Note: For the infographic head straight to the end of the post!
A great man once said: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” and time proved him right. No matter how well thought out your strategy is, results depend on the execution and culture is the one that determines how thighs really get done.
Entrepreneur magazine defined strategy as “a blend of the values, beliefs, taboos, symbols, rituals and myths all companies develop over time.” But Jeff Lawson, CEO and Cofounder of Twilio, explained it even better:
Culture is the collection of people, you’ve got 130 people out there making decisions every day. Thousands of decisions are made every day. Culture is how you, as say a leader of the company, are confident that every one of those decisions is the right one. In an environment where you say, you know, people aren’t allowed to make decisions; that obviously doesn’t work. You don’t hire great people and then say you can’t make decisions.
The time to start thinking about your startup culture is not when you have 130 employees, it’s when there is 5 of you. While your carefully handpicked team knows they are expected above and beyond for every consumer, even to the detriment of the company, your 70th employee might be thinking more about the costs.
You want you startup to thrive and people to be happy to be working for you, right? The only way to make sure is to deliberately share your organizational culture, and the best time to start is now.
Outline mission and values
In order to shape your company culture, you have to understand what kind of company you want to be and what are the values that will get you there. Start with defining your company mission statement – your reason for being.
Key steps to defining your company’s mission:
- Brainstorm both positive and negative experiences from the past. Gather your team and let each of them write down what they perceive the company values are. Writing down is better than discussing since you are making sure everyone has his say.
- Implement and understand corporate values, as well as the reasons behind them. See which values repeat the most and why, are they a ghost from company’s past or they really are what you want to focus on in the future. Is your focus going to be on teamwork or individual contribution? Are you going to go above and beyond when addressing consumer complaints or try to be as cost effective as possible in your operations?
- Make a mission statement and communicate it to others. Having your mission or company values written down means nothing. You have to make sure you communicate them right across the company and implement them every day.
Make a Talent Acquisition Plan
You have to make sure the core of your values and culture stay the same as your startup grows. Everything starts with your hiring process. While this doesn’t mean your startup has to be filled with clones, you have to make sure they all share your company values.
Unfortunately, it’s easier finding a capable software engineer than a person that fits your unique corporate culture. In fact, 46% of new hires fail within 18 months and 89% of them simply don’t fit the company culture.
We wrote a lot about talent acquisition techniques and here are some key steps to making the recruiting process more efficient:
- Switch from recruitment roles to hiring managers and technology
- Implement online candidate qualification techniques (pre-recorded video interviews)
- Incorporate predictive analytics in Talent Acquisition
Now, please note that we do not advocate replacing recruiters with technology; after all, cultural fit is not something you can measure or evaluate with algorithms (at least so far). You should certainly keep that personal touch but use technology to help where it can. In fact, startups with the most successful acquisition make sure to take to time to evaluate if the candidate would be a good fit or not.
Startups with the most successful acquisition plan:
- Buffer – offers 45-day trial period to see if the company is a good fit for the employee
- Zappos – conducts two sets of interviews with a focus on: a) a candidate’s abilities, b) whether he or she fits the company culture.
- Chipotle – outlines a list of required characteristics.
Keep your employees engaged
The costs of disengaged employees are great. In fact, research shows that each year between $450 and 550 billion is lost in the US each due to the lack of productivity among disengaged employees. Corporate culture is what makes employees engaged. How? By encouraging your employees to take ownership of their task and do what they love.
You know how it is in small teams – everyone is doing everything. In those small teams, you have the option of pursuing project of your own. It’s very important to keep that freedom and task ownership as your company grow. Set up practices that will encourage knowledge and opinion sharing and give everyone the opportunity to explore areas they are most interested in.
Company culture is one of the most powerful and least obvious factors of your success. However, just having a strong company culture is not enough – it has to be positive and aligned with your company goals.
Positive culture is what boost morale and makes your employees happy to wake up for work. Most importantly, happy employees equal happy customers so culture indirectly affects your bottom line. Negative culture does the opposite – it breeds unhealthy work environment and has a discouraging effect on employee engagement.
Start building your company culture now – identify and stand by your values, set high standards for your hiring process and encourage your employees to learn, share and grow.