Either you create a company culture, or it creates itself. But why leave something so crucial to chance? World class leaders are recognising that creating a great culture attracts and retains the best talent for your organisation. If you can develop a clearly defined and lived culture, you’re more likely to have employees who feel happy and valued at work. These are the employees who will keep delighting your clients and keep growing your business and your profits.
What is company culture?
You may have seen pictures of Google Headquarters and wonder how you could replicate the award-winning culture Google is renowned for if you can’t turn your current office into a space that resembles an indoor theme park. But culture is far more than a swanky office and staff perks; it’s rooted in your company values and vision. Your company culture is what shapes the conduct and behaviour of your people. It takes the positive things your company talks about and embeds them into the actions of everyone in your organisation.
How much difference does company culture really make?
It may be obvious that creating a great place to work is going to have a few benefits. It’s easier to attract the best people in the industry for your roles, right from the most senior leadership level. Salary is no longer a key driver for people switching jobs, with only 19% giving that as their main reason in a recent survey. 24% said they made the move because they didn’t feel the company culture and values were aligned with them and 33% didn’t feel suitably challenged; a culture centred around your people will stop the brightest and best jumping ship for a relatively insignificant pay increase.
But a strong culture goes way beyond supporting your employee attraction and retention strategy. There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that financial performance is directly linked to employee engagement and satisfaction, and investors are increasingly looking at employee engagement as a future indicator of financial results. In his book, Corporate Culture and Performance, Kotter found there was a distinct correlation between strong company cultures and business growth (including revenue, stock price and net income). 12 companies with a performance-enhancing culture demonstrated an average of 682% revenue growth over an eleven-year period, in comparison to twenty companies without this type of culture, who experienced only 166% growth. If creating a great culture can make this much difference to your bottom line, can your business afford to overlook it?
Isn’t culture just an internal matter?
It used to be the case that you only knew what a company was really like to work for if you already worked for them, or perhaps if you directly knew someone who did and they trusted you enough to be honest about it. Now, you’re never more than a few words typed into a search engine away from getting a good idea of the inner working life of an organisation. You can no longer ignore what your employees are saying on social media. People may not name where they work on their social platforms, but they’ll probably have a good (and worse, regular) vent about it if they don’t have a great working environment and a strong culture. But why does any of this matter? Think about the people you know; you don’t need to be close friends with someone to know where they work. Whether they name the business or not, there’ll be plenty of people who know their employer. Instead of being spokespeople for the business, these employees are damaging the brand. 50% of employees post on social media about their employer. That’s a lot of credible voices, reaching a lot of people.
If you create a great culture, you’re creating a brand that people want to be associated with. Engaging your employees through social media helps to share your positive culture. Great news about your brand and values that’s shared by happy employees not only reaches more potential employees and gives you a greater chance of attracting the right people for your business, but it’s also reaching potential customers and clients. If you treat your employees well, potential customers will trust you more to look after them. A great culture gets people talking and strengthens your brand way beyond your internal walls.
What about senior leaders?
Great leaders build a great culture, and a great culture builds great leaders. In other words, you need your existing senior leadership team to embody your culture 100% because they will strengthen the culture going forward, and this culture will, over time, develop more of the future leaders your business needs. When it comes to attracting new leaders, now that people are driven by more than salary alone, you need a strong culture to set you apart and give the best talent the desire to work for your business. They’re going to play a significant role in perpetuating your culture going forward; that’s why it’s vital to have the right culture that attracts the right leader.
So, where do I start?
Creating a strong culture begins with three things; establish your company values and vision, define the culture you want and understand the culture you already have. Everyone in your organisation needs to know why you exist, where the business is going (vision) and the beliefs and behaviours that will take you there (values). That’s the foundation of your culture. Here at TS Grale, we’ve built our culture on integrity, commitment, honesty and innovation. Our business is people, so our focus is people. As well as offering our team comprehensive training and development programmes, we support corporate and social responsibility through charity work and volunteering. Because this is the kind of culture we’ve grown, we attract people that align with our beliefs as a company.
Rolling out cultural changes isn’t easy; you’re not changing what people say, you’re changing what they do. That’s why you need a well-aligned leadership team behind you and a plan. But you can’t have a plan without knowing where you’re starting from and where your destination is. Spend time observing and analysing your people, their interactions and the physical working environment. Once you know what needs to change to move towards your cultural goals, you can put actions and timescales in place to achieve those goals.
A great culture sets you apart from your competitors on many levels. It won’t happen overnight, and it will never be a finished product; it’s the human element of your business that will always need nurturing. Get it right, and you’ll reap the lasting rewards.