How to Create an Outstanding Corporate Culture

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According to Inc., Corporate culture refers to the shared values, attitudes, standards, and beliefs that characterize members of an organization and define its nature.” It is so critical that a company’s success or failure may be predicated on how well it practices these core values.

It is defined by the company’s objectives, structure, and approach to not only its customers but its employees. What’s important to this company? What ethics are practiced? What behavior is rewarded? Is the company just a business or does it commit to goals beyond just making a buck? Is the culture the company presents to the public actually the one in practice?

In essence, a company is known and its brand defined by its corporate culture, and with a more robust economy, an evolution in marketing rooted in the ubiquity and immediacy of internet exposure, and an emerging workforce unlike any seen before, it’s paramount for HR professionals to bear in mind what is important to today’s employees. If the prevailing needs of its workforce is not recognized, respected and acted upon, the corporate culture and therefore the company itself may suffer beyond redemption.

Here are few considerations to foster a productive, comfortable and successful corporate culture.

1. Be deliberate in whom you hire.

While qualifying a candidate for a job based on their background and experience is paramount, ensure you’re hiring a team member who has a track record collaborating and supporting their previous employers’ corporate initiatives. Ask the candidate to cite examples of how he or she went “above and beyond” their standard responsibilities and improved the employer’s brand. Pose questions that allow them to discuss how they felt about the company’s corporate objectives and what they did to help meet or even exceed those goals, not only in terms of revenue but improving the culture within the organization. Someone who took their job to heart may just be the candidate you’re looking for and can improve your corporate culture.

2. Reward them not just in salary.

Everyone appreciates recognition. Sure, pay increases demonstrate corporate recognition. But other, less-expensive initiatives may prove just as valued by staff. Cultivate a culture of recognition and gratitude. Celebrate their achievements in front of their peers, and do it frequently, not just at the end of the year.

Mentoring programs may also serve as appropriate rewards for employees who demonstrate initiative, creativity and engagement. They can spur and even accelerate an employee’s enthusiasm for his or her employer. It can not only foster greater loyalty from mentees but demonstrate corporate recognition for more seasoned employees chosen to serve as mentors – a win/win.

There are many ways to recognize exceptional employee achievement that won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Google “how to show job recognition” for a great many ideas that may work perfectly in your business environment.

You don’t even have to do it; let employees recognize other employees’ merits. Put the incentive and rewards programs in the employees’ hands. Foster programs that allow a staff member who excels to feel they’ve earned the respect and appreciation from the people they work with every day. The rewards don’t have to be expensive or lavish. A paid day off, a gift card to a local retailer, a standing ovation in front of the whole company – all will be appreciated and cost your company next to nothing, yet the payoff for you may be incalculable.

3. Recognize that the employees of different generations joining your team may expect different work environments.

Millennials (those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s, otherwise known as Gen Y) will make up about 75 percent of the total global workforce by 2035. They will change jobs more frequently and more quickly than their predecessors, so understanding their different perspective on employment can make a huge difference in keeping your corporate culture thriving and vibrant. Because they are so engaged with social media and are encouraged to use it for work functions, the line between their personal and professional lives may blur. Keep that in mind if you catch them posting on Twitter or LinkedIn. And since they place a premium on companies that demonstrate social responsibility, creating programs that support worthwhile causes may influence their decision to remain with your firm.

In its 2013 “Pulse of Talent” report, human capital technology leader Ceridian reported that interesting work was a key motivator among millennial workers, 36 percent said they wanted to “love what they do.” Among Gen X (those born 1965-1984), salary is the most important consideration, while nearly half of Baby Boomers surveyed said that, similar to millennials, interesting work is their primary impetus. Companies employing multiple generations may want to consider how each group’s motivations can vary.

4. Treat employees with respect

Did you know that in 2015, “Respectful treatment of all employees at all levels” was rated the most important aspect in job satisfaction for a whopping 72 percent of employees surveyed? That’s 11 percentage points higher than “Compensation/Pay, overall.” And second place went to “Trust between employees and senior management,” with 64 percent of respondents ranking it “Very Important.”

So while compensation remains an obvious principal motivator, non-tangible aspects of work are even more important. Savvy company managers may want to make sure that their corporate culture reflects a sincere support of mutual respect throughout the organization and at all levels.

5. Instilling a feeling of value

Employees need to feel they are valuable to the organization. How does your company’s management style provide that – if at all? Most companies have a number of managers each of whom may have a unique style. While one may be harsh and dictatorial, another may be nurturing and more gently influential in getting the most out of his or her staff. A manager may be relatively lax, and allow employees to contribute little or excel, depending on the individual employee’s motivation and goals. And each managerial style may be as just productive as the other. But in all cases, the employee will contribute more to the corporate culture if the manager expresses appreciation for a job well done, and – as much as is possible – makes the employee feel that there is a strong measure of job security. The employee who receives both may shine and support the company through thick and thin.

6. Have some fun now and then

“Warning of severe consequences if he didn’t see results, Pantheon Digital Consulting COO Daniel Abelson, 59, told employees Monday he wants a relaxed, friendly company culture implemented by the end of the week, sources within the organization confirmed. ‘I don’t care how you make this a laid-back, fun place to work, just get it done, and get it done fast,’ Abelson said. ‘If we have to stay late every night this week figuring this thing out, then that’s what we’re going to do. And if we don’t have a casual, cheerful workplace environment all wrapped up by end of day Friday, everybody’s coming in this weekend.’”

OK, you can unfurl your brow and retract your hanging jaw. This was a satirical article from The Onion. But even though it accurately portrays that corporate culture does indeed emanate from the top, instilling a relaxed, even fun and comfortable environment is not something one demands “or else.”

Your corporate culture may gain significantly from the occasional party, bagel or donut breakfast at the company’s expense, group bike rides, or trips to see a local sporting event – even supporting your local high school football team on a Friday night will do. Got a spare office where an air hockey table can fit? Everyone needs a break during the day (it’s the law for hourly employees in many states).  A few minutes of laughter and relaxation can energize employees for hours. And when employees are comfortable in each other’s company in a fun environment, they may be a lot more comfortable contributing million dollar ideas at the conference table.

The payoff?

Consider Endeavor America Loan Services, an old-fashioned (by the president’s own admission) company amidst the Bay Area’s most cutting edge companies. By placing significant emphasis and a priority on corporate culture, Endeavor attracted 200 professionals from throughout the United States in their first year of operation without spending a penny on employee recruiting.  By implementing a number of the initiatives listed above, the best and the brightest have gotten the word from peers via word-of-mouth and social media, and have flocked to be contributors to the Endeavor corporate culture.

“Consider your employees your first level of customers,” said Darius Mirshahzadeh, president of Endeavor. “Create a culture of reward, recognition, and excitement for your first level of customers, and you will see them strive to please their customers.”

It’s a new way of looking at things for many companies. Rather than continuing to place exclusive emphasis on the standard “top down” management style, emphasis on team-building, harmony, collaboration and a sincere focus on improving employee’s perception of their value to the organization are producing undeniable boosts to many companies’ corporate culture.

Free Webinar: Unlocking Your Culture: 4 Steps to Transforming Your Business
Unlocking Your Culture: 4 Steps to Transforming Your Business [Webinar]
Unlocking Your Culture: 4 Steps to Transforming Your Business [Webinar]

The question then isn’t whether or not you should make an investment in your culture. The question is — where to start?

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Lewis Lustman

Lewis Lustman is a content marketer who enjoys developing materials that engage, inform, challenge, and hopefully entertain my audience. Lewis is a former journalist for Los Angeles Magazine and the Los Angeles Times, and has worked for a number of leading advertising, marketing, technology, and PR firms over the years. Interested in a topic that he hasn't yet tackled? Drop him a line in the comments section!

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