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Utah Business

Smart Companies Are Embracing Individualism

In recent years, companies have shifted towards an ‘employee-first’ mentality in an effort to attract and retain top talent in a competitive market. Many companies are investing heavily in ‘culture builders’ such as fully stocked kitchens, dog friendly offices, nap pods, unlimited paid time off, free gym memberships, public transportation credits, standing desks, the option to work from home, subsidized child care, and more. The list goes on and on. 

While these things are often used to serve as a visual representation of company identity, they do not necessarily define the corporate culture. This begs the question: If corporate culture cannot be bought, how do founders and senior leadership teams foster a healthy culture that empowers both happy and productive employees?

Positive employee experience means positive company culture

Corporate culture is created through the employees collective experiences, points of view, attitude towards one another, approaches to business initiatives, and freedom to be themselves. However, creating a culture with these values is easier said than done. 

According to Dustin Qualls, head of enterprise business solutions for MX, creating this kind of culture means recognizing the unique value each person brings to the table, “In years past, the business world didn’t fully recognize the value that each person could bring to an organization. But as this recognition happens, companies are able to deliver value in ways they never could before.”

This places an enormous responsibility on a company’s founding team and the type of people they hire to help them grow. Rob Brown, cheif operating officer of Global View Capital shares inspiring advice to help navigate such a heavy obligation to the company culture, “It’s not so much about how we look, but how we look at one another.” This means we must look past the first impression – and instead we must look at the intrinsic value of the individual.

“The way we treat our employees should never come from their outward appearance. It should come from the value they bring as well as an understanding that productivity comes in all shapes and sizes,” shares Michelle Najarian, marketing assistant at Colvin Engineering Associates. When employers place stigma on individualism it stunts creativity, productivity, and output. 

Thanks to social media platforms like LinkedIn, employees are more visible than ever before. This means, a CEO and a marketing intern could have equal social footprints as a representative for their company. This realization can be difficult for organizations to accept and navigate, but savvy business leaders realize embracing personal identity and expression of oneself can be a competitive advantage.  

Embracing the new business casual

“Asking someone to conform to a specific ‘look’, is asking them to take away a piece of themselves. Keep in mind, the philosophy at VidArmy is casual, but never sloppy. It is reasonable to ask employees to present well, but to ask employees to present themselves in a certain way, creates a culture of submission, and borderline demoralization,” says Levi Lindsay, cofounder of VidArmy.

Today’s workforce expects the freedom to be themselves in their personal lives and in professional settings.  “To put it bluntly, I wouldn’t want to work with or for someone who discriminates against people based on their individualism, and the way they choose to present themselves through dress or decisions they make regarding their body,” says Ian Sagstetter head of market strategy at Graphite Systems Inc. 

Corporate culture is deeply rooted in the relationships between employer and employee,  company and customers. “If the counterculture is a shift towards honoring the work and innate value of each individual, versus placing meaningless and trivial things – how you dress or what you look like – on a pedestal then, I’m all for it.” says Rory Blanton.

As counterculture becomes the norm, the perception of “business casual” is changing. People are looking to express themselves in a variety of ways – when embraced from leadership, corporate culture flourishes.  “If you want to empower employees to speak up and contribute without reservation, stop creating reservations. Perceptions are changed through attitude,” says Lindsay.

Often times, companies with the strongest cultures have well documented policies in place regarding things like personal appearance. However, rather than those policies being restrictive and prescriptive, they are designed to empower employees to present themselves in a way that amplifies their personal identity without compromising the company identity. 

“In regard to corporate policy, just like people, different corporations require different ways of conducting themselves,” says Jesse Millgate founder and CEO of Millgato Desings. “Change happens and as we evolve, it’s my hope that walls and status quo of old will continue to be challenged, as we cannot get better and grow without the idea that anything and everything is possible.” 

In an effort to amplify good culture and values, smart companies should recognize the importance of embracing individualism, because appearances can be deceiving, after all.