Thanks to a few well-known organizations and their rock-star CEOs, company culture has received significant press — both positive and negative — in recent years. At Apple, for instance, employees exhibit high levels of motivation as well as high sales numbers.
The key for these high-performing workers? Analysts say the right motivation goes a long way toward encouraging a near-evangelical enthusiasm for a few, special companies. Even for small businesses, success can depend on creating a healthy workplace where employees can learn, grow and thrive.
What exactly is company culture, why is it important, and what can you do to build the best possible environment for your team?
The Personality of Your Business
Company culture is, simply, your business’ personality. It’s the overall “feel” of your company — whether formal, whimsical or something in between. Company culture can include a variety of components, such as your mission and vision, what you expect of your team members, your goals, and your ethics.
Some organizations create cultures around teams, promoting cooperation and collaboration above all else. In a cooperative culture, employees often participate at every level. At the other end of the spectrum, a traditional or formal workplace would incorporate a hierarchy — with decision-making responsibility held by those at the top and most workers left out of the process.
A traditional company culture might include a variety of rules and regulations, with stringent expectations provided to employees in writing and formal reviews administered on a periodic basis. A casual culture might eschew such requirements and, in the pursuit of freedom and creativity, encourage employees to set their own goals and create their own modes of achievement.
Large companies often incorporate more-formal cultures than do small companies, but some organizations break that mold. For example, Google is a very large company that behaves like a small startup, with employees feeling free to ask questions directly of the company’s founders.
Why Culture Matters
A multitude of companies continue to treat workers as expendable, easily replaced machines. Those companies may meet their goals — for a while. But in the long term, true success tends to come to those organizations that value their workers and approach them as unique individuals.
Companies that build the right atmosphere find that their efforts pay dividends, including loyalty and longevity among their team members. Low turnover and high morale contribute to a variety of critical business metrics, including productivity, profitability and creativity.
Few factors affect the success of a company more than worker morale and motivation. A lackluster, despondent workforce may perform substandard work, annoy customers and permanently damage your brand. A devoted, enthusiastic work force, on the other hand, can help your business soar to previously unreached heights. Research has found that organizations with a positive culture experience a turnover rate around 14 percent, while those with a culture rated as poor by employees have a turnover rate above 48 percent.
Company culture is critical for allowing employees to enjoy their work. In return, employees give their very best efforts.
Building a Better Culture
What can you do if your company culture is lacking? You’ll need to review a variety of components that contribute to an effective culture, including creativity, diversity and flexibility, along with a focus on wellness, safety and cooperation.
To begin making improvements, consider the following steps:
- Use the big picture as your guide. Determine the most important goals to accomplish. If you hope to increase productivity, research and development, or sales, set quantifiable goals and measure your progress against them.
- Develop a simple strategy that focuses on respecting and valuing individuals. Do your mission and goals support that strategy? What about your policies and procedures?
- Get your leadership team on board, and ensure that you set a great example for your entire team. Your top managers should lead the way in demonstrating enthusiasm, motivation, creativity, teamwork and drive to succeed.
- Seek to engage your employees by honestly presenting your vision and emphasizing the importance of full participation.
Most importantly, take action. Spend some time planning, but spend more time communicating with — and listening to — members of your workforce, and don’t become a victim of analysis paralysis. To begin creating a healthy company culture, start now.