A quick online search of “company culture” yields millions of results, all of which define the concept a little bit differently. But, in the simplest terms, culture is how an employee feels on Sunday night. Do they look forward to Monday morning and the week ahead? Or, conversely, do they dread it?
Getting Clear on Culture
For years, we’ve been sold the idea that culture centers on workplace extras — things like colorful and fun workspaces, free meals, ping-pong tables and relaxed dress codes. Many of the great company cultures of the world, such as those of Apple, Salesforce, Google, Microsoft, HubSpot and Meta, offer perks like these.
Yet, when you listen to employees talk about why they leave their jobs, you’ll hear reasons like poor leadership, inadequate compensation, lack of challenges, the absence of a meaningful career path, poor work/life balance, and the lack of opportunity to learn, develop and grow on the job. These criticisms help identify the cultural attributes that, in fact, help companies attract and retain talent.
The best ideas about how to innovate and meet your customers’ needs usually come from your team members. Making sure that employees can share their ideas — especially with leadership — is another cornerstone of a healthy culture.
Provide employees with big, meaningful opportunities to share what’s on their minds, and then back them up with your day-to-day behaviors. You’ll make a difference.
Employees who work under great leaders tend to be happier, more productive and more connected within their organization. This has a ripple effect that contributes directly to the company’s bottom line. But, yet, so many employees feel under-appreciated right now. The reasons are numerous, and they include the following:
- not getting clear direction
- not sensing their manager’s trust
- not having enough feedback or support
- not feeling that their efforts and their time are respected
Great leaders hire the right employees for the right positions. Then, they provide clear objectives, offer regular coaching and feedback, empower employees to meet those objectives and get out of the way.
Set the Tone
Employees feel more motivated to achieve their goals when their managers help them thrive and provide positive reinforcement. This doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as sending an uplifting email about an employee’s job performance.
You can also be positive when things aren’t going so well. This is where leaders in the most successful company cultures make a considerable impact. They’re confident enough to transparently admit their own mistakes, and they have sufficient confidence in their team to accept with grace when others also make mistakes.
Are you setting an open tone? Are you transparent and candid? Are you providing the kind of positive energy that employees look for in their careers? If so, you’re helping to build the type of culture that’s required to retain top talent.
Take Personal Responsibility
True culture — the kind that isn’t manufactured and that doesn’t only appear as words on the wall — is inherent in everything a company does.
As we move out of the pandemic and wait to see how the Great Resignation unfolds, we’re sure to face challenges ahead. But there will also be opportunities to create and sustain flourishing cultures that demonstrate that we value our employees and our customers.
In my experience, this begins with asking yourself one simple question: How can I contribute to this culture today? Ponder that question frequently. Then, take personal responsibility to make your organization a great place to work. That is how you can build an organization with a true competitive differentiator to attract and retain talent.