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Fuel Business Success by Building a Great Company Culture



Chances are you have friends who are always good to be around. They may instinctively know how to make you feel better, boost your ego, make you laugh, soothe your pain, offer needed assistance or offer the right dose of sympathy when you've had a bad day. They make it seem effortless, and you wish you could be more like they are, more of the time.

Some companies have that same aura too.

 These companies seem to attract employees who work well together, who seem more like friends than co-workers, who care about the success of the business, its products, services, clients and reputation, and who are dedicated not only to personal achievement and success, but to the ongoing health and well-being of the company itself. Such employees help one another, learn from their mistakes, don't fear "the boss," are seriously committed to achieving group goals, and strive to go the extra mile when necessary. That's good for the bottom line, of course, but it's also the underlying strength of the business model.

Today, that is part of what is described as company culture. It's the positive part, and it's something to strive for, but it can be elusive.

It doesn't really matter whether you term it company culture, human capital strategy, or motivational management. The fact is that few companies will thrive with a "down from the top" belief, and in today’s world, it’s important to understand that what's good for the employees affects overall business success.

It's now a basic principle of well-run business, and it's not all about salaries and benefits.

Defining Company Culture

Common words used to describe positive company culture include innovative, transparent, ambitious, supportive, talented, positive, passionate and fun. Not all companies can be all things to all employees, however, and sometimes the mix of people influences the culture of the workplace as much as the underlying philosophy.

What is vitally important is that your staff includes people who don't simply "live for weekends." In today's terminology, it's important that your employees feel free to pursue their dreams and the goals that makes the most sense to them individually.

A positive company culture assures that your employees feel energized about the work they do; they don't dread going to work, and they perform to the best of their ability when they are at work.

Culture is not static; it evolves and adapts. Company culture is also a two-way street, and it's important that both the employee and the employer understand the importance of "a good fit." It can represent a "can do" attitude in planning for a new product launch or an ambitious sales goal. It is characterized by respect, concern and willingness to work as a team.

Individuality is never sacrificed to conformity or group think, and positive thinking abounds. That in no way means that those companies with highly individualized job descriptions, and a more traditional business structure must change their ways or adopt a team model.

Laying the foundation for positive company culture should start with your Mission Statement: It can be brief, but it should express the underlying reason for the company's existence.

A company's goals and values play heavily into its culture. Employees who understand and support those goals and values are likely to be committed to the success of the company, not only to ensure continued employment, but to be a part of that success.

If you have never really thought about what kind of culture your company has, perhaps now is the right time to analyze your culture in terms of employee engagement, recruitment and hiring practices, motivation and turnover.

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Why Business Culture Matters

Employee engagement is vital, whether a company's management style is relatively formal and well-defined or quite casual and egalitarian. The goal is to recruit individuals in the workplace who are happy to be there, and willing to do their best, whatever their job description might be. Just as people are different, culture cannot be easily defined. But there are ways to measure results.

If your company has a history of high turnover, you might want to use exit interviews to determine why employees move on. The answers may surprise you, and they will certainly give you some insights into existing company culture, and about possible beneficial changes. However, if you have a stable workforce composed of individuals who are competent, supportive and "happy," it may be that you have, consciously or unwittingly, already built the kind of business culture that is effective and desirable.

Company culture is a topic worth examining, in part, because of the Millennial generation, and the ensuing examination of workplace philosophies, including "work-life balance." Just as technology has made drastic changes to the world of business, the needs and expectations of the workforce are increasingly important.

How to Improve Company Culture

It may seem intuitive, but asking your employees what actually matters to them is one of the best ways to establish or improve your company culture. It's not always easy. In a positive business environment, you may get lots of ideas. Be prepared to kick them around and try them out, no matter how frivolous they may sound. Sometimes it's the little things that have the biggest impact. Just as casual Fridays have become commonplace in many business settings, other business changes are surely ahead for most companies.

If suggestions aren't forthcoming, throw a few out for discussion:

  • Adopt a local charity; encourage donations of time as well as money;
  • Adopt a median or a portion of the local highway and hold regular work sessions;
  • Schedule monthly lunches, afternoon coffee breaks or after work happy hours: No business discussions allowed.
  • Plan a "no holiday" get-together and invite spouses and significant others;
  • Offer a reserved, covered, or paid parking space to a designated employee of the month;

Although there are many possibilities, the best ideas will come from your employees. Demonstrate your willingness to make both small and large changes that are important to them. Don't wait for a crisis to develop before you act.

On the other hand, if you currently have a staff that works well together, with demonstrated respect for authority and for individuals, don't feel that you suddenly have to change your ways. Just as neighborhoods, cities and even countries have differing cultures, there is no single formula that works for all companies. The basic requirement is that company leaders "walk the talk."

Company culture is a shared "feeling" that filters down from top management to the latest new hire. It is defined not by the number of company parties, nor by posters on the wall, but rather by an attitude that is pervasive and sustainable.

Members of Forbes Human Resources Council shared some ideas about company culture and on the ways human resources staff can help to develop positive company culture. They're thought-provoking.

At its core, a great company culture is simply another way to demonstrate to your employees that they matter and that you value them -- as individuals, as employees, as members of your team. It is a concrete example that you believe in them; and that, because of their unique attributes and perspectives, your company is what it is today and what it will become in the future.

That's a statement of empowerment!

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