How to Write Company Manifesto That Creates a Better Work Culture
Our office is probably a lot like yours. It operates with both spoken and unspoken “rules” that guide the ways we work together. Spoken norms are things like dress code policies, what time the workday starts and how staff reviews take place. Unspoken norms could be whether coworkers hold conversations across the office or whether your boss texts at 7 every morning, making employees feel like they need to be “on” before even walking through the door. Both are equally powerful drivers of behavior.
The sooner we acknowledge and determine what those norms are in our workplaces, the happier, more open and more confident people will be. That's why we wrote a company manifesto. (You can read it here if you like.)
We're not the only ones. Google's famous "Ten things we know to be true" manifesto illustrates the same focus inward and is the guiding light for every person in the company. That said, it's likely no accident that Google earned 12 awards from Comparably just last year -- including Best Company Culture and Best Company Happiness -- and frequently makes Glassdoor's Best Places to Work list each year.
Cultivating an office culture focused on how people operate within that office has been our highest priority from the beginning, too, and our manifesto let us put that belief into action. Before, certain behaviors might have been largely unspoken, leading to more conflict and angst because people were unclear of expectations. But now they're concrete.
Having this document has transformed us. Not only has it made how we’ve all committed to showing up alongside one another every day crystal-clear, but it has also influenced everything across our business. Here are a few examples from our manifesto of the promises we make to one another:
1. We shut down the company to get to know new employees
We want our team members to know that they’re valued for more than what they produce from day one. How do we show it?
We shut the company down for a day to get to know them. It's vitally important for new hires to get to know every person they'll be working with. That won’t happen over a quick team lunch, so we take time. While there are a ton of ways to accomplish this, we spend an entire business day with new team members, asking them personal and professional questions, eating great food and diving into a fun activity that gets everyone engaged.
Glassdoor is a great example of a company that integrates new hires well. On their first day, employees get to take part in a scavenger hunt to find the gym, game room, supply rooms, and even coworkers to connect with. Then they get to go to a catered lunch that sets them up to meet other staff.
2. We encourage honesty and empathy by opening the dialogue
Defining your company culture and norms has a way of opening up more honest dialogue. We all know what it’s like to silently suffer at work, wondering whether someone is angry at us or is just having a bad day. That kind of silence can breed a lot of assumptions, discomfort and resentment.
So if honesty really is the best policy, even at work, one of the best ways to nix an atmosphere of silence before it becomes treacherous is actually stating what’s expected. Naming things out loud not only gives all team members the chance to know what will hold them accountable but also gives them language to approach someone else when an expectation isn't met. Sort of a “Hey, we promised this to each other, and I’m seeing that the promise has been broken.”
At our company, we vow to bring issues up within 24 business hours. It lets people be real. If they’re annoyed, angry or having a bad day, they get to express those feelings in a healthy way and don’t have to pretend that things are OK if they really aren’t. Zulily is another company that encourages this open line of communication. The company's president says that trust is such a key part of its operations because of that honesty and transparency among employees.
3. We promise to leave if our personal values don't match company values, mission and culture
Your manifesto might get pretty serious -- ours does. We promise to leave the company if our personal values don't align with the company's values and mission. When they do align, we know we’re all rowing in the same direction, but when they don't, the whole company feels the impact of having a “personality trait” disrupted.
According to Gallup, only 27 percent of employees strongly believe in their company values, which shows that there is clearly room for growth when it comes to getting on the same page and knowing where disconnects exist. Creativity, Inc., a book by the co-founder of Pixar, talks about how important uncovering these issues is for finding true inspiration and innovation and how creating standard cultural practices is a great way to make that “uncovering” a lot easier. It empowers staff at all levels to call out problems and points your whole team toward a shared goal.
Living by our manifesto continues to be a work in progress, but having a document that sets the rules of engagement more clearly from the start is truly transformative. It’s so much easier to create a great work culture from the beginning than to fix bad behavior later. Best of all, it gives us the freedom to work better together and show up in ways that make us more human.