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How to create a corporate culture your staff will love

Featured article by Hans Schumann

How to create a corporate culture your staff will love

So you’ve created your own company and have big plans for it. It’s much more than just a business – it’s your “baby” and you want to create the best environment for it to grow and prosper.

How do you go about it?

A great way of achieving this is to create a corporate culture where your staff enjoy working for you – one where they’re personally engaged with your company’s mission and values.

But how do you create such a powerful culture? Is it even possible, or is all of this just corporate idealism?

What is a corporate culture?

Of course, a company can’t have a culture; only people can. The culture of a company is formed by patterns of accepted behaviours, standards, beliefs and values across the people who work for it.

This means that your culture isn’t created by a cute strategy written on a piece of paper. It’s created by the people you bring on board.

Too early to think about your company culture?

If you’re in the early stages of developing your company, working on your corporate culture may not seem that important. At this stage you know each other well and everybody “gets” what the company is about.

However, I recommend planning for it from the onset. Each new hire will affect the culture of your company, and once you’ve hired a few bad fits it can be tricky to reverse the damage.

The creation of your corporate culture starts at the very beginning when you form your leadership team. They are the people who will bring in the values and behaviours that define the culture of your company.

That’s why it’s useful to be clear about the culture you want to create from the start of your business, and only bring in people who are a good fit.

Why does it matter?

When it comes to corporate culture, mission statements and values, I often meet with cynicism. What’s the point? Isn’t all of this just meaningless corporate jargon?

Many of the values and mission statements I’ve seen have been pretty vague and meaningless. Often they’re created by marketing departments and have little to do with the reality on the ground.

Yet if you manage to create an authentic and meaningful corporate culture it can make a phenomenal difference to the success of your company.

I believe that most employees have a deep desire for meaningful work they truly enjoy. They want to connect to an authentic purpose, working with nice people in an inspiring environment. How about giving your staff exactly that?

An effective corporate culture can give your business a significant competitive advantage:

  • it provides a proper framework for your staff to work in
  • it sustains their enthusiasm
  • it serves as a powerful recruitment tool
  • it supports higher staff loyalty and lower staff turnover
  • it boosts performance, because your staff will be motivated to go the extra mile

Don’t leave it to the marketers

Your culture needs to be created by your leadership. Your marketing advisers may come up with great ideas and slick concepts, but they’re just empty words if they don’t reflect the reality of your business.

A corporate culture must reflect the actual values, beliefs and behaviours of the people at the top, and your staff must see them displayed by their leadership every day.

For example, let’s say you announce your vision of a fun and informal corporate culture with a healthy work-life balance. If you then turn up every day in a suit and tie and work 18 hours a day locked away in your office, your staff aren’t going to take your vision seriously! They’ll model your behaviour and interpret that as the way you expect them to work too.

Getting started

Begin creating your corporate culture by discussing the values, beliefs, visions and preferred ways of working of each member of your leadership team. Where do you have common ground? Which shared elements are best suited to support your company?

Keep your marketing advisers out at this stage (unless they’re part of the leadership team). Instead, work with a coach or business consultant. Go deep. Find something that’s so personal, authentic and inspiring that it’s bound to fire you all up for years to come.

Make it relevant to your staff

A word of caution.

If you want excellent staff engagement, don’t make your internal staff communications just about the goals and mission of your company. They’ll have limited impact if you fail to make them relevant to your staff. Instead, show them how working for you helps them pursue their own goals and ambitions in life, not just those of the company.

This means that line managers must spend time with their direct reports to establish what’s most important to each individual member of staff. Even if they don’t even know the answer themselves, you can help them gain more clarity about what they want from their career and indeed life generally. A coach can help with this process.

Once you know what matters to your staff, you can help them see how their day-to-day job task can support them in their chosen mission in life. That’s the most powerful staff engagement you can create! It’s called intrinsic motivation and is much more effective than simply relying on external factors, such as money and benefits.

Implementing your company’s culture

Once you’ve created your desired corporate culture, it’s time to make it real.

Communication: Communicate the shared values, beliefs, standards and behaviours that form your company’s culture. Be specific. Explain how you came up with them and why they matter. Give examples of good practice that illustrate what you mean.

This process takes time. I suggest that you plan an offsite for this exercise. It demonstrates how important this is and provides the right environment for people to engage with your message.

This is not a one-time exercise. You will need to communicate and reinforce your corporate culture at regular intervals to keep it fresh and relevant in the minds of your staff.

Become a role model: From now on, let your staff see how you live and breathe your corporate culture every day. Be consistent in all your actions and encourage your staff to follow your example. Ensure your leadership team own and drive the values forward and make them part of their performance objectives.

Embed the culture in processes: Make sure your company culture is reflected in your HR policies, as well as in your systems for performance measurement, appraisals and bonus allocation. Don’t reward behaviours that conflict with the values your culture promotes.

Embed the culture in your organisational structure: Consider changes to the organisational structure that could support your corporate culture. For example, if you want to promote a culture of innovation, you may want to create a specific innovation team that reports directly to the CEO.

Only hire good fits: Don’t just hire on the basis of skill sets, even if they look pretty convincing on paper. Establish whether a candidate fits in with your corporate culture. Do they share your company’s values, visions and beliefs? It’s much easier to train your staff on technical skills than to change their values and behaviours.

Create a supportive environment: The office layout and interior design impact how your staff feel, work and cooperate with each other. There are specialist interior designers who can advise you on the best layout and design to promote behaviours that you want to encourage, such as competition or innovation.

I hope you’re excited about creating a corporate culture that your staff will love. At bonafide hr, we can break this process down into small, manageable steps for you to make it both easy and fun.

Click here to contact us if you would like to discuss how you can create the perfect corporate culture for your business.