Simple Tips to Building and Fostering an Amazing Company Culture
“Being a great place to work is the difference between being a good company and a great company.” – Brian Kristofek, President and CEO, Upshot
All companies, regardless of size or composition, have a culture. Though few want to believe it, your company culture is ultimately what dictates your results. My definition of culture is: “Culture is a feeling; a connection of belonging, beliefs, vision, and values that make up a shared DNA to create family, purpose, and happiness.”
Your culture isn’t just your people and your annual holiday party; it’s your values, the threads of communication that run throughout your company. It encompasses your shared direction; it can set limitations or blast through them. Your company culture does not insulate you from the competition, but it does help you stand out from the pack and differentiate your company from your rivals.
All companies have challenges – You’re here reading this because you care about your company and the challenges it and you face together. As you read these points and ponder them, ask yourself the questions that follow and be brutally honest.
1. Aim High – Where do you place the bar?
Despite of bluster and big talk, the majority of companies only really aim as high as they feel is safe. They get complacent. This is how companies get disrupted into oblivion. You should be figuring out what would disrupt your industry and then do that! In order to build a truly fantastic company culture, you need to aim high and strive for clarity in everything you do.
- Figure out what your partners want and then aim two steps higher.
- Don’t be a company that settles for “okay” – Make that clear.
- Ensure both KPIs and the rewards for hitting them are crystal clear.
- Use examples wherever possible. Show your people what “WOWing” looks like. You should have a litmus test for how you define a WOW moment or action.
2. Hire Those Who Best Align with Your Core Values
Who’s in charge of talent? That person is your gatekeeper and it says a lot about a company. Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, believes that “HR is the #1 most important department in a company” and that “HR is the driving force behind what makes a winning team” I couldn’t agree more.
We take the vetting process extremely seriously. When we make a new hire, we put them through four to six interviews, including cross-functioning interviews with people from various departments. We do this, not to wear out our prospective hire, but because we strongly believe that our success as a company is inextricably bound to our people’s success in their individual roles and that means getting the right people onto the bus in the first place.
- Use tools to vet – Predictive success tests, cognitive testing, even having a prospective hire put together a presentation. Whatever works!
- Don’t settle for “okay” – I really can’t stress this enough. If you settle for okay, mediocrity will become steeped in your culture and “okay” will become your norm.
- Seek out people who are passionate about their trade. You want people who are obsessed. You can’t teach obsession!
3. Shine a Light and Build Momentum
As with anything you want to achieve, you must focus on what is working and continue to showcase to the team the great things that are happening. Make sure you are celebrating wins along the way and doing so with the entire team.
We have champagne celebrations when someone meets certain goals or gets a big win. Stepping over wins is dangerous. It’s discouraging. Celebrating wins, on the other hand, lets your whole team share in the sense of accomplishment and builds momentum.
- Share those celebrations across teams and departments.
- Greatness breeds greatness and winning is contagious!
- Create rituals specific to your company whether it’s bell ringing or pizza parties or champagne toasts – Culture is built around rituals.
4. Coach, Mentor, and Train Up or Out
The success of your company is dependent on having not only the right people on the bus, but also making sure they are sitting in the right spot, properly equipped to fulfill their role, and given the opportunity to reach their full potential and advance.
Too often, companies will keep people on board, rather selfishly, even though those people are suffering in their role because it serves their agenda and they feel it’s easier to keep the role filled poorly rather than take the time to fix the problem. If someone is in the wrong role, you should do everything you can to get them into the right role – even if that means helping them find a new role at a different company. Everyone will be better off for it.
Making sure your people are in the right places, doing the best jobs they can is all about learning and communication.
- Promote learning initiatives and incentives – Keep an in-house library, offer education reimbursement, whatever you can do to keep people learning!
- Create and foster a safe environment where people can try new things without fear of negative consequences.
- Offer opportunities for your people to advance and make clear what is needed for them to do so. Vague instructions get vague results.
5. Care, Care, and Care Some More
Show your team you care at every turn! Empathy is underrated and its more than just kind words. It all starts with you – Be visible, lead by example, be available, accessible and encouraging. We have “All Hands Meetings” where we shut down our offices because we firmly believe that our people are our most important asset and we need to talk to them!
- Set crystal clear expectations of what winning looks and feels like.
- Invest in your team’s growth both in and out of the office.
- Cross train your people – Helping them facilitate value transfer is incredibly empowering for your employee and valuable for you!
I have had employees tell me they are feel so happy and secure in their role with our company that they’ve decided to have another child. You can’t buy or quantify that kind of win – and that’s what you’re going for. A truly great company culture will have long reaching positive effects even ten or twenty years down the road. True riches are in the difference you make in people’s lives. This is what you get when you shift what winning looks like from material to impact.