How do you create a great company culture?
I am reading Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh of Zappos and have read their 10 Core Values. I see that creating a strong culture early on is important, but interested in hearing how others have gone about starting to create a culture they think works for their business and at what point (with only 2 people, 5 people or 10 people?).
We have been helping leader build teams of employees and cooperative company cultures where people are engaged and committed to the organization's success. We have been doing this for 23 years. Tony was actually in our book, TIGERS Among Us: Winning Business Team Cultures and Why They Thrive. So, yes, Tony's culture is excellent. We focus on behaviors that build trust, interdependence, genuineness, empathy, risk assessment and success in the workforce. These behaviors make good common sense because they are experienced daily in how people treat one another, their goals, the company and customers.
This might be simplistic, but you have to start by hiring the right people. Surround yourself with people who are doing what you do for the same reasons you are doing it. People who share your core values and beliefs. This is not mutually exclusive with diversity, either. My company has about 15 people from various countries, cultures, skin colors, native languages, and skill sets. But we all believe in some of the same core values and we all got into this profession because we shared some common objectives.
Carrie - great topic and thoughtful consideration by you! I agree with what Steve has said in his comment and would only add that connecting that talent, at the individual level (1:1) to your organization's mission, by hearing their purpose and passion to deliver upon that mission, will help to organically create a strong company culture. Additionally, as the company grows, keep the purpose and customer central to all business functions but always allow individuals the freedom to align to that purpose (vs. legislating behavior) as that serves to engage individuals, leading to innovation and long-term retention.
I believe it works best to start on early Carrie. The founding members of a team makes a great base for any culture and then it grows up. Team understanding, fun activities, responsibilities, healthy discussions, surprise contests and employee benefits.. There can be good thoughts to employ considering what kind of company it is, nature of business and role of each employee. I'd love to hear good thoughts in this discussion. Following it..
Out of the gate, and it MUST come from the top down always. I have seen several mediocre business models flourish because of the drive, passion and engagement of the CEO, and I have also seen ideas fail miserably (or slowly) because the CEO is out to lunch. That said, work out of the gate at being a leader able to delegate where necessary, roll up her/his sleeves at any point in time, and it is a must that the leadership engage employees and make them feel they are the team creating the company. A CEO in a glass office is like a fish in a fish bowl.
After reading your topic today, I went down to the library and grabbed a copy of this book. So far it's lights out great! Thanks for recommendation. I love 'Google Culture' and really enjoy these answers so far.
Compassion. When the top Dog has compassion for herself, for her employees, vendors and clients, it ripples out. I don't mean kumbaya hugs, I mean focusing on each persons' experience and truly listing to their ideas, suggestions and insights. When the top leader shows through action that each member of the collective Team is valued and communication is clear, kind and direct, the rock stars deliver above and beyond, the bad apples leave, and the profits soar.
Everyone must buy into the vision and follow the lead and passion of the CEO. Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care, about them (employees and customers)
Culture starts from the top... a long time friend of mine became the new CEO of a company, in his first few days we developed a mantra which he used to restrict all expenditure and set a new focus.
Two questions were fired back to any executive asking for xyz or money or staff...
What does this do for customer service?
What does this do for product quality?
You can only do this when newly appointed but it sure worked wonders in creating a new focus.
I believe that there are three keys to creating a great culture.
1. Give regular and appropriate feedback. People need to know where they stand with their employer, especially in a small organization. The use of programs like talenteval.com can facilitate the process.
2. Invest in the skills of your people. In order for people to feel valued, they need to know that their employer cares about their success and their future. Find ways to invest in the professional skills of your people. This can be through seminars, training programs in-house, or outside consultants helping with company retreats or training days.
3. Engage their spirit. With smaller organizations, you need relational activities to gel you together. With larger organizations, you need relational activities at specific levels to gel your teams together. This can be in the form of team-building, attending fun activities together, even having dinner or a cook-out together. People don't quit their family and the ones that they trust.
I have written additional blogs on entrepreneurial and management success at www.jodynholland.com.
Organizational Communication Consultant
So many of the answers here are great, well thought out and I would venture, useful to you Carrie. But if I could add one more thing, Why do you ask? Why do you think the culture is important? And then, the most important question I believe..."Why and How does is fit into my company's vision?
I ask the last question because if the culture you would like to create is not aligned with the ultimate vision of the business then it won't work!
The key to creating a stong culture is to ensure HR policies, and business processes actually deliver the outcomes that meet, and are consistent with, the company core values. I had the privilege of being part of the start up HR team in a very politically controversial national compnay here in Australia and we had recruits from 2 completely opposite company cultures. We had to create a collaborative culture during ramp up for 300 to 900 employees over 6 months. A massive challenge and we made sure the best foundations werwe laid in this phase for the culture to develop from the beginning
Well first of all it is important to be genuine about whatever culture you want to bring about in your company. Don't just establish one because you think it would work. And yes, good idea to start early.(5-10 ppl)
For example, a company I worked for had a recreation room where you had a nice plasma TV, games like pool and foosball. Every employee could use it for half an hr everyday during working hours and longer than that if they had to stay back for office work. We had fun with this and loved it. It was a great stress-relief. Our bosses also used to join us for 20 minute matches from time to time.
You could do something like this for your company as well. Just be sure it is something you can take part in yourself.
I agree with a few of the comments here, culture must be started early on. Culture is what shapes the community of employees, clients, and fans. In the planning phase, I encourage clients to imagine the end-state of their culture, describing it in detail, brainstorming the characteristics they like and experience from other companies and how they can include those in their own organization. Another element to culture is language. Think about the names of your products and services. Are they bland and the same as your competitors? Or do they add value to the brand and to the story that you share?
Good luck- connect with me and we can discuss further if interested.
You should live your business culture. It infuses every aspect of business behaviour. The only way you cultivate a business culture is to be it.
First off you need to hire people that share the same values as the values of the firm. Best to write down what those are, then have professional assessments on every employee to help determine whether the employees actually share those values.
I would recommend the the assessments be professionally administered. The professional assessments will offer better interpretation as well as keep from violating discrimination laws.
Next, I would emphasize the importance of long-term relationships and very high value on employees and vendors. I would attempt to do business with as many local privaye and family owned businesses as possible (Localization). I would support local give back programs and include all employees in the effort. I would look to maintain a family culture that all employees can buy into. I would offer a discriminatory bonus structure. Lot's more, but you really need to live and breathe it.
Great question. Here is an article on culture that you might find helpful: