By Ali Mirza, President of Rose Garden Consulting.
Company culture is often confused with company benefits. To clarify this distinction, company benefits are tangible methods of sharing an appreciation for employees. Certain benefits are mandated by law (social security, unemployment compensation, worker's compensation) and others may or may not be offered depending on the business (health and life insurance, pension, paid maternity leave).
A company's culture, on the other hand, is made up of a belief and behavioral system that is comprised of norms, systems, values, assumptions, habits and the company's vision. It captures the energy an employee feels upon entering the office, be it positive or negative. When an employee enters the office at our company, our goal is to make sure they feel prepared for their day.
Everyday, we hold morning sales meetings where we set goals for the week and ensure we are tracking to meet them. We make sure our employees feel respected and trusted to thrive in their area of expertise. Culture is not something employees bring with them to the office; it already exists within the company's ethos.
Every individual brings their own strengths and experiences that make the overall company more dynamic. I, for one, am living proof that you can be professional without being uptight: I wear a suit every day and expect my employees to dress professionally.
However, a collaborative casual environment is still encouraged. When I started the business, I took everything I loved about the corporate world, and threw out everything I hated.
Here are three useful ways you can keep your company culture alive within your own organization:
- Hold frequent status meetings. I do this to help establish camaraderie between employees, and give folks the opportunity to receive frequent updates on the company's trajectory. It also serves as a platform for communication between all levels of the company. If the entire staff understands the goals of the organization, then they tend to perform exceptionally better. If someone on my staff is unclear of our goals, then they might lose focus and an incentive to put in their best effort.
- Recognize all employees with great results and great efforts. I don't just reward those who put out great results, but those who show consistent effort and persistence. It doesn't always have to be a monetary gift: It can be a day-off pass, cake or doughnuts, a gift card or anything else that truly shows how much you appreciate their work. If someone isn't doing as great as you would like them to, don't be condescending towards them. Instead, give them advice on how they can improve. Our culture strongly rewards performance: For example, one of our marketing specialists who isn't in sales and doesn't get paid a commission was still given an incentivized pay plan with specific company goals as metrics. His promotions are based on the growth of the company, which are a direct result of his hard work.
- Ask potential employees to explain what they think their job description is. I always ask all candidates I interview if they fully understand what their role within the company will be. This serves two benefits: it prevents them from being surprised once they are hired, and it clears up any miscommunication there might be between the hiring manager and the individual looking to be hired. Recently I was hiring a marketing specialist, and during the interview they seemed to understand my overall strategy. I asked them to write a sales plan/job description before I hired them. Unfortunately, the person was great at pretending they knew what they were talking about in the interview, but it was evident in their plan that they had little experience or direction. I was able to save us both a lot of wasted time and money by implementing this technique.
There are hundreds of other ways to improve a company's culture, but I believe these three will help your business thrive like never before. Once you create your ideal work culture, the hardest part is maintaining fluidity.
Try your best to continuously expand your company while also retaining the winning formula that put you in this successful position in the first place.
Ali Mirza is President of Rose Garden Consulting. He currently lives in Atlanta and travels the country helping companies increase their sales.