Rewind 10 years and the word culture wouldn’t be found anywhere among job hunters and organizations. We’ve entered a new era where businesses are dramatically changing how they work. Leading organizations are throwing around words like culture, holacracy, workplace freedom, and concepts that would have been unthinkable not too long ago. The one constant in all of this, however, are the two players in the game, employers and employees. These two groups are continually stressing their value to the potential talent lurking outside their doors. Culture is inching it’s way up to the top of everyone’s list, becoming an actual criteria that companies and candidates must possess to recruit some of the best talent in the market. Understanding and building your own culture will be a necessity to play amongst the big dogs, but before you dive deep into culture with your own company, pause and take a moment to grasp what this culture movement is really about.
Organizations Behind Culture; Why do they do it?
The company culture movement isn’t actually a new thing. This became a business phenomenon in the early 1980’s introduced through books written by Peters and Waterman, Deal and Kennedy, and various other authors, all suggesting that corporate culture was key to organizational performance and that the management of a culture could be used directly as a competitive advantage. These theories slowly faded away with the lack of measurable numbers they provided to researchers. That was until just recently, when companies such as Zappos, Hubspot, Netflix and Google started wearing their success and satisfied employees on display at the top of the charts. Everyone wants to know their secret and none of these companies are hesitating to give credit to their culture for their success. Can you blame them? Who wouldn’t brag about practically having an entire army behind their visionaries? Each of these leading companies preaches the same advice as to why they believe in organizational culture. If you look out for your employees, your employees will look out for you.
The Big Misconception
Your next question is probably “How do you create that army?” and I know this because it was mine for the longest time. Before I go on, let me keep you from making my same mistake. Culture is not an object or essence that is created, it simply exists. The companies whose employees are spewing out the ears with excitement for where they work, simply took what they already had (a group of like-minded people), and focused on keeping that as they expanded. Culture crumbles when conflict rises due to the company trying to head in one direction and the employees heading in another. You have started by finding your people. It’s easier to not only look out for, but understand these people because you don’t have to tackle the impossible task of persuading them to take your path.
Where to Begin Building Organizational Culture
A business’ culture goes back to the vision, mission, core values and management techniques. These elements existed a decade ago but yet the use of them has changed. It’s no longer the typical process of hiring those with the skill and teaching them the vision, but hiring those with the vision and teaching them the skill. To some, it may seem a bit silly to put talent on the backburner, but think of this way. We spend our entire life learning and changing our skill set, but during this time we really never change our own values. When you hire someone who isn’t behind your vision it will always lead to one of two things (1) they can’t do the job and the company eventually feels the pain of letting go of someone they invested time/money into or (2) the employee eventually feels the pain of being unhappy five days a week and losses the time/money they invested into the company. It may take five years but eventually an employee who is not aligned, is going to go find something they are better suited for. Moral of the story is recruiting your culture not the skill set is the first step in the right direction for creating a culture. This is why those companies focused on culture, such as Endless Entertainment, incorporate such off the wall, oddball questions into their interview process. It’s not simply to make the whole process fun and humorous (although it helps), but to draw out true, hidden qualities and characteristics of the candidate. The traditional interview questions are becoming to rehearsed and staged. A certain response is expected and it can’t be assumed that it’s original anymore. When I go into interviews, I am not expecting anything except to have a genuinely interesting conversation and to see traits that reflect our company core values selfless service, breathing passion, continuous gratitude, excitement in the air, be professional and learn and grow. If a candidate demonstrates our core values, understands the position, has the capacity to do it, and above all wants it, we move them through a shadowing process to be as transparent as possible about the position. After this point, the employee or us hold the right to decline the job, which has yet to happen since we are able to weed out low aligned and frankly not interested candidates right from the start.
Don’t Forget The Follow Through
Once you have your army behind your vision, you have to keep a focus on what your employees need to succeed otherwise you have created a visionary culture rather than a realistic one. Netflix does an incredible job of this with one key principle “freedom and responsibility”. They give their employees the freedom to do the right thing, but only if they take full responsibility for the outcomes. A manager’s role is to only provide content and help, not be an obstacle to the work that needs to be done. This is not to be mistaken for complete freedom; there are regulations just as freedom of speech has. Netflix only regulation is to act in the companies’ best interest. Freedom is a scary thing to give, but it works to increase employee productivity and reduce employee turnover. Case studies dating back to the early 1990s have shown companies to save millions of dollars in HR cost due to organizational culture. We’ve personally seen a 90% turnover difference since focusing on putting the right people in the right seats and then providing those employees freedom of work. Here are just a few things that we’ve done to ensure we are following through for our employees:
- Flexibility – We understand that not everyone is productive at 9am and others lose their productivity by 3pm. It’s great to have flexibility in your hours to work when inspiration and motivation are flowing. We’re not against the 9-5 people though! Some people need that structure, but we want our employees to work when they are motivated and inspired, not when they’re half asleep or in a rut browsing social media sites.
- Good Network – We offer support both professionally and personally. We have many small business owners that work apart of our seasonal event staff. We want to utilize their talents in our interest but give them the opportunity to expand their own business. As much as we love to have our employees stay with us, seasonal work doesn’t exactly cut it for people. Our next best option is to lose an employee to the success of their business or a better opportunity. A network is also offered outside of the business as well. If someone needs help moving, starting a new project, or just needs a hiking buddy for a weekend trip we are here for that too. Having a network like this is the number one reason our employees continue to work for us.
- Open Work Environment – We encourage a lot of open discussion on strategies and new ideas that may arise. The ability to have an opinion and express it is the second reason our employees continue to work with us. Even though the idea might not hit the execution stage, it’s great to just have a voice and know that your ideas are being considered.
- Make Time for Fun – Working eight hours a day, 5 days a week non-stop is simply not good for the soul. We like to break it up with a few improv activities. It can be anything from Nerf guns to trivia, but mostly it’s whatever crazy idea comes to mind that day.
- Culture Check Ups – The best thing you can do though is check in with your employees. We send a culture check up survey every quarter to collect anonymous feedback about our leadership team and our culture. It only takes a couple minutes of their time but we use it to continually improve the work environment at Endless. We also get an employee NPS (net promoter score) telling us how likely our employees are to recommend Endless to friends and family. It’s an overall heartbeat for our company, which currently stands at 79%.
What Culture Means To Employees
As I mentioned before, organizational culture is now a criteria for business’ to have. These upcoming generations have been taught to be picky about where they work. Young professionals will choose to go after their passion and will not hesitate to quit what they don’t like because “just having a job” isn’t worth it anymore. What’s great about this though is that money is no longer a driving factor. If a younger professional can at least make ends meet, they are willing to pay their dues in hopes of higher compensation and benefits in the future. What really matters to them is happiness, purpose, and fulfillment in the workplace. Employee’s loves perks because, well, who doesn’t but many people are willing to give that up if they do not agree with their work. If you want to increase culture and improve your employee retention rate you have to look out for your people. What kind of culture has become of your vision? I challenged you to make one of your goals to focus on the needs of your team. Apart of our own three year picture includes the goal of one new addition to our office whether it’s a foosball table, rock climbing wall, or a ball pit. What are some things your company has bragging rights too when it comes to your culture?