What is company culture?
Let’s start with the basics: what does it mean that a company has a “culture”? From a business perspective, having a well-defined company culture is a big advantage of which more and more companies are aware. Hence the growing interest in this topic: as stated in the Deloitte report, 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is important to business success. In addition to that, Forbes stated that companies with strong cultures saw a 4x increase in revenue growth!
Lynn Walder, who’s been working with a number of executives at different stages of their companies’ growth states that:
Culture is ultimately defined by the desired behaviors that leadership clearly and consistently communicates and then holds themselves and their employees accountable towards.
What does it mean for you? Well, with plenty of companies offering similar salaries, benefits, and career paths, it’s all up to the meaning behind their actions: why they do what they do, what they strive for, and what their short and long term goals are. Having it all figured out allows not only to respond properly to a crisis but also to constantly grow and not get off the pursued path.
All of that finds a reflection in an employee turnover rate, the quality of collaboration with clients, and much more. We’ll talk about it later in the article – for now, let’s focus on what makes an outstanding company culture.
A strategic approach to company culture
A culture is, without a doubt, a vast and complicated topic that covers a plethora of factors. To quote The Business Dictionary,
Organizational culture includes an organization’s expectations, experiences, philosophy, as well as the values that guide member behavior, and is expressed in member self-image, inner workings, interactions with the outside world, and future expectations. Culture is based on shared attitudes, beliefs, customs, and written and unwritten rules that have been developed over time and are considered valid.
Employer branding is a derivative of company culture and requires a strategic approach. Much like you should base your actions on service and product-related strategy, you need to plan your activities dedicated to creating a welcoming workplace.
Singling out all elements of a comprehensive strategy deserves its own article so for now, let me focus on what makes it great:
- a set of values that reflects your company’s vision, describes what drives you, and defines who you are both as an employer and a business partner;
- EVP (Employer Values Proposition) that showcases all the perks of working in your company, such as benefits, compensation, or the opportunities for professional growth;
- SWOT analysis which helps you assess your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, thus allowing you to improve accordingly;
- detailed analysis and design of employee/candidate experience, e.g. procedures regarding onboarding or offboarding;
- internal and external communication strategy.
A good strategy comes from people – it’s based on talking with them, listening to their opinions and needs, as well as getting to know the values they cherish. The most important point is to find a common ground between the needs of people, trends, business goals, and the strive for company development. You need to cultivate a culture that not only combines all those aspects but also is clear and understandable.
If you impose the finished strategy on people, you can be certain that they won’t connect with it. It’s also crucial to say that working on the strategy can’t happen behind closed doors. Now is not the time to meet up with managers only leaving out the rest of the employees. If you plan to proceed this way, you may not bother.
Rather than being only the subject of presentations, your culture should shine through your actions.
Organization culture shows in the office space as well
Great Employer Branding may include integration, but there’s so much more to it. You need to have tough conversations about the things people find bothersome, the things they love about the company, their hopes, and their worries about the workplace. Only then can you be sure that you know your employees and that you’re ready to prepare great integration. Check out my last article to learn how we took care of it while working remotely!
Is it worth it?
Talking with people, organizing workshops, and looking at your company through the magnifying glass sound like a costly process, doesn’t it? The question is whether businesses can afford to ignore the benefits of strong company culture and employee engagement. In her article on how we manage to keep low employee turnover, Kasia, our HR Team Leader mentioned Shawn Achor’s research, which shows that
a happy team is capable not only of raising sales by 37% but also of increasing its productivity by 31% and accuracy on tasks by 19%.
In addition to that, as Anthemos Georgiades, the CEO of Zumper, said himself:
Whereas competitive salaries and stock options are important for retaining your talent, it’s the organizational culture that keeps the best people at the best companies.
So if you want to retain the best of the best in your company (among other perks of great strategy), you better get to work! FTSE Russell, which annually curates the list of FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For, found out that the companies which took care of their culture had the most commercial success! Their performance was influenced by relations with employees and was shown in the improved stock performance. And which company doesn’t want to achieve that?
How does the company culture mean to employees
As stated above, fulfilled employees don’t want to change work. If they feel taken care of, are connected with the culture of their company, and know it allows them to grow on a personal and professional level, why would they look for another place to work and risk losing all of that?
Internal workshops and after-hours events help employees focus on their skills and interests
So, what exactly makes employees happy? It depends. Just as every company is different, every employee is different too. You need to figure out what makes them tick when working on your strategy and talking to your hires in person. There are, however, some universal factors that influence the employee experience, such as:
- culture of feedback;
- space for personal growth and learning;
- leadership with advanced managerial and soft skills;
- diversity and inclusion within the company.
It’s only a small portion of the ways a company can influence its employees besides paying them. Everything you do, starting from onboarding, through plans for personal development, and ending on relationships with previous employees is seen and remembered. That’s why culture matters: if it’s well-thought-out and the basis of every activity you undertake, there’s a smaller chance for errors.
The importance of management within your company culture
Let’s face it, a majority of employees don’t work closely with C-level management. They are, however, in constant communication with their leaders and experience company culture in that way: through small acts in daily communication. That’s why it’s extremely important that leaders are equipped with the tools on how to cultivate company culture (i.e. culture of feedback). After all, if you know that they have your back, you’re not afraid to share your concerns and hardships which, if not taken care of, could result overall in a higher turnover rate.
What other parts of great company culture have an impact on its employees? Without a doubt, internal and external communication. It’s no small feat to communicate important internal messages. That’s why it’s crucial to have a plan.
When working on our own strategy, we put our heads to it and identified the strong and weak points of our communication, as well as channels preferred by our coworkers. In the end, we were able to come up with a scheme that makes communication easy and enjoyable for everyone involved. In addition to classic memos, we also know (because we asked and therefore defined it as one of our core values) that Merixstudio has a strong culture of knowledge sharing, both internally (i.e. lighting talks, team workshops), and externally (meetups, presentations on conferences, articles, podcasts).
Knowledge sharing is important to us. Here you can see a variety of photos from our meetups
How do you know that you’re doing a good job of maintaining positive company culture? First of all, by measuring the aforementioned employee turnover but also by conducting satisfaction surveys and allowing employees to give their feedback. Another indicator of a great culture is when you have an employee referral program that works. Nothing screams “I love this place!” more than employees recommending it to their acquaintances. And if you ask any HR Manager, you know that’s one of the best ways to hire someone - you’re more likely to apply for a job that’s recommended to you by someone you trust!
What does the company culture mean to your cooperation with an IT partner
I already gave you some stats and arguments for taking care of your culture from the employer’s perspective. If you’re still not convinced, let’s talk about the business point of view.
When attending Web Summit 2019 with my colleagues, I was lucky to watch the conversation featuring Gillian Tans of Booking.com, Simon Segars, Adaire Fox-Martin of SAP, and Mark Scot. During the panel they talked about how to hold true to your company's core values and not just pay them lip service.
They rightly stated that culture is extremely important when your company is experiencing fast growth, especially when it comes to putting together whole new teams. Without a coherent culture, they can fall apart as fast as they were assembled – all because new employees won’t feel the connection with their new employer. Company culture can’t be imposed but confronted with the personal values of employees to see how they identify with them.
During their conversation (which I highly recommend watching), the speakers also observed that when the company culture is strong, it affects not only employees but also processes related to their work, the already mentioned feedback culture, employee development, cooperation, etc. In short, it influences the project work.
This influence doesn’t go without notice. When working with you, clients see the payoff of great culture in how their projects go. From workshops and to the development process and product release, they can see and experience how in your company there’s a place for employees to listen to both clients and their colleagues, how people share their expertise in various fields, or how they respect each collaborator. Good cooperation between hires translates into good cooperation between employees and clients. How do we know that? Because that’s what we were told by our clients:
When you foster a positive culture of your organization, you can ensure that your employees stay with you for longer, have a bond with your company, and want to work on its development and success with you. The result of taking care of culture can only be positive: doing that, you’ll achieve higher engagement, lower turnover, and will see the increase in overall quality of work.
The Glassdoor’s report on Company Culture states that being named a Best Place to Work is associated with a 0.75% stock jump. Also, thirteen companies from Fortune’s list of 100 Best Companies to Work For achieve higher average annual returns: instead of 170% (Russel 3000) and 156% (S&P 500), they see cumulative returns of 495% instead of 170%.
We know how important it is for your business partners to maintain stability within the project team. They value a team that’s experienced, well-integrated, and constant. When introducing a new teammate to an ongoing project, you risk confusion when it comes to understanding the work of their predecessor, the need to explain to someone the things that were discussed at the workshop, and much more. Such things take time, generate additional costs, and hinder achieving the best final effect.
But the great company culture doesn’t only show to current business partners! It can also attract new customers. When communicated honestly on social media, it can have as much of an impact as a Clutch profile or your portfolio. How so? We often hear from our business partners during the first conversations that they took a sneak peek at our Instagram or Facebook and saw who our employees are, what we do after hours, and that we are more than anonymous coders. After all, everybody wants to work with people who are not only professionals but also nice people to spend time with. Only then working time is both productive and enjoyable.
When you support employees’ development, they are not afraid to think outside the box, propose new solutions and technologies, and strive for the best final product while challenging themselves. Combine that with a smooth collaboration between hires from different departments, and you have a great flow of knowledge within a project. A great culture gives a room for innovation, work based on passion, and, in the end, achieving better results. And if that’s not something clients expect from their business partners, I don’t know what is!
A cause worth your efforts
As you can see, there’s plenty of reason to take care of the culture of your company and it’s many aspects. According to CultureIQ, when discussing such company’s advantages as collaboration, work environment, mission, and value, employees rate them 20% higher at companies with strong cultures. When done right, great culture ensures low turnover, a great flow of new, experienced employees and interesting projects, increasing revenue, and much more.