Company culture is a massive deal and should be permanently at the top of your business agenda. Why? Because it’s singularly responsible for building corporate reputation, team engagement and sustained productivity. It works in exactly the same way in a business setting as in a social one; as the backbone unifying a community of individuals.
Just as people engage with culture in their personal lives to enrich their sense of identity, so do they seek to harmonize those values with the companies they work for. Without a strong, considered culture, you stand to drive employees away and miss out on the best talent. Here’s exactly why company culture matters and how to build a really robust one.
Company culture is defined as the values, practices and beliefs shared internally by employees, staff and managers, and reflected externally to clients, customers, stakeholders and vendors. Think of it as the DNA of your corporation, informing behaviors across your entire team.
From hiring practices, to how people work on a day-to-day basis, to decision-making, to flexible policies—company culture often dictates the "rules" in perhaps unwritten but very real, tangible ways.
Without a strong company culture, you either end up with a general feeling of blandness—driving away excellent employees and failing to captivate prospective ones—or a clash of values and approaches within your team.
Many studies have shown that employees care about company culture, and that their relationship with it can make a big difference to their motivation at work. When workers don’t adapt well to a certain culture, they’re much more likely to either become disengaged or quit altogether. Meanwhile, if an employee adjusts well, they’ll contribute more, build better relationships with colleagues, and stay longer.
Additionally, when workers believe their contributions are valued and they’re acknowledged for hard work, their motivation to excel is elevated—even more so than employees who are better compensated.
If you’re still not convinced, here’s even more food for thought on the strength of company culture:
Happy employees are 12% more productive.
Companies that offer generous maternity and paternity leave enjoy better employee retention.
90% of employees believe their well-being programs positively affect work culture.
86% of employees between the ages 18-34 said they’d be more likely to take a job if it offered remote work options.
70% of variance between "lousy", "good" and "great" cultures can be found in the knowledge, skills and talent of the team leader.
Let’s focus on that last stat for a moment—that link between company culture, employee satisfaction and increased productivity.
The reason for this is simple:
Once you think about it, it really makes sense. Fostering a great business culture will not only increase employee happiness and productivity, but it will sharpen your edge when competing with other businesses for new talent. From your website and social media pages to recruitment site reviews, there’s a ton of public information on your company out there steering the decisions of your potential employees.
This is all very well, but what does a healthy company culture actually look like?
Google immediately springs to mind: 86% of its employees say that they’re satisfied with their jobs, and it’s one of the top companies to work for according to Glassdoor. Why? It largely comes down to flexibility: employees are encouraged to work when they like and how they like, which builds a huge sense of trust. They also prioritize collaboration, so much so that employees are encouraged to coach each other in the ‘Googler to Googler’ programme.
But they clearly also have interests outside of themselves. Google is know for its big philanthropic ventures, providing financial aid, volunteering time and just generally helping out where they can. They’ve nailed their public PR when it comes to broadcasting their company values far and wide.
You might also think of Mars, Inc. Their Five Principles—Quality, Responsibility, Mutuality, Efficiency and Freedom—unite and guide their corporate culture for more than 100,000 Mars Associates around the world. They, too, have translated their corporate culture message through great working policies and opportunities, including flexible working schedules, bring-your-dog-to-work programs and schemes such as the Mars Volunteer Program, which supports underprivileged communities.
While these are both corporate giants, with tremendous resources to publicly amplify their values, the foundations of good culture don’t require that. Ultimately, you just need to create a community that feels supported, represented, trusted and valued. Listen to what individuals need, offer useful and meaningful rewards, and create structures and policies to exercise your values.
Companies like Google and Mars, Inc. set the bar high, but keep in mind that company culture and employee happiness are a work-in-progress. There’s always more to do, since your team’s needs don’t exist in a vacuum. The real test of a strong culture is its ability to respond and adapt to change.
The best thing to do is to make culture as important as your business strategy. Constantly revisit it, keep discussions open and recognize everyone’s role in building it. While company culture is one of your most important responsibilities as a business leader, realize that it is not something that can be decided and imposed from above—you need to ensure everyone in your company has the opportunity to engage with it and shape it.