Archives For Corporate Culture

When you think of great corporate cultures, places like Google are the benchmarks. The praise they get for their employee-centric perks would have you believe that opening your checkbook and scheduling an appointment with Willy Wonka is all it takes to have a great corporate culture. Unfortunately, it’s not easy. You can’t just focus on the ping-pong tables and catered lunches and think, “We should be doing that too!”

Managing Your Corporate Culture

What works for Google may not work for your company. You need to look past the amenities to understand the reasons behind having them there in the first place. Companies that truly have a great corporate culture understand that it is not something that you can buy from a catalog and have installed in your office over a long weekend.

True corporate culture is organic; it’s nurtured by the relationships that exist within your company. If you want to manage your corporate culture, you first have to manage these relationships.

Facilitate collaboration between employees:

Companies today are gung-ho about creating the type of congenial atmosphere that blurs the line between workplace and lounge. It might look like these places are just designed solely to cater to our inner kids, but really, they exist to get their employees to interact with each other. These companies pack their offices with diversions and design their spaces with open layouts in order to minimize the barriers between employees. An office with no barriers is an environment conducive to collaborating, and collaboration is a must for a great corporate culture.

You don’t want the type of workplace where employees just show up, keep their heads down, and leave at 5:00p.m. There’s an emotional toll being paid for working under those conditions, which, in turn, hurts employee morale and engagement at work. Studies show a positive correlation between engagement and performance, so you want to encourage the type of workplace that feels open and welcoming, not one that feels oppressive and stifling.

These poisonous workplaces are also a waste of a valuable opportunity. Collaboration, at its most basic, is just the exchange of ideas. One person has a thought on their mind and shares it.  Maybe she finds others with similar thoughts. Maybe someone hears her idea and creates a solution. Or maybe it goes nowhere but just serves as a reminder to others that they can bring up their own ideas too.  But without the freedom and opportunities to collaborate, what happens to those ideas? They wither away.

A corporate culture that encourages collaboration encourages these moments of creativity and brain-storming. You don’t need to force employees to have buzz-wordy, idea-generating meetings; just give them the freedom to meet face-to-face with each other and talk, and the results will speak for themselves. Once employees understand that these opportunities are there and that you’re receptive to the ideas that flow from them, they will take advantage of it. A collaborative environment is one of those things that once it gets going, turns into a perpetual motion machine; it will run on its own until an outside force stops it.

Create a dialogue between management and staff:

The relationship between managers and the people they manage is inherently imbalanced. Usually managers just tell the people under them what to do and that’s the only direction communications travel in that relationship. Companies with a great corporate culture have moved past that archaic dynamic. One-way communication between managers and the people reporting to them is damaging to corporate culture. It ruins morale and robs companies of a very important perspective from the people on the ground floor.

Just because someone is a manager, doesn’t mean they can’t or shouldn’t listen to the people who report to them. Who knows more about current conditions with suppliers, customers, products, and other employees than the people who interact with them every day? Your managed employees have a unique vantage point by being on the ground, and can see things that would be invisible to the managers perched on high. That’s why companies with great corporate cultures make it a priority to mine their own people for information and feedback.

If you want to kick your corporate culture up to the next level, embrace that dialogue. Your management team shouldn’t seem unapproachable or hostile to feedback from their employees, even if that feedback is about them. And not only should you beCoporate Culture open to these conversations, you should actively seek them out. Feedback is the name of the game, and whether it’s coming from clients, customers, or employees, you can bet that it’s going to reveal things that you and your management team overlooked or would have never seen.

In addition to being insightful, that two-way communication also serves to add value to every position in the company. It’s very easy to think that you’re a just lowly call center rep when nothing you say, hear, or think will impact the company in a meaningful way. But if you had the ears of the people you report to, suddenly that job is as important to the company’s success as anyone else’s. You know that you have the opportunity to offer feedback that could change the company at its very core. That kind of pride in your job is what creates the levels of engagement that top companies spend good money trying to force.

Reevaluate how your corporate culture can serve your employees:

The final relationship that impacts your corporate culture reflects the value the company puts into the employee. You can look at your employees as either cogs or investments. If they are cogs, then they are replaceable pieces, designed to perform a specific function, that keeps your company running. This line of thinking is dehumanizing and anathema to a good corporate culture.

If they are investments, then they are something that you expect to devote resources to in order to improve them and increase your return. This line of thinking is what leads to type of corporate culture that employees boast about and competitors copy.

Like other types of investments, once you understand that you can increase your return by improving the core piece, you’ll start to view your employees in a different light. You’ll want to understand who they are, what motivates them, and what they need to be as successful as possible in your company. If you want that top-notch corporate culture, your thinking is going to need to evolve in a way that recognizes the challenges and obstacles in your employees’ lives, and helps alleviate them.

That’s why some companies that take the time to understand the challenges of being a parent offer daycare services, or flexible schedules that allow parents to work around their child’s schedule. That’s why companies that take the time to understand the challenges of emerging technologies will pay for their employees to attend seminars and receive training in those new technologies.

The point of shifting the dynamic of the relationship from “cog in the machine” to “investment in your portfolio” isn’t to do nice things for your employees out of the goodness in your heart; it’s to set your employees up to be as successful as possible in your company. That’s a win for you as well since you benefit directly from a better-trained, more-skilled employee.

Treating them like cogs leaves no room for professional growth. It leaves no room for them to develop into better, more skilled employees. It only leaves them trapped in their predefined space until they either move on or breakdown. When the company-employee relationship is operating the way it should – where the employee is treated like someone the company wants to prosper – both of those outcomes become much less likely.

Back to Google — is their corporate culture the amenities it provides or are the amenities it provides the result of their corporate culture? I say it’s the culture that leads to the amenities. The interpersonal relationship that Google wants to encourage are what make those amenities work. If you want to build a great corporate culture, you cannot focus on the bells and whistles of your workplace – that will come later. Instead, you need to focus on nurturing relationships within your company.

Employees need the freedom and encouragement to collaborate with each other, for the sake of morale and innovation. Managers and the employees they manage need to have an open communication channel that takes into account the perspectives from both sides. The company needs to embrace the idea that employees are an investment that need resources to maximize their personal and professional growth. There’s no checklist for pieces you need to have for a great corporate culture, but if you keep these goals in mind, your version of a great corporate culture will develop on its own.

In the first part of this article on the skills gap myth I explained how to overcome the skills gap myth by increasing the size of your talent pool.  But getting more candidates into the pool isn’t the only way to address the skills gap.

There’s a reason the “skills gap” isn’t called the “skills void.” Technically, you can find qualified candidates for every skill set imaginable.  There’s just a lot of competition between employers for those talented few.

The companies that do the best in these competitive industries are the ones who are the best at snatching up and retaining those skilled employees. It’s not luck that allows them to retain their talent; it’s a focused effort to make their company more appealing.

skills gap myth - corporate culture matters

Watch for the Culture Gap

Google isn’t struggling to attract programmers because programmers want to work for Google.  Google has done an amazing job of creating a corporate culture that people want to be a part of – they understand what their ideal employees want and they deliver it.  If you can create that kind of culture at your company, your perception of the skills gap will change too.

If you’re struggling to bring on new talent or are hemorrhaging the talent you do have, then it’s probably because your company is losing this culture battle. Fix that: Examine your company culture and see what new ideas you can implement to make your company more attractive to candidates. If your company stands out as a great place to work then you’ll attract more of the available talent.

Conceptualization Gap

The conceptualization gap is the discrepancy between what it takes to get the job done and what you think it takes to get that job done. A dentist with a background in home appraisals? A social media marketer with 20 years of experience?
 
As absurd as these examples are, they are no different than packing on a list of unnecessary requirements for your job. When you have a tight candidate pool, there’s no reason to cut candidates for not possessing skills you don’t need from them.  Your first priority in hiring is to bring on someone who can do the job. If you need extra qualifications just for kicks, then you’re needlessly disqualifying candidates.  A near-perfect candidate has three years of experience instead of five? So what?
 
Even the wording in your job app betrays the conceptualization gap.  Today’s job descriptions are full of vague terms about intangible traits that aren’t critical to do the job.  In fact, it does the exact opposite because every candidate ends up believing that description fits them.
 
Think hard – are all your requirements essential to doing the job and do they truly qualify applicants?  If not, you need to retool the job description to focus on the actual skills you need to have the job done right.

Compensation Gap

While the other gaps point out how you’re not making the most of your current, dwindling candidate pool, this gap is about why that pool is shrinking to begin with.

There’s a reason why through-out history we see spikes in education and specialization in certain areas. It’s usually the professions that pay well.

Many of the industries that are suffering from the skills gap used to serve as the backbone of America’s blue-collar middle class. So what happened over the last 40 years that dissuaded people from pursuing those careers? Those workers stopped being able to support a family on those wages. The outgoing crop of skilled workers came into their industries earning enough to afford a mortgage and car loan, with enough left over for vacation and retirement. What are the prospects for the replacements you want to bring in?

But the compensation gap isn’t just about paying skilled candidates more. It’s also about paying what it would take to draw your ideal candidates away from other industries.

How much would it take to get a mechanic to change industries and join your team? How much would it take to get that high school student to pass on culinary school and join your apprenticeship program instead? It’s those questions that will set you on the path to closing the “compensation gap” and attracting the quality candidates that you want.

The gulf between skilled jobs and qualified candidates is often seen as a sickness, when in fact it’s a symptom of poor hiring practices. Don’t just treat the symptoms! Employers are the ones who stand to benefit the most from curing the sickness, so the onus is on you to find and take the right prescriptions.

Focus on what you need to make your business the best business it can be, for you and your employees, and you’ll see just how ephemeral that “skills gap” is. And if you’re still having trouble, take two Elements and call us in the morning…☺.

While “Corporate Culture” as an idea can often seem nebulous, having your corporate culture defined is far more important to your business and your employees than you might realize.

Darius Mirshahzadeh, President and Co-Founder of Endeavor America Loan Services, said in a recent Forbes article, “Consider your employees your first level of customers.”  In business, the customer is number one. Considering your employees your first level of customer puts a heavy emphasis on why corporate culture is important for your business’ success. Here are a few reasons why creating corporate culture is necessary for finding and keeping talent in today’s job market:

Employees that Want to Stay

corporate culture definedWhen your corporate culture is poorly defined, your odds of making a hire that stays with your company for less than a year are higher. In a study done by the University of Western Ontario, the results showed that, “commitment was greater among employees who thought that the organization considered relationship-oriented… values to be important.”

In other words, employees working for companies with a cultural emphasis on building relationships felt more committed to their companies. If they’re going to spend 40+ hours per week in a place, employees want to know that they fit in.  Having your corporate culture defined keeps employee morale high and increases productivity, which brings us to our next point.

A Productive Company is a Happy Company

Where corporations have a tendency to fall short, culturally speaking, is investing in getting their employees to invest in the company itself.  By creating corporate culture that promotes mutual investment – of the business in its employees and vice-versa – a relationship is established of mutual value. No person, inside or outside of work, wants to disappoint someone they value.

When company culture is defined, the sense of camaraderie is high and draws employees in to caring about their work, which has clear advantages for the corporation itself.  Noting the table from Forbes below from you can clearly see the drastic difference between a company’s financial growth when comparing companies with strong “Performance Enhancing Cultures” and those without:

Average Increase for Twelve Firms with Performance-Enhancing Cultures Average Increase for Twenty Firms without Performance-Enhancing Cultures
Revenue Growth 682% 166%
Employment Growth 282% 36%
Stock Price Growth 901% 74%
Net Income Growth 756% 1%

Invested Employees Garnish a Good Corporate Reputation

You may have heard from us over here at New-Hire about the importance of online reviews, in places like Glassdoor and Indeed, for being competitive in the job market.  Every company is vulnerable to criticism, both from disgruntled former employees and from competition.

However, when employees are invested in their company, they will want to make the company look good across all mediums. They will tell their family and friends how great it is to work there, and when asked, they will definitely write a good review. So, now that you know some of the important ways having a corporate culture defined can benefit you, how do you find your corporate culture?

What’s Your Mission Statement?

Take a look at what your corporation is trying to accomplish, not in terms of what you are literally doing or selling, but rather in terms of what you are putting out there as your corporate values.  Regardless if you are a high-powered private equity firm or a small, mom-and-pop grocery store, the face you present to the public should be congruent with your mission statement, which will help define your corporate culture.

corporate culture defined

Live that Missions Statement

While finding your mission statement can take a bit of creativity, making sure you bring your mission statement to life is basically the corner stone of having a corporate culture.  Find ways to let that mission statement permeate your corporation’s daily function, whether that means being flexible with your employees’ schedules to show that you value work/life balance, or by offering a corporate phone, computer, or car to show you want to make sure they have all the tools they need to be successful.

Finally, Let Your Corporate Culture Be Fluid

It is important to keep certain aspects of your corporate culture staunchly in place, especially as your business grows.  However, as our day to day lives change with technological advancement and changes in our families and goals as employees, it’s important for your corporate culture to have wiggle room for those changes.  Some corporate cultures rely on hard workers and incentivize their employees accordingly to keep them from burning out, but if one of those 70-hour-per-week employees starts a family, their values will more than likely change.

It is important for the corporate culture, defined as it may be, to allow for life changes without making an employee feel as though they have to find a new job because they no longer fit the exact mold as all their coworkers.  As we all know, seasoned employees, more often than not, have value in and of themselves and it won’t help your corporation to have a corporate culture defined so strictly that it doesn’t allow life to happen.

The task ahead of finding your corporate culture may be a challenging one, but take the time to really hash out the details and instill these values into your office.  You’ll find it’s well worth the effort!

The term “Core Values” has been so overused that it has almost become meaningless.  But the reality is that a handful of timeless, fundamental principles of behavior tell everyone in your company what it means to be part of the organization.  These principles are the foundation of your company’s culture – the shared understanding of who we are as a group of human beings, and what’s most important to us.

core values

Take a look at the following set of Core Values, which come from a wildly successful San Francisco-based maker of ‘green’ cleaning products called Method.

  • Keep Method weird.
  • What would MacGyver do?
  • Innovate, don’t imitate.
  • Collaborate like crazy.
  • Care.

If you’re like me, as soon as you read them, you knew immediately whether you would fit in this company or not.  And if you went to work there, you would have clear guideposts by which to steer every day.

Great Core Values (which Method’s certainly are) help everyone know what binds them together as people.  They usually tell us nothing about the industry the company is in.   They set the most important standards for how people are expected to operate in the company.  If you get your Core Values right, they will attract the right people to the company and repel people who aren’t a good fit.  Additionally, they will help your people make the right decision when things are unclear.

Who wouldn’t want that?  The question is how to make it happen.  To make your culture come alive, follow these four simple (but not easy!) steps:

1) Figure out what your real core values are — the principles of behavior that will get you fired if you violate them.  They already exist in your business – you just need to uncover them.

2) Get rid of the motherhood, the apple, pie and the aspiration.  Values like honesty and integrity are table stakes.  You don’t need to articulate them because every company shares them.  Likewise, claiming values that you wish your company had, but that it doesn’t have today, will tell your people that you are not sincere.  People can smell the lack of authenticity a mile away.  It disengages and even alienates them.  Make sure your values are both differentiating and real.

3) Communicate your Core Values clearly, consistently, and often.  Use every opportunity to ensure that everyone knows what they are and understands what they mean.  The best way to do this is by telling stories about situations in which someone did a great job living a particular value.

4) Make your Core Values the first thing that you consider in every people decision you make – hiring, firing, promoting, rewarding, and recognition.

The benefits of “Getting your culture right” are enormous.  Your people will be more engaged and will naturally row in the same direction.  In turn, this means that the amount of managing you do will decrease.  Your people will trust each other more, which will lead to faster, better decisions.  Those decisions will be focused on what’s best for the company, not on politics and hidden agendas.

These four steps are simple.  That doesn’t make them easy.  But if you follow them, I promise that your culture will become clearer and stronger, and soon will be a powerful asset that propels your company toward the achievement of your dreams.


Dan WallaceDan Wallace is a founding partner of Tailwind Discovery Group, LLC.  A graduate of the Harvard Business School, Dan has served as a strategy consultant, investment banker, and as a counselor and adviser to many business owners.  He also has successfully run three businesses.  He helps business owners and leadership teams put in place tools and processes that create a solid foundation for effective leadership, management and success.