Improving Company Culture:
The Secret to Long-term Business Success
So, you’re a business owner on a mission to make a difference in the world and get a worthwhile return on your investment. It all started with a dream to provide solutions to your audience with an amazing product or service. Everyone knows running a business is no small task. However, you’re starting to notice the following patterns.
Your team appears unmotivated, always doing the bare minimum and producing low quality work. Your employees are single-minded, not thinking about the future but stuck in “task mode” until the weekend arrives. When it comes to team dynamics, you’re constantly seeing a breakdown in communication between teams, even with customers. On top of that, you notice a high turn-over rate and you’re constantly looking for replacements.
If any of this sounds familiar, the problem may not be your employees. The issue lies much deeper, in the foundation of what you’ve built your company on: your company culture.
Brand and Culture Must Become One
I know what you’re thinking—you’ve already spent tons of money crafting your brand image to communicate who you are—isn’t that enough? The culture of your company is internal, something your customers don’t see, so why does it matter?
As a business owner, if you want your company to succeed in the long run, the secret is this: your external brand and internal culture must become ONE.
While your external brand is how your organization is understood by your customers, your internal culture is how people inside your organization behave and think.
Whether you run a large chain or a start-up company, your culture is vital not only for your employees but your prospective clients as well. When your brand and culture are not fused, it can result in a disconnect between your employees and your customers.
How big is the gap between your reputation and your reality behind the scenes? The results of this gap will catch up with you down the road. A key part of marketing is building trust with your audience, but you must first build trust with your internal teams for that to be authentic. Are your employees treated the same way they’re expected to treat your customers?
Benefits of Merging Brand and Culture
When your brand and culture are merged, your company becomes a powerhouse! You’ll develop a sustainable competitive advantage, built on a strong foundation of company culture that is true inside and out. Here are some benefits to fusing brand and culture:
Increase in Workforce Alignment:
Fusing your brand and culture will result in efficiency and quality, because your employees are not having to navigate through conflicting standards.
Increase in Competitive Advantage:
Competitors can copy WHAT you do easily—but they cannot copy WHY you do it. People want authenticity from brands who line up to their standards. You can stand out from the rest with the same product but a better mission that is true internally and externally.
Increase Employee Engagement:
Attract and retain motivated employees who are connected to the purpose of what your company does and shares your values. When everyone is connected, you’ll move towards your vision more successfully.
If your company operates using a B2B structure, aligning your brand with culture is critical, since your employees are constantly interacting with clients and other businesses. Since your employees are often the product themselves, and the culture of your company will show through their attitudes.
Barriers and Myths to Culture Building
Maybe you’ve thought through all of this before, but you ran into some roadblocks and decided to leave it alone. Or maybe you think you’ve got it all figured out, but you’re still seeing the symptoms of poor culture listed above. Let’s review the barriers and myths to building culture, and think about which ones you relate to.
Strategy over culture: Most company leaders would rather focus on strategies to expand and grow. Jim Collins, author of Good to Great says the world’s most enduring companies place less emphasis on strategy and more on culture. “Culture IS strategy,” he says.
Too much time: Most people want to focus on what brings immediate results rather than long term success. While building culture does take more time than making a sale, it will be worth keeping your employees in the end! Consider the cost of your ROI when you’re not paying for employee turnover costs. Companies with a great culture have a lower turnover rate.
Lack of consistency: While some company leaders do their best to implement a culture, they are not consistent with walking it out, therefore the culture does not take root.
Don’t know how: Quite simply, most industry leaders and CEOs are valued for their technical know-how and get promoted for their knowledge rather than their ability to build culture with people. But that’s okay, there’s still time to learn!
Culture grows organically: Some people believe that you can’t shape a culture by yourself. However when you look at the layers and hierarchy of leadership in your company, even how quickly you respond to emails—you’ve already established a culture. Rather than allowing poor behaviors to set the tone, you should be proactive.
Culture is built through parties and perks: Free food, happy hour and fitness grants don’t create a culture. It might produce happy employees, but at the end of the day they’re facing the same problems. Fun activities won’t produce the work you’re looking for.
Telling people what kind of culture you want: Communication is key, but actions speak louder than words. As the leader of your organization, you’ll need to be the #1 demonstrator of the culture, and make efforts to change the existing narrative. Coming up with goals is a good start, but change starts with you.
How to Improve Your Company Culture
Building company culture starts from the top. So how do you go about it?
Define your vision and values:
Your values are more than just nice statements that make you sound like an ethical company. People want to feel connected to what your company stands for, rather than just show up to work everyday. Casting long term vision and communicating that to your company allows employees to engage with where you’re headed. As your company grows, so should your employees.
If you’re taking the time to set the tone with values and a vision, be authentic by making moves towards those things daily. The purpose of creating these values and vision is to actually progress towards them. Your employees will pick up on it if what you say and do are two different things.
Your company decisions should be informed based on data coming from your teams. Since they are immersed in their own work and departments daily, they will have the best feedback to give you on processes and pain points. Listening to feedback is vital to the growth of a company, and it will establish trust between you and your employees.
Build a safe environment:
If your employees and management aren’t speaking up, that is the most dangerous culture to have. Silence indicates people do not feel safe to speak up, be proactive or promote innovation. As a leader your gut reaction to a complaint may be to ignore someone, assuming they have a poor attitude or negative outlook. However, it is more important to rise above that reaction and truly listen to the words they’re saying.
Accept and learn from mistakes:
Mistakes happen, and your company is built on human beings. The way you respond to mistakes will develop a culture for your employees. Either one of fear and dread, laziness, or proactivity. Not only that, but you yourself are not immune from mistakes, and admitting that to the people you lead will further establish trust. When a mistake is made, observe it in the context of your core values and mission, and it will enable you and your team to learn from it. These mistakes could be the most vital part of reinforcing your culture, because most people learn through mistakes.
Pay attention to trends along the way:
Initiating change can be messy, and there can be many false starts along the way. Pay attention to the steps you’re taking and how those steps affect every person in your organization. Keep listening to people who are speaking up. If you’re truly moving in a good direction, you’ll start seeing better results like employee retention, better quality work, and efficient team communication.
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