“Build a stronger company culture” may be on your strategic goals list for the coming year, but how do you translate that vague-sounding objective into action? What does “company culture” consist of, and how can you strengthen it? Improving your employer brand is not complex, but it does entail more than adding a ping-pong table and weekly boxes of donuts. In today’s networked environment, it’s possible to examine companies that have excelled in this effort — the places where everyone wants to work — and find out what their special sauce consists of. Among the following five characteristics that A-list employers share, you’ll undoubtedly find some actionable solutions that you can easily adapt to your own organization.
1. They treat their workers like adults
Do you feel like you have to watch the clock to make sure your employees don’t spend too long on break? If so, imagine for a minute what it would be like to discard time clocks altogether or offer unlimited vacation days, as some high-producing companies now do. Netflix has become one of the hottest places to work, according to personal branding expert William Arruda, and that’s partly due to the fact that they track performance instead of hours. Arruda writes that “asking people to take on the responsibility of policing themselves has helped Netflix attract and recruit ‘fully formed adults’ who are self-sufficient.” More and more companies are now shifting to unlimited vacation days, and the outcome has consistently been a boost in productivity.
2. They view company culture as a product
When it comes to your products, you’re all about designing, testing, debugging, and going through successive iterations in order to achieve a unique level of quality. Apply that same mindset towards developing your employee culture, and you’re bound to have superior results. That’s what Asana did, and it has earned them a stellar rating on Glassdoor. They regularly “ship” new efforts at making their workplace better, and then collect feedback from everyone in the company in order to judge the success of each innovation. Suggestions and responses are solicited through focus groups, anonymous surveys, one-on-one meetings, and employee retreats. If problems are perceived, Asana identifies them as “culture bugs,” and goes after them as energetically as if they were bugs in the product codebase.
3. They discourage internal competition
Is your management style based on a belief that competing with each other will spur your employees to greater effort? In fact, it’s likely to have the opposite effect. To understand the benefits of discouraging employee competition, we can look at Google’s internal policies. They go out of their way to encourage workers to reach out and help each other with problems, and rewards and recognition are given for collaborative effort rather than personal glory. One Google product manager comments, “The work environment is laid back, and less competitive than others. It really allows room for creativity.” Feeling that colleagues are a supportive resource makes a huge difference in how people feel about coming to work every day, and the resulting peace of mind enables innovative thinking.
4. They hire for company culture
What does “hire for company culture” mean? It means that you establish a detailed definition of what your company culture should consist of, and then you hire people who will help build the culture you have defined. This can be time-consuming, and it requires more effort than simply sifting through resumes for a standardized skillset. Zappo’s, which boasts an almost legendary workplace climate, offers a model of how to proceed. Zappo’s hiring process is “more like a courtship than a traditional recruitment,” according to human resources expert Susan Heathfield. Short-list candidates meet with a number of their potential colleagues and attend at least one company event before the hiring decision is made. The idea is that the hiring decision is a two-way choice, and the future worker is given abundant information in order to help them decide if Zappo’s is right for them. Furthermore, new hires are offered $3,000 to leave the company at the end of the onboarding process. If they accept the money and leave, it’s because they realize that the company culture isn’t the right fit.
5. They recognize employee effort
Employee recognition is one of the key elements in every outstanding company culture, and no business exemplifies this more clearly than Elite SEM. Consistently rated one of the best places to work by Fortune and Glassdoor, this youthful company goes out of its way to offer abundant positive feedback. A short list of just some of this company’s awards includes the “Strive for Greatness Award,” the “Love What You Do Award,” the “Attitude of Gratitude Award” and more. These awards are aligned with company mission and values, and they clearly bear fruit in terms of employee attitudes, earning Elite SEM top marks in every workplace attribute.
While each company should customize their own system for acknowledging workers’ effort, the key to sustained employee engagement is to observe and recognize when people are giving their very best. For a deeper dive into the foundations of building a great workplace culture, download our e-book, “Recognition Culture: The MVP of Employee Experience.”
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