If you have never started or led a company, you might have your own perceptions of culture. Perhaps you have read a number of articles talking about company culture. Here is a working definition: Work culture is “the pervasive values, beliefs, and attitudes that define a company and guide its practices.”
Proponents of strong company cultures believe that companies simply can’t afford to overlook culture if they wish to be around for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, those who feel culture isn’t that important say that work culture is intangible and there’s no sense in spending a lot of time investing in something that can’t be measured or perhaps seen. A lot of people who don’t think culture is that important may have read too many myths they now believe. In order to better understand culture, what it is and what it is not, let’s review some myths and facts of culture.
Myth #1. Culture does not really matter. There are many entrepreneurs and company leaders who feel that culture doesn’t matter with respect to their company success. These companies believe that since culture can’t be measured, there’s not much of a point in attempting to build one in the first place. They think that employees will either like their jobs or they won’t. They also believe that not everyone can enjoy showing up to work every day; that some jobs are just jobs. They are wrong. Culture is critical. Culture plays such a huge role in both attracting the “right” qualified employees to your company as well as convincing them to stay. Every one of us has had a job we’ve hated before. When you’re in a toxic culture, it can be a struggle to get to work every day. Once you’re there, it can be a struggle to stay motivated and actually do your job. On the other hand, when cultures are strong, people actually look forward to being at work.
Myth #2. Culture is managed from the top. Some companies believe that upper management is responsible for building and sustaining a culture. These are the people who envisioned and built the company, so surely they know what’s best for everyone else. It’s not true. If you’re a founder or leader, you may not be down in the trenches with the employees every single day while they are doing their jobs and engaging with your customers. As a matter of fact, you might not even know exactly if the company employees are actually abiding by the culture you helped to establish. All stakeholders shape the culture. Imagine for a second that a specific company’s culture is characterized by always helping everyone else out with a smile. Well, who actually ensures that it happens? The rest of the team, that’s who. While the company leadership needs to be actively seen supporting the culture, it’s up to everyone to nurture and sustain the culture.
Myth #3: Culture is really about pay and benefits. Many entrepreneurs and company leaders believe that building a strong culture requires employees to be paid handsomely while having some of the best benefits around. This couldn’t be further from the truth. After all, there’s a reason why workers still leave high-paying jobs to join startups that initially offer less compensation. For some people, work is about much more than just making money. Find those people. Pay and benefits are a small part of culture. While compensation and benefits certainly play a role in culture, it’s not the core reason people show up every day. At least, in great companies. And great company cultures are built on a clearly defined mission and a set of shared values.
Myth #4. It takes a long time to build a strong culture. Building a culture might seem like a huge undertaking. After all, cultures are supposed to guide your organization over the long term, influencing everything from the way you work to the way you serve your customers and the way you treat your employees. Actually, culture starts on day one. Entrepreneur founders and company leaders need to understand the critical nature of culture and the long-term impact on the company’s success. You need to discuss and agree on the values and company culture with your co-founders before you ever start the company. Include it in early discussions and planning because it’s very hard to course correct culture later. Most importantly, your values and culture will determine the type of people you hire.
Myth #5. All you need is yoga and natural juice. Unlimited vacation time. On premise yoga classes. Natural juice in the fridge. Happy hour every Friday. Ping-Pong tables. The list goes on. Many people believe that you can throw money at culture and everything will be fine. Give your employees the right perks and food options, and they’ll stick around indefinitely. But while perks are certainly nice, they’re not everything. You can’t buy a great culture. When it comes to culture, material things are only part of the culture. You need to build your culture carefully and believe in it. You need to recognize your employees’ hard work. Make sure to schedule regular team-building activities to develop even tighter bonds amongst the tribe. Prove to your employees that you will do everything you can to help them reach their full potential. In return, they will buy into the company mission.