You’ve heard it before: In today’s War for Talent, highly skilled job seekers have a plethora of workplace choices, meaning organizations must differentiate themselves to attract and retain great people.
So how do they do it? One way is having a noteworthy company culture. Company culture is a trending HR topic and, according to Harvard Business blogger Michael Mankin, it is “the glue that binds an organization together and the hardest thing for competitors to copy.”
But to find out just how important a company’s culture is to recruiting and retaining top talent, I decided to go straight to the source: The queen of culture herself, Achievers’ Culture Manager, Kristal Thorne. My goal was to figure out what it takes to cultivate a unique company culture, and how organizations can foster that culture to boost engagement across the board.
In your opinion, why is company culture so important to having an engaged workplace?
In a roundabout way, I think it’s important because, when you have a great company culture, your employees tend to be happier and more engaged. It all sounds pretty straightforward, but there’s research backing the idea that a fun and unique company culture keeps employees happy and on board. Happy people work harder to drive business results which then results in more growth.
So as culture manager, how do you bring more culture to the workplace to drive that reaction?
I think the easiest way is to allow others to bring culture in. I like to think of myself as a “Culture Enabler” more than anything else. A great company culture encompasses everyone’s input – you start by hiring great people, and from there, you encourage and allow them to bring in their own ideas and passions.
For example, one Achiever wanted to close out the summer in a big way, by taking First Round Friday (Achievers’ style happy hour) off-site, opting for a Beach Party instead. She approached me with the idea, more so I think to figure out if it was ok. My answer: YES! If you’re interested in it, likely there are others. My goal: to help make the event a success by providing behind-the-scenes marketing and logistics advice.
So when somebody comes to you with an idea like that, how do you gauge whether it’ll be a good fit for the entire company? In other words, how do you stay current on the Achievers culture?
In terms of “staying up on the Achievers culture” I’d say I spend a LOT of time socializing with different groups. Some days that may mean I get up and walk around the office to chat with different people from different teams; sometimes it may mean getting caught up in a conversation with an Achiever I rarely talk to for 40 minutes in the kitchen; sometimes it means sitting at a lunch table, or sitting at a different desk in an area of the office I don’t often spend time in. Mostly I just try to do what I can to make myself approachable – say hi to every person I pass, attempt to crack a joke, give a hug or a high-five for no reason… it’s about having a pulse on the organization, and the only way that happens is by hanging out with its greatest assets – its people.
That doesn’t sound like too terrible of a job… but aside from the social perks, are there any challenges you face as culture manager?
Sure there are! I would say a big one is adapting to the constant changes our company has faced over the years – and the cultural changes that go along with them. In the nearly 5 years I’ve been here, we’ve gone from 35 people in one office in Toronto to nearly 250 across North America and into Europe. We have a significant portion of our workforce working remotely or in the field. Our average employee age has increased by 5 years. So, as you might imagine, the culture here has changed quite a bit. As culture manager, it’s imperative that I stay on my game and make sure I’m aware of those changes so that the way we define our culture stays true – not just to the old employees, but to our new-hires as well.
You raised an important point—organizations are always changing. How do you manage cultural change in the organization?
Culture is a living, breathing thing. It’s bound to shift slightly here and there, and that’s part of what makes it awesome! No one person is responsible for a company’s culture – every employee is a part of it, new and old. As the face of Achievers has changed, its culture has adjusted slightly to be more encompassing and inclusive. With that being said, one thing has remained consistent: its importance to our employees.
Do you have any advice for companies just getting started developing their company culture?
For leaders, lead by example. Company culture is an organic thing, but if leaders don’t buy into it or act in ways that don’t match company values, the culture will be muddled. It won’t make sense. Leaders need to be the first ones to actively participate in and embrace the culture, whether that means living and breathing company values, planning and attending events, or encouraging others to embrace the culture too.
As for everyone in the company, care, share and be fair, as we like to say here at Achievers. Listen to other people’s ideas and contribute your own. Each individual should be given the opportunity to lead, the opportunity to listen, and the opportunity to participate in the culture.
While planning beach parties and taking extended coffee breaks sounds like fun, it’s clear that managing company culture in a growing and changing workforce isn't easy. Take it from Kristal; the extra investment to keep your employees happy, and the culture rich, is well worth the time and effort. After all, your employees are your company’s best assets.
Do you have a brag-worthy company culture that keeps your people excited about work?
Apply now to be one of the Achievers 50 Most Engaged Workplaces™