But first, we need to set something straight. When it comes to culture, there are a lot of misconceptions. Today, we’re addressing these and looking at what culture really is.
1. Culture can’t be managed, so there’s no point worrying about it
It’s easy to see how culture could be seen this way in the past. It is largely intangible and organic, but the way we can influence culture has changed thanks to advancements in tech.
With more advanced people management platforms now on the market that help you build trust and transparency by responding to feedback, and also monitor things like employee sentiment and happiness, companies can gain an insight on how their culture looks and feels and where the problems are…. Hint: in our experience, this is often things like not understanding where the organization is going or how they can play a part in contributing to that direction. And this visibility makes it easier than ever to nurture a healthy culture too. Once you can pinpoint any potential areas for improvement, you can take steps to minimise these. You can also identify what’s adding to employee morale and engagement, and maximise those opportunities too.
But most importantly, fostering a positive company culture starts with setting the tone from the top (not just patching problems as they pop up). It’s the little things like thinking about employee experience, listening to feedback and providing responses (not always saying yes, but taking the time to explain why), keeping promises, and giving people the tools they need to do their best work that really create a great culture. Which brings us to our next point…
2. Culture is just ping pong tables and slides
As mentioned, fostering a healthy culture is so much more about the way you treat people in areas that matter more than it is about gimmicks and perks. In fact, in some cases, ping pong tables and slippery slides are used to serve as a distraction from deep-seated issues within organizations that go ignored.
Chances are, hiring an in-house barista and giving everyone 5 minute massages at their desks won’t do much to aid morale or retention if staff are forced to work unreasonable hours, work with toxic colleagues or take home a salary that is unnecessarily low. But if those core priorities are in check? Then go nuts! But perks only work when all of the important things are sorted first.
88% of workers would not be retained in a company just for perks like games rooms. – LinkedIn
3. Only companies with big budgets can have a good culture
Now that we know good culture doesn’t mean throwing perks at people left right and centre, it’s also clear that it doesn’t take a huge budget to keep your company culture positive! There’s no reason why a small startup or family-owned business can’t have a culture that’s as great as any international brand (in fact, maintaining a good culture can be a challenge as you grow, we’ll be looking at some strategies to deal with that later in this series).
So this is an absolute myth! As we touched on earlier, things like taking on feedback, making your people feel valued, giving them understanding on how they can contribute and giving them the opportunity to grow, and make a difference, that really contribute to a great culture. And all of that? It’s free!
4. Culture doesn’t impact the bottom line, so it’s not a priority
Whether you believe this statement or not, it’s true that direct revenue-generating activities often take priority over looking after your culture. But the problem with this short-term thinking is that you miss out on the long-term growth and profitability that comes from a happy and thriving workforce.
By working to improve your company culture (or maintain the already great one that you have), you can expect a few of these outcomes that will all impact positively on your profitability.
- Reduced absenteeism, improving productivity
- Increased retention, lowering turnover costs
- Improved talent acquisition, helping you attract the best people
- Increased employee engagement, contributing to higher performance
Our experience is that so much of improving culture surrounds helping your team understand how they can contribute to where the organization is going, and providing them the opportunity and support to grow and make a difference. Now just imagine if your team was in that position, does that sound like it would be performing better and producing a better bottom line?
“I used to believe that culture was ‘soft,’ and had little bearing on our bottom line. What I believe today is that our culture has everything to do with our bottom line, now and into the future.” – Vern Dosch, author, Wired Differently
I used to believe that culture was ‘soft,’ and had little bearing on our bottom line. What I believe today is that our culture has everything to do with our bottom line, now and into the future.
5. Culture needs to be the same across every team
There is no one perfect culture for every organization, and likewise, if your business has multiple teams or departments, they will likely have their own slightly unique experience and culture as well. This is completely normal, as they are working toward different, but also interrelated objectives. The reality is, different types of teams are comprised of different personalities, leadership styles and ways of working.
As long as these work to have a positive impact on each team, it’s okay if micro-cultures develop inside your organization. What’s important is that all teams remain aligned to company values and can still work with each other effectively. A style that works for the marketing team will be very different to what your developers need in their workplace, so having some variation is very normal!