Company culture can make or break your business. Current company trends could lead you to believe that nap rooms, pool tables, and endless snacks are the keys to a strong culture. However, if your company's culture is toxic, adding a new ping-pong table or snack bar won't help. That's the equivalent of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
Now, having a nice office is great and will help attract new employees. However, at the end of the day, a nice office and comfy chairs may get people in the door, it won't keep them around if the company culture isn't a good fit for them. Hiring the best employees is great, keeping them on staff and developing them is better. If you're serious about leadership, that means you need to be serious about the culture at your company.
1. Empower employees
By believing in team members, and giving them levels of autonomy and decision-making ability you can foster a better work culture.
In Charles Duhigg's book, Smarter Faster Better, he looks at the difference between the productivity and culture of a car plant in Michigan, before when GM primarily ran the operation and after, when Toyota took over operational control. Before Toyota implemented their system cars were rushed through the assembly line, regardless of minor errors and inconsistencies.
The culture was a very top-down organization where managers made decisions on everything and employees voices were practically silenced.
However, when Toyota came to the plant things changed. The car company embraced a bottom-up approach, realizing that team members on the assembly line had acquired massive amounts of knowledge about their particular part of the car.
If someone noticed an imperfection in a piece or thought of a better way to do something they were encouraged to stop the line. For context, it costs the average auto plant $22,000 per minute to stop production.
They saw this cost as a short-term loss and long-term gain as their product would be more reliable in the marketplace.
The subtle changes made at the plant reinvigorated the workforce and employees were cited as now enjoying coming to work as they felt like they were part of something bigger than simply a job.
2. Promote personal development
Your employees are your lifeblood and getting a deeper understanding of their goals will only help you. The retail giant, Lululemon, has an interesting onboarding experience for new hires.
They introduce new team members, which they call educators, to a reading list (all books around personal growth) and get them to write out their goals. Lululemon is committed to helping its employees achieve their goals, both inside and outside of their store.
Last year, I came across an example of this in action.
One of their employees had the goal of opening up her own farm, with the hopes of having a herd of Texas Longhorn cows. After working at the company for over five years, upon her departure, Lululemon surprised her by fully purchasing her first four cows. They didn't have to do this, however, they demonstrated a deep commitment to their core beliefs around employee development.
3. Don't make work more important than life
Work is part of your life, it isn't your life. You and your employees should be able to get meaningful work done in 40 hours per week, leaving time for development outside of work. Fellow Inc. columnist, and Basecamp CEO, Jason Fried has written numerous posts on working effectively, within 40 hours a week.
Recently, Apple caught serious flack for their promotion of Planet of the Apps and becoming a workaholic in order to succeed.
Instead of adhering to mantras like, "I'll sleep when I'm dead," or "love the hustle," your company should be concerned with providing a safe, productive and happy work environment. One that focuses on business, but respects employees' personal lives and growth outside of work.
In the end, your company culture is your responsibility, and if it's toxic it's your job to fix it with real change, not more snack rooms.