Why should you even care about company culture? It might sound odd reading that question on paper, but in reality, most entrepreneurs, business owners, and high-level managers ask themselves the same question. In most instances, they decide against putting a lot of effort into the company culture. I am writing this article to persuade decision-makers against prioritizing other things over culture.
Not only is your company culture the insurance policy against high employee departure, but it is also the magnet that attracts the best talent. Here are some of the critical advantages of having excellent company culture.
- Automated employee retention and well-being
- High employee motivation and lasting loyalty
- Positive brand through goodwill
- Better long term decision making
Each of the above can contribute to your business success, which means you have to get intentional about your company culture. If you’re at the right level of authority within your organization, you cannot afford to let company culture be a vague, intangible checkbox often ignored in practice but ticked on paper. Company culture is more than what your brochure says; it is essential to your company’s success.
Common Myths About Company Culture
Before we get into the steps one must take to build a strong culture; we have to address the myths surrounding the term. These myths arise from the word of mouth propagation of guesswork. Companies are complicit in this as employees only derive the meaning of culture from what their workplaces assert it to be. Below are some myths about company culture.
- Company culture trickles down from the top
- There is such a thing as ‘perfect culture’ that works for all businesses
- Culture is about bonuses and benefits
- High pay and good culture are mutually exclusive
What Is Company Culture?
If the company culture isn’t about bonuses and benefits and isn’t defined by what your business brochure says, then what is it? Your organization’s values that supersede everything else and are upheld by every one of your employees make up your culture.
Most business owners might think that not constructing a culture exempts their business from having a culture altogether. However, if you don’t hire based on culture or consciously prioritize your values above all else, you let chance build your culture.
Don’t get me wrong; you might get lucky with hiring and end up with great spontaneously developed culture. But generally, you’ll end up with a priority clash. Employees will prioritize leisure, perks, and downtime, while your focus on the bottom line will result in a cultural paradox.
This is one of the most common problems in the hospitality sector, mainly because employees have a front seat view of luxuries their customers enjoy. Since the employees can’t afford these luxuries themselves, they can become resentful. Consequently, they are driven towards the opposite of the organization’s values.
Common Ways Culture Breaks
If you have the perfect company culture in mind, but all attempts to ground it to reality fail because employees seem to accept the culture superficially, then you have a hiring problem at hand. Most late-enforcement of culture fails because asking individuals to flip their values because you give them a job is unrealistic.
While hiring the wrong people can lead to inconsistent culture, there are other ways for company culture to break. Here are some of the scenarios you must avoid.
- Managers and owners preach values they don’t practice
- Company culture doesn’t incentivize employees
- Culture is detached from business goals
- Culture is being forced onto people
- Culture is negotiable
How to build your company culture
As mentioned above, company culture is about values that are mutually upheld. So you should start by gaining clarity on your business values. Many business owners make the mistake of penning idealistic values they would like their business to possess. This is the stage where you have to be more realistic. Your organization’s values shouldn’t be dictated by what you’d want people to think of your business. That only incentivizes hypocrisy.
Ask yourself what your current priorities are. Start with what is to have a better understanding of what should be. If you’re running a business, profit is one of its objectives. Trying to deny that will only garner skepticism, which results in the rejection of your new cultural doctrine.
Once you have your values written down, cross off everything negotiable. In other words, leave behind only the values for which you would fire your top performer. “But, Ibrahim, I wouldn’t fire my top performer for any reason,” you may say. If that’s the case, then profit is your highest priority. With a culture focused solely on profit, you can expect all the issues, including
- Employees being dishonest with customers
- Prioritizing the quick buck over long-term customer relations
- A reputation for sleaziness
- Customers who nickel and dime you
The last entry on that list gets entrepreneurs scratching their heads. “How can my company culture affect customer behavior?” they wonder. Your company culture impacts your employees’ treatment of your customers. And as is the case with any human-to-human interaction, one party’s attitude dictates the other’s response.
You can’t expect hugs in exchange for punches. If your employees are salivating for profit, your customers will negotiate to keep more of their money. Isn’t it better to shift the focus away from the cash and towards value?
Of course, profit can be a part of your values, but your mission must be service-oriented. That brings us to the longstanding debate regarding the association of culture with mission and values. So what makes a company’s culture? It’s values or mission? The mission dictates what a company does, and the values govern how they go about doing it. These aspects are interconnected.
Three Steps To Integrating Your Values and Mission
If your values do not align with your mission, your company culture will become an obstacle to accomplishing your goals. That’s why you must integrate your values and goals to make company culture your asset and not a liability. Here are the three steps you must take to pull this off.
- Start by considering your target market; who do you aim to serve?
- Explore your “why.” Start with Why by Simon Sinek is a great book to read when executing this step.
- Now that you have your mission pen the best ways in which you can go about it. These are your values.
Maintaining Company Culture
While crafting company culture is one thing, maintaining it is a different beast altogether. The best thing you can do to preserve your culture is to create a sustainable one, to begin with. Imagine you feel motivated and want to get slim.
If you create for yourself a plan where you work out five hours a day and eat only healthy meals, you’ll not see it through. The plan might be okay for the motivated version of you, but how will you stay consistent on your lazy days? That’s why personal development coaches often recommend that one designs his schedule based on his laziest self.
The case is not too different with company culture. You cannot create a culture based on your own dedication to your business. That will become the standard case of unrealistic culture developed in the boardroom and rejected by the ground floor. Instead, consider your employees and their well-being. What do they get out of being a part of your culture? Is your culture realistic for the people you currently employ?
It is an art and a science to some extent because you cannot let your employees hold the culture hostage. But at the same time, you can’t fire everyone and hire from scratch. The best way to go about it is to make your culture valuable for them to follow. You can gamify your culture and embed your values into exercises.
Practices – How Do They Relate To Culture?
The final piece in this puzzle is practice. Values are internal and cannot be grounded in the physical world without practice. This brings us to company rituals. Many entrepreneurs start with rituals, and that can cause confusion as two practices might not go together in terms of the values they propagate.
Only after you have a mission in place and are clear about the values you’ll uphold in its service can you create practices. Look at each value on your list and ask yourself, “how can I put this value in action?” From here, you can plan retreats if employee well-being is one of your values, conduct sales training if education is one of your values, and so on.
Patrick Bet-David, CEO of PHP Agency, encourages his employees to read books. They have calls where the book of the month is discussed. He will not hire anyone who refuses to participate. He is willing to fire based on this. Let’s analyze this.
- The mission: Make the insurance industry more interesting.
- A value: Constant education
- How the value serves the mission: Agents who learn more find better ways to improve the insurance industry.
- Practice: Reading a book every month.
- How the practice connects with the value: Reading books is a way to learn.
Company culture is not wishful thinking codified in the boardroom and pushed down to the rest of the organization. It is an organic amalgamation of your mission, values, and practices. Ultimately, what makes your culture more than empty words is the consistency with which it is upheld regardless of rank. And if you’re willing to hire and fire based on your values, you will have a strong company culture and all the benefits associated with it.