Business owners who want to create a great company culture oftentimes confuse perks for culture. They think that by offering great perks, they're creating a great culture, but that's not necessarily the case. They are two very different things.
Don't get me wrong, perks are great. But, at the end of the day, if a company has beanbag chairs and a foosball table, but the people don't like each other, then that's not a great company culture.
Perks are a mirage. They're the shiny new toys for the month. It's culture that's substantive. It's the emotional investment. Having an office dog is a perk. Texting someone when their dog passes away - that's culture. That's what is real.
Free lunch is a perk. An extra week of vacation is a perk. A manager taking staff to lunch or offering flexible hours to take care of a sick family member is culture.
Culture is passion. It's caring. It's building meaningful relationships and an environment that people enjoy being in every day. It's creating experiences for staff and helping them grow personally and professionally. It's sending someone a care package when they're sick.
It's holding people accountable and finding out what they're doing in order to accomplish their tasks. It's understanding their thought process. It's sending someone to a seminar or training course to develop their skills. It's helping them grow in areas they're insecure about and holding them to a higher standard.
Culture is acknowledging someone's hard work and accomplishments. It's late-night talks with staff to get to know them outside of their role. It's learning about their family and their hobbies. It's about being genuine and creating authentic conversations.
Culture is listening to what employees care about and encouraging and supporting whatever that is. It's starting a philanthropic group if staff wants to give back, because that's what they care about. It's creating experiences for employees they wouldn't get elsewhere. It's knowing their wedding anniversary and other important events in their life.
I'm not saying all of this is possible for all companies. For a company with thousands of employees, it's important to have subcultures and managers who are invested in developing their group's culture. It's important for them to look beyond goals and metrics and show staff they're more than just a number. And at the same time, hold them accountable to achieving more than they thought they could.
Culture is where top down meets bottom up and is when leadership and management are as invested in staff as staff is in the company.
Culture is a feeling - not a perk.