits in the culture and shows positive interests, then there is a high probability that this will be reflected on the company’s own reputation. For startups and small enterprises, this can be very beneficial or very harmful as word-of-mouth among a relatively small audience can make a huge impact.
ENSURING EMPLOYEES UNDERSTAND THE COMPANY’S VALUES, MISSION, AND VISION
“Why do you want to work for us? What do you know about our company?” These famous questions used in job interviews give so many cues between the lines about how the candidate’s fit into the company. Candidates who mention a specific reason as to why they want to join the company have probably done their research on the company’s background and culture, which is a good sign. No doubt that a person can’t be fully assessed from a 30-minute interview, and what they claim in terms of personality and cultural alignment doesn’t always materialize in real life. Nonetheless, that’s why it is essential to use the onboarding period to observe and truly assess to what degree the employee understands and ascribes to the company culture, vision, mission, and values.
Even existing employees need a frequent refresher on these essential culture components, what they mean, how they can impact their work, and how they can use them to their advantage. Speaking of mission specifically, if an employee is committed to the job, it becomes their daily motivation to wake up energized and excited for work, knowing that they are fulfilling a big goal and working collaboratively towards a defined mission.
Likewise, an assessment of employee’s alignment with the company’s core principles and values can be a positive reinforcement of the employee’s essential role and significance for the company.
ACKNOWLEDGING THAT MANAGERS AREN’T THE ONLY DECISION MAKERS
Positions, titles, or age should not dictate the process of defining, communicating, and implementing the company culture. At the end of the day, all employees can learn something new from each other and it is very hard to find one person who has answers to everything. When a company decides that only senior employees and managers can make decisions or influence critical strategies pertaining to company culture, values, and direction, then it is safe to say that retention and attraction measures will head south. Some companies make this mistake as they are growing. They involve fewer employees in key decisions because it is more logistically complex to involve everyone.
But such practice easily reflects on the business and it quickly becomes a workplace culture that employees shouldn’t be involved in decision making and strategy building. Employees will eventually perceive their roles as effortless and mechanical. It becomes a procedure of going to the office, doing what they are asked to do, and working hard for someone else’s goals rather than their own. In most cases, this isn’t what employees look for. They look for a company that hears their suggestions or decisions and a place where they can show significant impact towards the bigger company goals.
At the end of the day, it is important to understand that the process of creating and implementing a unified company culture is not a static process. It should involve the voice of all employees and stakeholders and should be adaptable to changes, especially for new companies and startups that are growing and changing rapidly.