How to Walk the Walk When It Comes to Company Culture

May 1, 2016

Company culture is the phrase that’s currently on the tip of every executive’s tongue, but taking action against this concept has proved difficult for many. Many companies today are trying to build a great culture with policies such as flexible PTO, open communication, flat hierarchies, and an overall “startup” vibe.

No matter what you post on your Careers page or tout in your interview process, employees don’t have to search far for an honest opinion about what it’s really like to work at your company. Sites like Glassdoor and Indeed carry a wealth of information about the true working environments at many top companies. So while your LinkedIn company page might list working from home as a benefit, if your employees are saying that working from home is actually frowned upon, your false advertising will be easily uncovered by desirable candidates.

While building a great culture is important, you have to be realistic and only adopt policies that work for your company, industry, and employee population. If you’re not going to live it, don’t list it!

Implement Policies that Align with the Company

It may be tempting to stock up on craft brews or let employees work remotely, but these perks may not suit every company or every position within it. Jobs that require a high level of customer interaction may not be suited to offer flexible hours. If your company has software systems that can only be accessed on premises for security reasons, working from home may not be realistic either.

From a recruiting perspective, it may seem that offering competitive perks is a great idea. However, doing a “bait and switch” is only going to backfire as employees quickly realize that they are allowed certain privileges on paper that do not work in practice.

Lead by Example

As legendary coach John Wooden once said, “The most powerful leadership tool you have is your own personal example.” The entire company looks to senior leadership for guidance, meaning that if the CEO comes in most days in jeans, employees will feel comfortable following the company’s casual dress code. On the flip side, if your company has an open door communication policy on paper and the doors to the executive offices are usually closed, employees will take that as a signal that they are not actually welcome. Managers must make sure they are exemplifying the policies they want to uphold.

Be Careful of Only Rewarding for Results

It is often easy to praise the employee who has the highest sales numbers or closed the most deals, but in order to maintain a strong company culture, it’s also important to look at how he or she achieved those goals. If your top salesperson got to that spot by being a poor team player or otherwise ignoring your company’s core values, that behavior should not be celebrated.

Similarly, if you are trying to cultivate innovation, employees should be rewarded for suggesting new ideas, even if they fail. Anything that is rewarded will be repeated, and the next suggestion could be a big winner.

A Facelift is Only Skin Deep

Change is hard to implement within an individual, let alone a group. Many companies want to “increase collaboration” or “be more transparent.” However, simply changing the floor plan by removing walls and squishing everyone into the same room will not do the trick if the company’s policies, managers, and reward systems do not support a collaborative environment. Once these things are in alignment with your goals, if you really feel that the walls or seating arrangements are an obstacle, then by all means change them.

Similar to any other business plan, company culture takes planning, action, perseverance and consistency. Remember that it all starts with the right example set by leadership!

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