People Shape Culture


If you have an interest in Entrepreneurship or business management, you’ll often come across the term “Culture” mentioned as an integral part of any business. When you see companies with colorful work spaces, and happy employees, you’re quick to conclude that they must have an amazing culture, and maybe they do. But, what exactly is this culture ?

Company culture is the personality of a company. It defines the environment in which employees work. Company culture includes a variety of elements, including work environment, company mission, value, ethics, expectations, and goals.”

The common discussion in the business blogosphere is that if a business has a good company culture, then employees will look forward to going their job each day, and in turn will produce amazing work. This is absolutely true. However, there’s a misconception that a company’s culture is solely the company’s job to create. The lie detector proves this is a lie. The company may provide a game room for the employees to enjoy, but the company cannot force the employees to utilize it in a way that is beneficial to them. The company also may have one day a week where employees share their hobbies with colleagues – but the company cannot enforce that this is executed. My point here is that the ‘Company’ is not some person who sits somewhere and works magic to ensure that everyone is satisfied. My view is that it’s the people, not the company that makes the culture. The company is PEOPLE – of the people, by the people, for the people. I share this same point of view when conversations are had about “The Government”. Again, it’s the people.

Employees learn culture by interacting with their colleagues. Culture is shaped and nurtured by co-workers, managers, and executives, all of whom are People. Once this notion is understood, it becomes easier to create and execute an amazing company culture that works for everyone.  If you’re a business owner, here are a few things to consider as you decide to introduce a culture into your business:

  1. Watch how you act as a leader: We create our culture by the actions that we take. If your company culture involves being on time, then it’s important that you are on time to client meetings, internal sessions, and any events that require your attendance. If your culture is centered around customer service, then your internal meeting agendas should reflect this, and you must frequently drive consumer centric conversations. Culture is learned, and this means you play a crucial role in ensuring that your people understand this. Your people play a more crucial role in ensuring that this organizational culture is implemented. Make sure you’re setting the behavioral example that you want everyone else to imbibe. In the end, if employees feel that they will get in trouble for finding flaws in their bosses ideas, they will shy away from sharing feedback.
  2. Company culture is not always colored walls and free lunch: One mistake that a lot of businesses make is to focus on extravagant perks. While the colored walls, game room, free lunch, and weekly karaoke is great, this is not the true essence of company culture. In fact all that daily pizza being ordered in the office may be hiding the deep seated culture issues that the company needs to deal with. It doesn’t matter how many boxes of pizza your employees eat a week, if they’re not getting work done. The true value lies in your employees trusting your organization, taking pride in what they do, and enjoying working with their co-workers. Once these core tenets are in place, the colorful stuff become vehicles/tools to drive home the culture. The relationships will always trump the perks.
  3. Hire for Cultural Fit: Cultural fit is the likelihood that a job candidate will be able to conform and adapt to the core values and collective behaviors that make up an organization. Your company values should be reflected in your company hiring. Don’t just hire anyone. In the past, I have hired people for various reasons including job skill, and willingness to learn. How did that work for me ? It worked well for some time, and then as our company evolved, we realized that some of our employees were not a cultural fit for where we are now, and where we are headed. At the point where you realize this important part of your business, it becomes a tough decision to let people go. Hence, I suggest making it a key part of your hiring. You need to hire people who genuinely care about the people they work with and for and not hire those who show up to work every day just to collect a paycheck, because #EndOfMonthBills. An employee who is super skilled, but is not aligned with the culture and the mission of the company, can kill the entire team.

Here’s an excerpt from Recruit Loop – CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh recently revealed a clever technique the company uses to make sure their new hires aren’t only a good culture fit but also good people. The deciding factor – even if you make an amazing impression in the interview, if you’re rude to your ride from the airport, you aren’t getting the job. “A lot of our candidates are from out of town, and we’ll pick them up from the airport in a Zappos shuttle, give them a tour, and then they’ll spend the rest of the day interviewing,” Hsieh says. “At the end of the day of interviews, the recruiter will circle back to the shuttle driver and ask how he or she was treated. It doesn’t matter how well the day of interviews went, if our shuttle driver wasn’t treated well, then we won’t hire that person.” Such a clever yet simple interview technique and it gives you real-life insight to a candidate before you make any hiring decisions. Your candidates may not always arrive by company shuttle but they will always be greeted by a receptionist or personal assistant.

4. Avoid excessive employee turnover: It’s tough to build a successful company if you’re continuously getting rid of people. The process of hiring, training, integrating people into your business requires a lot of valuable time and also has financial implications. Your focus should be to find a core team of people who key into your vision, understand your mission, and embody your values. Once you find them, it’s important to keep them happy and if possible, provide an opportunity for them to officially be a part of the company as it grows. This requires encouraging their passions, and acknowledging their needs, thereby making them feel truly invested in their jobs. If your team is passionate about the work they’re doing, then it increases their productivity and ultimately creates satisfaction.

5. Encourage Intrapreneurship: “Intrapreneurship involves creating or discovering new ideas or opportunities for the purpose of creating value, where this activity involves creating a new and self-financing organisation within or under the auspices of an existing company.” Many successful companies today actively promote entrepreneurship within their organizations, allowing their employees to spend a percentage of their time building innovative ideas that may be unrelated to their usual job. Gmail, Google Maps, Playstation, ITunes, Post It Notes, Skunkworks, Google Glasses, are some examples of products and businesses that were born out of intrapreneurship. A company culture that promotes intrapreneurial thinking starts with a leader that demonstrates it – and the best way to do this is to Trust your employees, Reward initiative taking and proactive thinking, Encourage healthy competition, and providing the freedom and support for your employees to succeed. In a business world that is fast developing and continuously evolving, companies that do not embrace innovation and intrapreneurship will remain stagnant or fall by the wayside.

6. Set Titles, but don’t let them be restricting: It’s okay to give your employees set titles for easier operations. However, it is important to ensure that your employees are not restricted to the roles associated with the title. You may find that they have more to offer than the title that they were hired into, and it’s important that you identify their skills and abilities outside of their title tag. During your work meetings, your accountant may have amazing marketing ideas that could propel the company forward, and they should feel comfortable to share these ideas. You may even find that roles may switch depending on the project at hand – ie.considering what each person brings to the specific project.

Hopefully, the application of the ideas that I have shared in this article should help you create an organizational structure that supports a positive, productive, environment, and ultimately moves your business towards your goals.

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