Say "startup culture" and people think of giant slides inside the office, catered gourmet lunches, beer o'clock Fridays, and parasailing during company retreats. Work environments that attract the best and the brightest.

No wonder you may feel that building your company's culture is out of your reach.

You're just trying to keep your business afloat and make a bit of money. You're overstretched enough just doing what you need to do. You don't have the time or resources to worry about culture.

You're not Google.

Why You Don't Have To Be Google To Have A Healthy Workplace Culture

This torments you like the Sword of Damocles, because you know you need a healthy culture.

Peter Drucker is said to have declared, "culture eats strategy for breakfast."

And for Patrick Lencioni, business management consultant and author of The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business, a healthy organizational culture trumps business smarts.

A smart business has the strategy, marketing, finance, and technology required to achieve profits and growth.

But all that fails without a healthy organizational culture: minimal politics, minimal confusion, high morale, high productivity, and low turnover among good employees.

You need both smarts and health to succeed.

And it's not about perks.

What Workplace Culture Is All About

Workplace culture is the set of behaviors, norms, and practices that reflect your organization's values--not necessarily the ones posted on the wall, but the values that the organization has in reality, for good or bad.

Culture exists and evolves, with or without your intervention. So you might as well guide and shape it towards becoming a healthy one.

You don't have to do what well-funded startups do to have a healthy culture. Any organization, large or small, can achieve it. As Forbes contributor Chris Cancialosi points out, perks can and should reinforce culture and motivate behaviors that embody an organization's values.

But perks don't a culture make.

How To Define Your Workplace Culture (Even Without A Budget)

Start small, start simple.

Begin by getting alignment on your values. Make it a brainstorming and team building activity, depending on how big your team is. You can use Lencioni's six critical questions as a guide:

Why do we exist?

How do we behave?

What do we do?

How will we succeed?

What is most important--right now?

Who must do what?

When you're clear on your values (and these may change as your company grows), the next step is to communicate them to everyone in your team. In my company, every team member receives a poster of our six core values, and talks about them almost every day at meetings and one-on-ones with managers.

Now live, breathe, and reinforce those values.

At team meetings in Boundless, for example, CEO Ariel Diaz gives Cultural Achievement Awards to employees who exemplify their company's values. They use fun, creative names like "The Beast (the hardest worker), The Architect (the best strategist), Indiana Jones/Lara Croft (the dedicated adventurer looking for results), and The Most Interesting Person in the World (a well-rounded, funny, charismatic individual)."

Make those values your compass for everything: the decisions you make, the policies you formulate, the people you hire.

You can read more about how we live out our values at Mirasee here.

Lencioni also makes a case for reimagining your meetings. He says, "Make them a constant, living example of teamwork, clarity and communication. As unsexy as that may seem, there is no greater predictor of organizational health."

Begin Now

What's the one thing you can do this month to build a healthy workplace culture? Have you identified and articulated your core values? If not, make that your priority.

If you've already defined your company's values, what's one simple thing you can do to communicate them to everyone in your organization or team?

After that, what one simple thing can you do to drive and reinforce behaviors that exemplify those values?

You see, you don't have to spend thousands of dollars on team retreats or extreme perks to develop a healthy workplace culture.

It can be as simple as making a small change at your next team meeting.

Published on: Apr 13, 2016