Defining Company Culture is Hard

Defining Company Culture
Defining Company Culture

Let’s face it, defining company culture is hard and maintaining it is even harder. Every company is different. Every CEO embraces different values. And further, as an organization scales, there are endless nuances that can affect the state of a company’s working environment.

Although each company faces distinct issues, there are general roadblocks that impact an organization’s culture. If not identified, these roadblocks can prevent a company from protecting and maintaining an environment that retains dedicated employees. Simply put, being proactive is critical in ensuring a strong work culture.

CEOs Are Busy

CEOs are visionaries: they captain the ship, they rule the roost, they run the show. They are at the forefront of every major decision, and in making those decisions, they are shaping the future of the company. Culture, something with no real monetary value, can oftentimes get lost when there are high value deals to be made and investment options to review.

What some CEOs don’t realize, however, is that there are certain fiscal implications to neglecting culture. According to a 2012 Columbia University study, the turnover rate for companies with a healthy culture is a nominal 13.9%, whereas those companies who fail to focus on culture are threatened at 48.4%. The result? Incohesive teams and a lot of wasted resources.

It’s clear that employees want a culture they can identify with and latch onto, and it’s important for that vision to start at the top.

Scaling Hurts

As a recruiter, growth is constantly at the forefront of my mind. How do we make great hires for our teams while sustaining the culture that we’ve helped define and work so hard to build?

With every team, especially in startup land, hiring is impactful. Add one new body to a team of ten and everybody notices. Being thoughtful and tactful in each hire is critical to the long-term success of a company. Finding that missing piece can often take weeks or months, but it’s important to understand the value in waiting. Defining a perfect candidate by the cultural parameters you’ve put in place becomes increasingly more important as the team scales. One bad apple really can spoil the whole bunch. Take your time; pick the good ones.

The Intangibles

According to Merriam Webster, culture is “a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization (such as a business).” But what does that really even mean? And what’s it mean when defining company culture?

Often times, the ambiguity behind what culture is and how it can be measured is much of the problem. It seems unnatural to attach KPIs and measurement scales to employee satisfaction when there are so many intangibles, and immeasurable, that are the driving cultural force.

The spirit, energy and passion that founders, CEOs, and employees pour into their organizations day in and day out is what makes culture. Understanding what makes your employees tick, the true motivations behind why they dedicate hours of their lives to this thing that you’ve created, is the real key.

Brian Chesky (Co-Founder, CEO, Airbnb) said it best: “Culture is simply a shared way of doing something with a passion.” Be conscious about the environment you are building, even if you do not think it directly affects your revenue. Grow your teams thoughtfully and sustainably. Find common ground so you can work with your friends. Make time for your passion, and don’t lose sight of the intangibles. The rest will all fall into place.