‘Culture’. We’re not talking about high-brow art galleries and opera here – or even mysterious organic matter cultivated in a petri dish. We’re talking about the common values, beliefs, attitudes and assumptions shared by the people in your organisation: the things that consciously and unconsciously define the character and personality of your business – the ‘vibe’ it projects.
As a start-up you probably found your culture and vibe established itself quite naturally, reflecting the ambitions and values of the founder(s) and becoming a bonding ethos without having to define or force it.
When your business starts expanding, however, culture gets trickier. Key beliefs and attitudes previously a ‘given’ now need to be written down and shared, before they become diluted amongst a larger workforce not ‘in on it’ from the beginning. And with culture sitting at the very foundation of long-term success, it’s vital you make things explicit sooner rather than later on your growth journey.
Not another corporate buzzword
An inspiring workplace culture isn’t – contrary to some high-profile examples – a case of on-trend bean bag break-out rooms, table football and self-regulated duvet days. Far from a trendy business fad, a defined culture is essential to the successful growth of your company, with a whole raft of big-win benefits:
- It ensures consistency across the organisation as you grow, keeping the business true to its original ethos.
- It promotes a healthy work environment – a workforce united by genuine shared beliefs and goals with be more highly engaged, productive, and likely to stick around.
- It’s vital in hiring, guiding you to attract the right talent and hire people who gel right into your teams. It might be tempting to hire the person with the perfect skill-set, but culture fit is far more important – the cost of a hiring someone who doesn’t fit and leaves within months can be huge, so get it right first time.
- It sets you apart from competitors – you might be offering a similar product or service, but define and embody a unique culture and you’ll find you stand out for the right reasons.
How to crack your culture long-term
Culture is not merely a nebulous sense of ‘the way we do things around here’. Great workplace cultures don’t happen by accident. They need to be defined by an organisation’s founders and leaders, but with input from the rest of the team. Your culture should be purposeful, representing your vision for how your company should operate, and embodying your beliefs and ethos. Think about culture as you would about brand – a brand for your internal employee behaviour.
- Clearly define your culture. Write it down and communicate it to every employee. Create a ‘culture deck’ like industry leaders such as Netflix and Hubspot (click the links to read theirs). These are written in an engaging style for presentation to the workforce but don’t pull any punches in setting out their ethos and expectations.
- Align your culture with your mission and values. You may already have these written down – translate them into corresponding attitudes and behaviour and bingo, you have your culture.
- Involve your employees, tapping into their perspective. Ask them what is special about working in your organisation, what they love about it and what they feel sets it apart. Check-in regularly to sense whether things are changing as your business expands.
- Don’t bury your culture in an HR handbook as an empty tick-box exercise. Culture needs to be lived and breathed across your organisation, role-modelled by leaders and managers, referred to in everyday conversation and included in onboarding and continuing staff training. It also needs to be updated over time as your business scales.
Feeling daunted by some of this when you already have the rest of the business to juggle?
Get Willow & Puddifoot on board and we’ll work with you and your people to comprehensively capture your culture. From compiling an engaging culture deck to training your managers to embody your culture every day. We’ll help you nurture and promote a valuable and effective culture to support and strengthen your business at the next level.