Have you ever seen Mutiny on the Bounty? It’s a movie from the ‘30s about a British naval vessel under the command of a ruthless captain. He keeps cutting corners that put the crew in danger, making his subordinates walk the plank, and just being an overall bad dude. The morale on the Bounty is pretty miserable by the time the titular revolt takes place, and it concludes awfully for almost everyone in the film. Naval culture on an eighteenth century boat is a lot like company culture today: if your team isn’t happy with their environment, they’re likely to jump ship.
Fostering an amicable and comfortable corporate culture is a win-win. You put in a bit of your own time and effort (and budget), but the returns are many and equally benefit the employees and management. From the recruitment process to getting mileage out of those whom you hire, establishing an admirable corporate culture doesn’t just make you appear successful – it leads to real success as well.
Kununu asked twenty-five business executives how they would define company culture. Everyone came up with a different definition, many of them insightful, some of them completely out there. What really matters is how you define YOUR company culture. Is your organization a strict workplace with high productivity and long hours? Does your workplace focus on health and fitness with daily company-wide workout sessions and a climbing wall? How about a more casual scene where everyone enjoys some Call of Duty on lunch and works at their own pace? Is it an open plan office where meetings are frequent and there are no bad ideas?
Ping pong tournaments, pot lucks, and other fun activities are just a small pieces of the puzzle. What really defines your company culture is how you communicate in the workplace and how you face tasks. The rest is just fluff and often a side effect of the real core principles. Letting employees work from home is an example of a core principle. So is asking folks to come in on Saturdays. A firm dedication to meeting deadlines. Taking long lunches regularly to de-stress from ten or twelve hour work days. If you’re taking this opportunity to understand your own organization’s culture, then determine a goal state. Do you want your company to be known for loyalty to its clients? Maybe you’d like your store to win the annual award for most sales. Perhaps you want to maintain your workforce for a long time, because a close group is key to success in your eyes.
If you don’t define these elements before moving forward, then your corporate culture is rooted in pizza parties and company Cubs outings. That’s great for social media, but it has no structure and foundation. You need to figure out what matters to you and your company, how you can guide your employees to that goal, and then choose the most productive or fun ways to manifest those guiding principles. From there, all of the pizza parties will flow.
The obvious result of a well-defined company culture is social media gold. Unless you’re the FBI or worried about corporate espionage, posting on social sites should be a constant occurrence. Show the world that you let folks bring their dogs to work. Broadcast your company ping pong tournaments on YouTube or a group session of Fortnite on Twitch. Tweet a candid photo of the company president putting in long hours and ordering in his dinner from a local Jimmy Johns. “Thanks for the midnight oil, Jimmy Johns!” Even if your company is a bit more serious about privacy and professionalism, there is nothing unprofessional about posting interesting tidbits on LinkedIn. If you don’t let the world see, it will be a lot harder to cash in on this company culture you’ve fostered.
People who follow companies, brands, or local governments on social media might subscribe for the industry updates. But it’s the humanity of your organization that will keep them coming back. If you want to build a sizeable online presence and expand your market share, then you need to be a little open about what happens at HQ. Transparency and humanization are good for your image. Social media marketing is free advertising that only works if you put in the effort and offer followers the crunchy bits. Tell them about office friendships, new deals you’re working on, office remodeling, or what kind of music your employees listen to when they work. The company culture that the world sees will help make your brand look three-dimensional.
Your target audience might not be new hires, but you can’t deny that finding them is hard these days. The unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in years, and free agents have their pick of job opportunities. All other things considered (salary, benefits, qualifications), they’re going to go with the place that best fits their attitude and their work ethic. You can write about your company all you want in a job description, but that can’t be the only place where you promote the culture. A series of blog articles, social media posts, and pages on your website devoted to it will act as a little ecosystem that potential candidates can explore. You want that environment to be rich and accurately portray the feeling of sitting down to work at your place of business. Young job seekers can smell promotional BS a mile away, but they put a great deal of trust into digital branding and honest social media. Don’t betray that trust – encourage it!
With a well-displayed company culture on all of your social channels, websites, press releases, and spread via word-of-mouth, candidates will be coming to you looking to get their foot in the door. If your company is financially motivated and shares that wealth with its employees, young entrepreneurs will dig that. If you insist on acquiring the latest software for your dev team to utilize, tech nerds will flock to you. Showing off not only the shiny toys but the core principles of your company’s internal environment will make the difference between you and your competitors.
Once you’ve got them in the door, make sure it’s not still revolving. Again, due to low unemployment, many companies are finding it difficult to hold onto the best of the bunch. There’s always a better offer out there somewhere. That being said, job hunting can also be nerve-wracking, frustrating, and even terrifying, especially if you’re either a rookie or an old veteran. What’s better than the worrying void of the unknown? A nice, comfy position of course.
This one is twofold: you want to make your corporate culture obvious to candidates so that both you and then know it’s a good fit; and you want to maintain that culture for as long as possible so that it doesn’t fall short of their expectations. Repeating what we said about trust, don’t lie on the brochure. You want a prospect’s anticipation to be met with affirmations and enthusiasm every step of the way. Do what you say on the tin and stick to it. This doesn’t mean that your company should never change, but be cognizant of how happy employees might become disgruntled as a result of big alterations to the company culture they’ve come to know. A well-defined corporate culture will not only help weed out the unfit candidates, it will ensure that who you do hire knows what they’re getting into and stays on for the long haul.
The ultimate positive end result of any peripheral project is that it somehow increases output anyway. Good customer support helps you upsell existing customers. Good marketing gets leads in the door who want to buy your product. Good equipment ensures efficient work. What does a solid company culture do for productivity then?
Statistics show that the physical environment employees work in and positive vibes from the corporate culture contribute to higher productivity. A highly competitive workplace with high stakes can encourage some incredible results, but it also wears people out faster, resulting in more sick leave, more personal days, burnout times, and higher turnover. For some companies however, this sort of environment motivates their workforce quite successfully, but it isn’t for everyone. No matter what your method for stimulating productivity, a positive office will mitigate more problems than one that relies on negative feedback.
When employees feel as if they are getting paid enough for their time and skills, they tend to stop looking around. When they feel that their work is challenging and interesting or even fun, they disengage less. When their company’s culture is positive, comfortable, and provides opportunities that meet their goals, then you’ve got a lifer. Like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you must assuage your employee’s most critical fears first. Then, the corporate culture that you’ve fostered can help them enjoy their work.