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5 Key Elements of a Strong Corporate Culture

Building a strong, healthy corporate culture is quickly becoming a necessity for companies to find success in today’s job market. Employees want to feel like their jobs matter and work for a company with values similar to their own. Smart employers know that in order to entice and retain top talent, they not only need to have competitive pay and benefits, but also need to create an environment where people actually enjoy coming to work.

However, creating an enjoyable workplace is more than adding a ping-pong table and giving out free food. Many companies mistakenly associate culture solely with fun. While it’s important to have fun, it’s more important to establish meaningful core values and create an atmosphere of trust, caring and support. Employees should be free to be themselves and feel comfortable sharing their opinions and ideas without fear of retribution. Throw in a fun environment and you’ll have employees who are passionate about the work they do.

To stay competitive, companies need to understand not only the importance of creating a strong corporate culture, but how to actually create one. Although each culture is unique to the organization it represents, there are still a few common key elements found in every great culture.

Here are five of them:

    1. Leadership
      However, it’s important to remember that ownership of your culture does not lie exclusively with leaders. Although leaders are essential role models for a company’s culture, real success comes when you also empower employees to take ownership. By doing so, they become invested in seeing it succeed. When everyone takes an active role in driving the culture it gets even stronger.
      Culture has to start at the top. Leadership shapes and sets the tone for what the culture will be within the organization. If leaders aren’t invested in creating and maintaining a strong culture, it will become hollow and meaningless and employees will never believe in it.
    2. Communication
      Clear, transparent communication is vital to building a culture that people can trust. Remember to be upfront and openly communicate not only the what, but the why behind your decisions. Also, communicate your core values and culture continuously to help your employees understand what your culture is and why it’s important.
    3. Listening
      Employees need to know that their opinions matter. Show them by sending out surveys and holding focus groups to get a pulse on what employees like and dislike about your company. But your efforts can’t end there.You also need to openly share the employee feedback with the company and make a genuine effort to make changes based on that feedback. Even small changes can have a huge impact on the engagement of your people. Listening, being transparent and making changes based on feedback not only ensure you’re making meaningful improvements, but also help you build trust more quickly.
    4. Commitment
      Take time to figure out how a cultural component could strengthen your business and then be thoughtful about what type of culture you want to create. Once you’ve established a plan, nurture and grow it like you would any other business effort. When you accomplish your initial goals, set more. Culture evolves and needs constant attention to ensure its success.
      People ask us for tips about creating a strong culture and we always remind them that we’re more than a decade into our efforts. We approach our culture plan the same way we do our business plan. We make goals, set tactics and hold ourselves accountable. And then every year we make changes to stay on track and get better.
    5. Hire for Culture Fit and Core Values
      Equally important is being completely honest with the job candidate about your culture from the beginning. The interview process is a chance to determine if the job is the right fit for both of you. Be transparent about your culture, the job requirements and expectations, and avoid anything that might be considered a misrepresentation. You’ll only end up breaking the candidate’s trust, which will have a negative effect on your culture in the long run.
      Hiring for culture fit and core value alignment from the top down is extremely important to the validity and sustainability of your culture. We incorporate culture-related questions throughout our interview process to help us determine if a candidate is the right fit. For instance, asking the question “Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond for a coworker or customer,” helps us determine if the candidate is aligned with our core value of Putting People First.

The Cultural ROI

Culture and business go hand in hand. Employees who are actively engaged in their jobs produce better results. In fact, 30 years of research has found that companies who invest in creating people-centric cultures average 50 percent less turnover and grow their profits as much as two times faster than the competition. But the return doesn’t stop there. These companies also experience increased customer loyalty, higher quality job candidates, more brand recognition and increased innovation.

My company has experienced these benefits firsthand. Since we started investing in our culture 16 years ago, employee engagement has climbed steadily. That engagement has led to lower turnover — from nearly 50 percent in 2000 to 17 percent today — and the highest revenue in the history of our company. There’s no doubt in my mind that our culture is the primary driver of our business success.

Creating a great culture can seem overwhelming. However, if you take it one step at a time, you’ll find the reward is well worth the effort.