Establishing a Company Culture and Why It Matters

By Francesca Hill
27 June 18
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We’re sure you’ve heard at some point in your career happy employees make for happy customers. That’s where company culture comes into play.

The saying may be a cliché, and we hate to jump on the bandwagon, but they’re clichés for a reason.

Building brand ambassadors and loyalty starts internally. Employees are more willing to go the extra mile (last one, we promise) for companies where they are happy and treated well.

But how do you go about creating a culture where people are happy?

The simple answer is by intentionally focusing on your culture and making it a company priority.

Yeah, the simplest answers are sometimes the most complicated.

So, we’ve outlined not only why company culture should be a priority but also how to make it an actionable one.

Let’s get going on those trust falls!

Why Company Culture Matters

Company culture is how your employees view your company, your company’s goals, values, expectations, and environment – basically, the personality of your organisation.

How you define your personality obviously impacts your company internally but company culture also has significant external implications.

Developing a culture influences how your employees interact not only with each other but with customers and outsiders as well. It’s the foundation of behaviour.

People being happy at work = people staying longer & being more engaged = stronger company bottom line.

This isn’t simply some hippie dippie feeling stuff. We promise.

According to a study completed by the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick, happy workers are more productive than the average worker.

In fact, happy employees are 12% more productive than the average worker and unhappy employees are 10% less productive.

This discrepancy in work output costs American companies over $300 billion each year. Yup, $300 billion for unhappy employees.

And don’t worry, this isn’t just affecting American companies.

And it’s not only affecting productivity levels.

Creating an organisational culture where the staff feels engaged, involved and thus become loyal, also saves you in turnover costs. Replacing a highly-trained team member can set the company back by over 200% of that employee’s salary.

It also costs you in sick days, company value and co-worker relationships.

By developing a place where your employees feel they have a say in their workday and melding the culture to what works best for your team, and your organisation, you can create an engaged, happy atmosphere where people are happy to show up to daily!

How to Establish Culture

By now you’re biting your lip for your bottom line and understand the importance of establishing a solid work environment. But how do you build an “engaged” environment?

Bean bags and ping pong tables are all the rage, especially in creative agencies, but they don’t equate to culture. They can say something about your culture, “we’re laid back, relaxed and like to have fun with our work” but to execute on your ideals you need more than a free game room.

One study found that be satisfying people’s core needs – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being – employees were satisfied at work.

I know, we’re starting to sound like hippies again, but stay with us. The core areas hit on every aspect of the work environment and are the main areas you should focus on as you start building your culture.

The four core areas explained:

Physical: The chance to recharge at work. This includes the freedom to take breaks and stop work and come back to it.

Emotional: Feeling valued for your work. It involves other members and managers appreciating and calling out contributions.

Mental: Having the power to dictate your day. Being allowed to focus on the most important tasks and having the opportunity to get work done when and where you need to. In the study, those that felt they could focus on one task made them 50% more productive.

Spiritual: Focusing on strengths. It includes having the majority of your work center on what you do best and enjoy the most. It also includes feeling connected to the “higher purpose” – understanding how your role and what you’re doing fits into the overall organization.

The study found even meeting one of the core needs increased all performance areas and led to the team member being less stressed. The more of the core areas you fulfil, the better the performance metrics are, the more loyal the employee is and the less overall company turnover.

It’s a win-win for everyone.

Meeting the four core areas are the base of your company culture, now let’s work on implementing it throughout your organisation.

Treat People as People

No matter what specifics you decide with your culture, it starts with your people.

The people of your organisation will always be the driving factor in your culture. Without them, you have no organisation! And definitely no organisational culture.

Not everyone in your organisation will have the same management style, the same personality or the same work structure. Your culture raises above these differences though; it ties into the company’s overall mission to help determine why all these people choose to work at your organisation.

The four core areas show that when it comes down to it – we’re all fundamentally the same with the same needs to be fulfilled. Sussing out your mission and your company’s base values will help you to build upon these to bring out the best in each of your employees.

Create Values

The values are the base for your culture and your internal functions.

When establishing them, first things first, what matters the most to your company? Creating values helps everyone know and be on the same page. The organisational values are your company’s ideals and driving motivators. They play a pivotal role in shaping your culture.

It can be tempting when first starting out to have the ideals for your organisation in your head, and hope they carry through.

To really ensure they do, build company values.

When we talk about organisational values, please know we mean actionable, personalised ones. Not the kinds you see on motivational posters in waiting rooms. What’s important to your business?

Please don’t add your values to another inspirational poster a la 1980; unless of course that ties into your company, and then, by all means, you do you.

When you’re brainstorming your values, things to remember:

  • Don’t select too many values. No one will remember your list of 20 values that are highly important to you.
  • Make them ones that are fundamental to your company.

The values come down to what is most important to your company and how you function as a team.

The Skimm showcases their values on a mural in their office, incorporating their branding (yay) as well as their voice. No one said the company values should be boring.

we are team office wall at Skimm office, forty8creates blog post-build internal company culture

 

Every company is different and so their values will be as well; don’t try to copy another company’s approach. You have a different structure and different people.

Build Behaviours

From the values, you can establish behaviours.

This may sound crazy establishing behaviours from values but think about it. How do you want people to handle conflict in the office? Do you hold team acceptance in high esteem?

Looking back at the Skimm’s values wall, one of them is “we aren’t afraid to fail”. This implicitly sets the behaviour of “employees should be trying new things” – new ways to approach customers, new ways to design, new ways to communicate, heck, new ways to organise the fridge. They shouldn’t be afraid of saying no but they definitely shouldn’t be afraid of saying yes. And, most importantly, it’s ok if those new ways do not work, they tried, and they grew and learnt in the process.

See how much the values lead to behaviours?

Once you have your values in place, sit down as a team and think how you want these to translate to behaviours. As time goes on, reward team members who work by these behaviours – it will reinforce your culture and show you’re paying attention to what’s happening.

Communicate Everything

Values, check. Behaviours, check. We’re set forever, right?

There are bound to be changes to your company. But the values, mission and main goal will stay the same; how you reach them may fluctuate. To keep an engaged culture, communicate these changes openly, timely and efficiently.

Ah, communication. It’s the key to life, isn’t it?

There’s nothing that kills involvement (and can lead to more awkward situations) more than finding out a new team member is joining by them walking into the office. *Awkward silence*

Avoid making your members feel uninvolved and like they have no voice by communicating changes. The emotional needs will also help be fulfilled by making it so the whole team has a say and an opinion. For instance, with the new hire, by bringing that up at the beginning of the process, the whole team can brainstorm interview questions and have ideas of how the role can be structured. Co-workers will be more welcoming to a team member they know meets everyone’s criteria.

Likewise, open communication allows everyone to feel as though they can tell you when something is off. Not every decision will be the best one, and there will be times certain team members feel they can’t execute a project or a decision fully. They need to feel comfortable sharing the bad, and the good, so when an issue pops up, it can be fixed.

No matter your values, open communication is a core one.

Live Your Culture

You’ve spent all this time determining what really matters to your team to create company values and behaviours, and communicating their execution. So, uphold those values. Live by your mantras.

Setting up how you want your culture to look is one step but the bigger one is implementing it into the everyday life of your company. People spend the majority of their life at work, that can be a depressing fact if they aren’t happy there. Living the culture your team creates leads to a happier workplace.

Internal brand ambassadors, formal and informal ones, play a pivotal role in executing your culture. Internal brand ambassadors are the people who embody your brand and are passionate about your offerings. They get people excited about their work and company culture. 

Internal brand ambassadors could be the person in the company who knows everyone, they network with people on the manufacturing team, have lunch with people on marketing, and crack jokes with the developers. They may not be a formal “leader” of the company but they are a leader in their ability to connect with everyone. Utilise this to strengthen your culture across disciplines and sections of the company.

Value Trust

To keep the culture thriving, place importance on trust.

Trust plays a pivotal role throughout a company and, really, an organisation can’t thrive without it.

Trust weaves into every aspect of the business. You trust your employees are getting their jobs done, they trust their managers are leading the project correctly, everyone trusts the accountant is doing the books properly. Without trust, it’s like a stack of cards waiting to blow over.

The company culture is only as strong as the trust between employees and the organisation.

The Win-Win of Culture

As you’ve seen, company culture is more than an exploration of feelings. By building your employees up, your setting your company up for success. It’s no coincidence that “highly engaged business units achieve a 10% increase in customer metrics and a 20% increase in sales” – culture is implicitly linked to performance.

A strong company culture makes it a better place to work – allowing creativity to flow, building freedom to own tasks, and loyalty to get things done the best way possible – and makes it a better place for customers to shop.

We know it can be hard, and it may not be easy to find your perfect culture, but go about it as a team and tackle it together.

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