“Culture” has become the corporate equivalent of charisma – clearly some have it, but those that try to create it too often end up with a mess of lip service and blatant mimicry that misses the spirit. True, not every company is going to be a Google, an IDEO, or one of Fortune 500’s Top 100 , but that doesn’t mean that employees shouldn’t love and connect with where they work. FastCo recently featured a few articles, one by Arshad Chowdhury and another by Shawn Parr which both offered great insights into what makes (or breaks) a company culture. We agree its not about the office space or the letterhead; we think it has everything to do with the people you hire. Here are a few factors we have found to be incredibly impactful:
Pick the employees who are right for you – There is no end to different kinds of companies out there. In a world where acceptable office attire can range from a pinstriped suit to a blazer and an old band T-shirt, it’s worth recognizing that these differences matter. You’ll want to create a team that reflects the attitude and the verve of the founders and the company. It’s a whole different energy when employees not only understand but also internalize a business’s principals. And choosing the right people off the bat can save your company the time and money that turnover costs entail.
When you’ve found the right talent for your culture, make it work - Sure it may sound like homage to the incomparable Tim Gunn, but it’s really great advice. The best person for your company isn’t always going to be a local, inexpensive hire. Seeming obstacles (Visa issues, salary negotiations, relocation costs, mortgages, rooted families) may actually be a reason why they’re the right person to hire. The perspective they get from their international background or the insights they have from being a parent can all be very valuable. In seeing employees as people, it’s amazing to realize how many facets they have to offer.
Be who you are as a company – Don’t try to create another company’s culture in your office. If you’re a rugged outdoor equipment firm, don’t try to create the out-of-the-box environment of a tech startup. Some of the best company cultures are also radically different from one another. Method isn’t Zappos isn’t The Container Store and that’s OK. The most important thing is to be genuine and sincere.
Don’t be afraid to do things differently – Google’s 20% rule is proof that a non-traditional approach can be incredibly productive, both for employees and the company. In enacting this, Google proved that it really understood it’s employees, what would motivate them and allow them to do their best work. It’s certainly not a one-size fits all, but it is great to evaluate your own company and see if your company could benefit from it’s own version of the 20% rule.
Let people have some autonomy – Building Happiness cited studies that found employees who could control the light on their desk (how bright, when it was turned on, etc) were considerably better off than those that had a uniformly lit office. If a desk lamp can make that much difference just imagine what larger changes can do.
Our final piece of advice? Office snacks.