A company culture is to a business what blood is to a body: invisible but essential. A company culture must be nourished, just like blood, and it needs to be spot-checked once in a while. The most valuable things a good company culture can deliver are:
- Productivity: It's well documented that happy employees are productive employees. Creating a culture that encourages participation and buy-in will increase output.
- Lower costs: Hirings and separations are expensive. Hanging on to good employees brings these costs way down. Also, companies with positive cultures tend to have fewer employee lawsuits, lower worker's-compensation costs and more satisfied customers.
- Balanced resources: Time and money, two resources businesses never have enough of, must be consumed judiciously. By defining its culture, a company is setting up de facto defaults for how these two rare resources are to be used.
Here are some steps you can take to help you define your company's culture:
Benchmark the big guys
Identify a large, successful company in your field and study the attributes of its company culture. Most large companies have this explained on their Web sites, sometimes called "corporate values" or sometimes within a mission statement.
Make your space
How an office is organized and outfitted can play a huge part in company culture. Investing time and money for quality furniture and a custom layout will encourage employees to live up to the goals you set.
Hire your type
Write your culture into your job descriptions.
SBA.gov offers a job description checklist. The Meridian Group offers an entire free section of its Web site on company culture, including hiring information.
- If you think company culture is not important, consider that respected business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce link a positive culture to high retention and successful recruiting.
- When designing your office, consider how necessary collaboration is. If your staff is primarily sales and is out with clients most of time, you may not need as much collaboration space as a research-based company.
- Design a benefits package that reflects your company culture. If "work/life balance" is an important part of your culture, for instance, consider extended paid time off for maternity and medical leaves and/or flexible hours.
- Don't overvalue company culture when it comes to assessing job candidates. If you have a list of eight attributes that support your culture, and the candidate meets five but has superior experience and skills, he or she probably is worth hiring. Think about how the person will fit into the balance of employees within the culture.