Company culture is integral to the success of your business. When your business is in its early stages, company culture generally isn’t on your radar – it often takes a backseat to more immediate business needs.
Think of it this way: building your company culture is just as important with two employees as it is with two thousand employees.
To establish and support a company culture of respect, engagement, and transparency, you need to lay the groundwork from the very beginning.
Here are a few ways you can build a strong foundation to create a great company culture that will grow with you:
1. Take the Time to Figure Out What's Important To Your Company
Take the time to explore what is important to your company and model this for your team. When your employees are able to see your values in action, they are empowered to demonstrate the passion and integrity they see in the executive team.
It's easy enough to have a documented mission statement and core values posted on the wall, but to create trust and instill passion in your employees, it takes a real belief in the executive team.
When I was at LinkedIn, our values and company culture were discussed in company meetings more often than sales goals. That's how important your company culture is! It's truly priority no. 1 for your growing team.
Additionally, your company culture and values should be dynamic. Just like an adolescent going through puberty, your company culture will change as you grow. This doesn't mean your values will become diluted over time, it simply means you have the opportunity to organically build and continue to hone your culture.
In fact, the current generation worker wants to work for a company where they can help build company culture, not just be told what it is. Your employees are your best asset; let them help shape your culture organically as you grow.
2. Encourage a Workplace of Respect
The Workplace Color Spectrum™ categorizes workplace behavior to make it easy for you to communicate which behavior is green (productive and respectful) and behavior that is yellow (just so/so and sometimes poor management) or orange (disrespectful and borderline harassment). Red behavior constitutes illegal harassment and should be avoided at all costs.
Once a workplace goes yellow or orange, it can be difficult to inspire green behavior later on. Train your team to strive for green behavior and shy away from behavior consistent with the other colors on the Workplace Color Spectrum™.
3. Engage Your Employees
Great company culture doesn’t just mean a cappuccino maker and a ping pong table (though it certainly can include those items). What’s most important to employee engagement is knowing what employees care about. Homaira Fabir of Forbes.com suggested the following trends for employee engagement:
"With 70% of employees disengaged, the opportunities for improvement are substantial. However, a pool table in the cafeteria or a pay raise to match an existing offer may no longer satisfy the needs of an increasingly younger and more diverse workforce. Fun workplaces do not call forth loyalty or high performance from their employees. It is personal growth, meaningful relationships and the knowledge that they are making a difference that makes employees work hard to overcome challenges and go the extra mile in their efforts to boost productivity."
Perks are great, but you need to provide more than that for long-term engagement. Team building activities, mentoring, and career development opportunities will feed your employees long after those catered lunches and cappuccinos.
4. Be Transparent and Model The Culture You Seek
The way in which you communicate with your team is probably the most important to your company culture. If you communicate your expectations, your employees will be empowered to follow your example. A great company culture starts at the top.
It's important to communicate the values of your company, but it's more important to demonstrate them.
It’s important for the C-suite to model your company’s core values because upper and middle management will follow their lead. When management is walking the talk, good behavior will trickle-down to the rest of the workforce.
Transparency and clarity of communication will help build trust and give your staff clear expectations of how to communicate with other employees as well as customers and clients.
Company culture isn’t just about fun workspaces, employee events, and connecting people who like the same things. Culture is also about building an atmosphere of critical thinking, good decision-making, transparency, and respect for coworkers. When you start building this company culture early in the development of your company, those values and traits will grow with you.
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Steve is one of Silicon Valley’s hottest properties when it comes to people, talent, culture, and team skills training. Prior to launching his own firm, Steve served as VP of Talent at LinkedIn from 2009 through 2012, taking the company from a private firm of 400 employees, through an IPO and into the powerhouse that it is recognized as today with over 5,000 employees.