Culture has been described as the soul of a company. Companies can spend a great deal of time and energy investing in their culture, only to see it diluted once large-scale growth comes into play. So, why is culture so important in the modern workplace. More importantly, once we have it, how do we keep it?
Workplace culture plays a vital role in establishing an identity that both your employees and customers can align with. Beginning with employees, it’s important to institute a set of values and a company-wide belief system, for each person to gauge their personal investment against. Each time a new employee is brought on board, it is an investment on both the company side, and the side of the new employee. Ensuring that this person aligned with the ultimate goals of the company and the positive culture is important early in the hiring process and can help to gauge the longevity of the partnership.
For existing employees, the culture is the glue that defines the sense of unity. Establishing culture doesn’t necessarily mean that employees spend time together outside of work (although that’s a wonderful benefit!). It encourages employees to feel they are all a part of the same team and should work in benefit of the team as a whole. When one person fails, in essence, the team fails.
Being able to execute on a tactical level is only half (or less!) of the battle for an employee. Employees that see bigger picture values oftentimes get through rough patches easily, understanding that some frustration amounts to lessons learned when striving towards company goals. Over time, companies will see more employee loyalty and less turnover when there is a strong sense of a collective self at play in the office.
Company culture also gives current and prospective clients a way to align with your values. If a client understands that part of your company belief system is to “experience the joy of helping others” (as it is at Forthea!), they will understand more about what you stand for. This results in a deeper level of shared understanding. In this way, your relationship with the client grows beyond tactical help, and can turn into a long-term strategic partnership. Customers come to you for ongoing stellar work output. They stay because they invest in the way you conduct business and benefit from your values.
Now that you have solid company culture, how do you keep it? The key is repeated re-enforcement of the values of the company. You want to ensure that each employee understands the standards they should be holding themselves (and others) to. If you have an employee who is not reaching the clearly defined standard, you have an opportunity for coaching. As with any company, the employees are always evolving and the culture you create should be likewise accommodating.
You also want the existing teams within your organization to reflect these values, especially when it’s difficult. This will encourage newer employees, and outsiders alike, to work through problems – instead of being paralyzed by them. This likens back to the sense of unity that having these values cultivates in the first place.
The culture you create must be malleable. Your values may stay consistent, but as the company grows, the substance and tone of message will change. Just as the needs of the company will evolve as it grows, so will the employees’ needs. Allowing for feedback is an important way to keep a pulse on these changes and making deliberate alterations to your standards will let them know you’re listening.
The value of a strong and positive culture within an organization is immeasurable. If you’re struggling to get there, there is an easy way to start with just yourself. Begin each day asking yourself: how am I showing up as a leader for the culture of our company?