A strong company culture impacts all areas of your business—engagement, branding, employee and customer retention, and the bottom line. To create a great company culture, start by building a solid foundation of core values. Read on to learn how to identify your values, develop company culture ideas, and see what other organizations are doing.
Everything we do is driven by core values. It is that important.”
–Charles Read, President/CEO of GetPayroll
Defining a good company culture
A company’s culture is its personality; the work environment, mission, values, ethics, expectations and goals, spoken or unspoken, that guide employee behaviors. Here are a few signs of a good company culture:
- A choice of job candidates – If your culture is attractive, people will want to work for you.
- Low turnover – Employees stay when the company culture is aligned with their own personal values and desires.
- Engaged employees – If your workers show signs of being committed, they’re more likely to contribute great ideas and work harder.
- Job security – Employees who trust they are safe at their job perform better and are more encouraging of their colleagues.
- Good with change – A strong culture supports employees throughout change so they are quicker to embrace new ideas.
Culture is simply a shared way of doing something with a passion.”
–Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO, Airbnb
Ikea is successful because the company practices their core values. Some of those values include humility, daring to be different, being cost-conscious, and encouraging a constant desire for renewal. If you’ve shopped at Ikea, these values won’t surprise you. The furniture is affordably priced, well-designed and functional, and there is always a selection of trendy items. They are anything but a traditional furniture store. And their revenue has grown from 10.4B € in 2001 to 38.8B € in 2018.
For our company, clearly defining … values gives not only a vision to rally behind, it preemptively gives us the structure we need to hire better and create a more committed, stronger team. As we’ve grown our team to include remote team members, it’s become more critical than ever that we are aligned with our company values.”
-Matt Tant, CEO of Relode.com
Choosing core values and bringing them to life
At its root, a company’s culture grows from its core values. As HubSpot, a marketing analytics company, realized, “whether you like it or not, you’re going to have a culture. Why not make it one you love?” See how they developed and maintain their Culture Code, which emphasizes HEART values: being Humble, Empathetic, Adaptable, Remarkable, Transparent.
But what do you do if you want to change your organization’s culture? How do you uncover current values and start the shift to a more desirable set?
Step 1: Collect information
Make this a collaborative effort. Ask employees at all levels the following questions:
- What behaviors does the company value more than revenue? (i.e., where do you draw the line on making a quick buck versus upholding company values?)
- When do you put your team’s needs above the customer’s?
- What does success look like? How is it rewarded? (Dig deep on this one. Go beyond your formal rewards and recognition programs: ask how people are treated.)
Step 2: Brainstorm company culture ideas and values
Based on the input you receive, define three to seven core values. Enlist help to brainstorm ideas: this must be a team effort. No idea is a bad idea; just write them down as they arise. When you’ve got a good list, group ideas by similarity, flesh them out a bit, add some definitions for clarity, and eliminate any that are repetitive or redundant.
We felt it important to focus first on our people when defining our values, rather than specific business objectives. After all, that is who the values are really for. We see them as a commitment from the business to everyone in it.”
-Tracy Davies, Chief Engagement Officer of F M Outsource
Step 3: Align with your mission and vision
Take a step back and evaluate your work. See where the values you have identified align with the company’s mission and vision. Eliminate ones that don’t.
Step 4: Lay the foundation for change
Get everyone’s input on this initial list of values. Use anonymous surveys, focus groups, and interviews to determine what values your workers want to identify most with.
Step 5: Look at your values as a commitment to your workers
Now that you’ve narrowed down your company culture ideas, consider whether you have the ability financially, operationally, and culturally to commit to them. Cross off any that are questionable.
Step 6: Finalize the new values and codify them
Once you’ve discovered your values and defined what they mean to your company, make a display of them. Print them out and hang them in the office. Have employees sign the values or do another type of display like finger prints on a canvas with the values.
Core values & company culture ideas
Microsoft started out as an innovative company and became the model for Silicon Valley’s legendary tech giants. Over the years, the company seemed to have lost the edge as Apple, Google and others shot past it. However, with the increasing focus on data privacy at tech giants, Microsoft has become an example of how to handle bad publicity and government scrutiny. It’s no surprise: one of their core values is corporate social responsibility; they report regularly on their progress.
There’s no magic formula for great company culture. The key is just to treat your staff how you would like to be treated.”
–Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Group
Netflix is a company that has seen astonishing growth yet is known for being a tough place to work. CEO Reed Hastings established a list of “real values” and instilled them into everything the company does. These values aren’t for everyone, but that’s the point: they attract the kind of people that make great employees. Netflix is one of the companies leading the way in reinventing streaming content. It produces award-winning shows and it’s an investor darling. (Link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/brettonputter/2018/12/04/netflixs-company-culture-is-not-for-everybody-and-thats-exactly-how-it-should-be/#69a5aa471880)
Core values can be measured in behaviors. If it’s a core value to keep things light and happy, you can absolutely require that behavior. If you need your folks to drop whatever they are doing to handle an irregularity with a client, don’t discipline them for missing a perfunctory meeting.”
–Jonathan Denn, Chief Thinking Partner at DRUMBEAT Productivity
Keys to success
Accurately capturing core values can be a challenging exercise. Don’t give up!
- Get as many employees involved as you can and still make progress. The smaller the company, the easier this is to do. If you can’t reasonably get everyone involved, then make sure to involve someone from every level. The broader a perspective you get, the better.
- Once you launch this effort, report in to employees regularly so they know what’s happening. This will also let them know how seriously you take it.
- Make a plan to support any changes that will be needed. Culture shifts can be challenging, even when everyone supports the change.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Contact us and let’s talk. We have years of experience guiding companies through the process of defining and improving company culture. Contact us for a free 20-minute consultation.
For more help regarding Company Culture, Employee Engagement and Relations, Performance Management, Leadership and Executive Coaching and Development, and all things “HR,” The Pendolino Group is here to support you and your team.