Over the last several years, much has been made in business weeklies and tech blogs about the emphasis on "company culture" prevalent among tech start-ups and other new companies. For many CEOs, the development of company culture is now seen as a top priority along with hiring stellar talent and setting forth company values.
So what is company culture, exactly? In today's marketplace, the concept of a company culture refers to the combination of many distinct factors that make up the experiences and impressions that managers, employees, and customers have of a business. These can include the environment that employees work in, the shared values that employees and managers build together, and how welcome and valued employees and customers feel with regard to a company's mission.
Take the Apple computer company, for example. With its "genius bar" repair shops, cutting edge retail stores, fun products, and campuses for workers that value positive reinforcement over workday drudgery, Apple has created the world’s first trillion-dollar company by rethinking the nature of business culture. Google, too, has a special approach - The Google Way of Motivating Employees.
So how do you set the tone for your own company's culture when hiring new talent? Here are just a few ways to make sure that you're creating a proactive environment for your business, and why such an environment can better help your employees to reach their potential.
At many companies where control over projects is only given to higher-ups, much productivity is lost due to micromanagement and negative reinforcement. When employees feel that their job is on the line every time that they make a simple mistake, for example, they're less likely to take risks or feel enthusiastic about their work.
As many studies have shown, this correlation between a negative atmosphere and low productivity is largely a result of the fact that negative reinforcement does not change the behavior of others. By creating a welcoming and rewarding atmosphere at your company, however, and by sharing a business philosophy and set of values with employees that truly takes their best interests into account, you'll not only have more productivity during the workday, you'll also have employees who are happy with and committed to their jobs. And in the long term, that will help your company to succeed.
As an exercise, try writing down your company's current values or even how you’d like your company’s values to look in the future. Include a description of how you plan to treat employees and customers well and create a positive environment for everyone involved in the process. Let recruiting agencies and hiring managers know about the kind of values you're seeking in potential employees, and explain the potential benefits that employees will have by choosing your company over others. When you understand what your goals and values truly are, you'll be better able to determine the direction you'd like to take your company in, and new employees will follow your lead.
In fact, by being the person that employees or customers can come to when they have a problem, you’ll be sure to make your company into a place where employees and customers feel trusted and valued. And when new employees realize that they’re part of a team that truly works together to accomplish a meaningful goal, you may find that your company can operate at levels beyond your wildest expectations.
If you've ever visited a Barnes and Noble bookstore, you've probably seen firsthand why the booksellers have outpaced so many of their competitors within the market. In a bid to make its company culture as welcoming as possible, Barnes and Noble executives made an intentional decision early in the company's development to make its customers feel relaxed and safe in each location, and by doing so, the company was able to earn the trust of many repeat customers who are dedicated to the company's high standard of service. It might be going a bit too far to let employees sit in an armchair and read all day at an office, of course, but as business owners, we can emulate the atmosphere of welcome and camaraderie that successful businesses such as Barnes and Noble use to create a great company culture.
For these reasons, establishing a company culture that incorporates themes of respect and shared values for employees doesn’t have to be a difficult proposition, even if it feels like a challenge at times. The truth is that there are many ways by which we can make employees and customers feel secure and welcome in a business environment; by delegating tasks to employees and then trusting them to complete the task on their own, by nurturing talent with positive reinforcement, and by creating core company values that keep teams going strong even when times are tough, we will be able to keep employees motivated and feeling valued, relaxed, and focused. And that is company culture done right!