Thursday, February 18, 2016

How Building the Right Company Culture Can Build the Best Team

Companies with legendary corporate cultures are well-known for attracting the best employees. Everyone knows why they'd love to work at Google's hub in Silicon Valley: the free food and drinks provided at several dozen on-site cafes and coffee bars, the free wi-fi enabled shuttle that transports San Francisco-dwellers to Silicon Valley, and plenty of paid leave for new parents.

How can you take advantage of a similar system if you don't have the size or prestige of Google or Facebook? Surprisingly, you don't need a ton of expensive perks to create a positive company culture. You just need to find the right employees.

Here are 6 tips that will help you create a positive company culture and attract the right job candidates.

1. Define company culture.

Many companies don't think about culture much at all and allow it to simply form organically. While that might work for small start-ups and hyper-local businesses, your company is growing, and you will want to define a specific list of your company values, attitudes, behaviors, visions, and practices. When defining culture, each company will differ. You do not have to offer a pingpong table, weekly happy hours, a casual dress environment, or a bring-your-dog-to-work day. Each of those things contribute to a specific company culture, but it doesn't have to be your culture. What do you want to see and do when you go into work everyday? What commonalities do each of your current employees share? These questions will help you realize what you have to work with and what you want to keep and change when you define and develop your culture.

2. Focus on retention.

You know keeping employees at your organization is good for your company. You need to convey how longevity is good for employees. Many of today's top job candidates are used to moving between organizations every two to three years to gain leverage when increasing pay or responsibilities, or due to issues with their current company or team. Stability, as long as growth and challenges are included, can be appealing. Having a strong, positive company culture will help keep your employees at your organization, rather than allowing other companies to attract them once their skill sets are built. Sadly, only 13% of employees globally say they're actively invested in their company's success. Figure out how to get your employees to care about their company. You’re (hopefully) investing in the continuing training and education of your employees, so your organization should want to benefit from their skills. Long-term employees who are at the company because they care and are excited about their work can also influence other employees to give it their all. A company where many employees stay for five, ten, fifteen years or more also gives the impression of being a place that delivers on its promises. It's likely a place that challenges and interests current employees, making it more appealing for job seekers. Candidates want to know that they can build their career with your company, and current employees like the assurance that they can develop long-lasting work relationships.

3. Promote from within.

Promoting your own employees to higher positions within your company can benefit both your bottom line and your company culture. First, it helps with retention, as employees will feel assured they can continue their career paths with you, rather than having to leave the company to find a position with more responsibility or pay. Second, you will benefit from the expertise of an employee you have nourished and mentored towards the goal of rising through the ranks, and someone who doesn't have to be brought up to speed about the company's values, goals, plans, message or industry. Having a strong company culture also means you’ll know when not to promote from within, and will be able to identify the holes you need to fill with outside talent, who can bring a fresh perspective to your organization.

4. Offer tangible benefits.

Perks like assigned parking spots can be great if they are necessary or if people use them. Benefits that add a lot of value to a job package can help your company stand out from the rest. Paying for continuing training, like technical certifications, conferences, and degree programs, can benefit both the employee and your company, when you take advantage of the employee's new-found skills. Consider benefits that are applicable to your company, too. If you are located in Center City Philadelphia, a transit benefit can have an immediate, positive impact on your employees by saving them money on either their current SEPTA pass or gas and parking costs, if they chose to switch over to regional rail or subway. If you're a company with a small budget, you don't have to think big. A stocked coffee bar or catered lunch twice a month can also save employees money, as well as provide goodwill and promote a sense of caring for the employees by the company. Tangible benefits will depend on your company's values and the type of job-seeker you are trying to attract.

5. Cultivate Mentorship.

Good management is the backbone of your organization. You want to hire and promote managers who have great managerial skills, not just those who are good at their particular job. An employee who is managing people, be it one person or twenty, should be knowledgeable about their field and department, but also skilled at leadership. A good manager is one an employee relies on to help guide them through at least one part of their career. You want employees to feel comfortable talking to their manager about their projects, workload, conflicts, and goals. An employee should not be afraid to admit to mistakes or failure with their manager, but should be assured their manager will help find a solution, and perhaps use the employee’s skills in a better way. A good manager can mentor an employee into becoming a better employee, a happier worker, and perhaps a manager themselves.

6. Be consistent.

Obviously, all company culture benefits should apply to all employees. While some job candidates or employees may find that your employee culture isn't the right fit for them, it should not be because they are not afforded the same benefits and perks as other employees at the same company. If you decide to stop offering a benefit, for example, you should cancel the benefit across the board. Do not allow employees to be grandfathered into one aspect. Also, don't allow the rules, like dress code, to only apply to certain people or let certain aspects of culture slip with long-term or favorite employees. This can create a sense of animosity and unfairness, which would contribute negatively to the environment you're trying to cultivate.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but company culture is cyclical. Defining your company culture and hiring employees that fit well with those values and attitudes will make your business a great place to work. This, in turn, will lead to exceptional candidates applying for jobs with your organization, and eventually contributing even more excellence to the company and attracting even more candidates. Building and maintaining a company culture may be one of the most important things you, as a business owner or executive, can do to build your company.

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