I’m thankful that we are living in a time where companies are starting to truly see and realize the value of great organizational culture. Culture should be a top priority for all companies. It dictates who you are, and is an ever-increasing factor when employees decide to stay with you or go somewhere else.
Staying consistent and authentic with your culture can be surprisingly difficult. Scaling business, remote work, multiple locations, new generations of leaders and large scale projects all pull at your culture. Many popular companies like Apple, Ford, Lego, Coke, and others all fell away from their culture at different points and had to take great efforts to bring it all back where things needed to be.
Thankfully there are steps you can take to ensure that you keep your culture true and strong as you grow.
Constantly talk about it
Your team knows what is important by what you talk about. Perhaps more importantly, they know what’s not a priority by what is rarely talked about by their leader. The mission, vision, and values should be threaded through all that you do so that it stays top of mind.
I have designed feedback loop documents, visit guides and accountability check-ins for several organizations over the years. No matter the industry, I always start the document with culture and values. Always. Money and financial accountability usually don’t hit until second or even third depending on how strong the culture of the company is.
If your boss consistently comes in and talks about how important culture is and checks to see how your team is living it out, wouldn’t you think that’s a driving factor in your leadership? You’re also likely to pass that perspective on to your team as well.
Talk about culture at meetings, reviews, and check-ins. The more that it becomes a part of your everyday conversation with others, the better.
Designate a guardian or team to watch over culture
One of the most common fears for employees in culturally sound fast-growing companies is that the culture is going to take a significant hit as they scale-out business. How do you keep the lightning in the bottle?
Assigning someone, or a team, to act as guardians and keepers of culture is certainly helpful. It gives your employees ownership into what’s most important to the organization and it keeps the leadership team from veering too far off with a different perspective. A great look for this team would be one person from each department and varying levels of responsibility.
Authentic cultures don’t focus on just themselves
Season one of Leaders of Atlanta focuses on C-Suite leaders in tech companies across the city. One of the most affirming pieces from my personal perspective was how strong each of their cultures was and how connected they were to each other.
None of the tech companies were trying to do culture on their own. Yes, they each had a unique voice, but they also learn from each other. What is working? What is not? Each of the leaders also had some type of mentor in their life that made sure they were staying on track personally and professionally.
Reach out to others around you, both inside and outside your industry to see how you can strengthen culture up back home.
Don’t confuse perks with culture
Slick furnishings, modern offices, ping pong tables, restocked kitchens and unlimited paid time off are all great things. Some organizations confuse these offerings as their culture. All of these types of things are great perks, but they are simply that; perks. Your perks may point back to the culture that you want in your company, but it can never replace the culture itself. If that were the case, what happens to your culture when the ping pong table breaks?
Use perks as a magnet for new talent and a factor in retention, not as a crutch to fill in your culture needs.
Protect culture like you would a cherished family member. Give it the care and the attention it deserves so that it thrives.
Make a better tomorrow.