How can you improve company culture?
Small business owners tend to think a lot about their company culture. In fact, they probably think about it a lot more than presidents or owners of larger companies.
There are several reasons for this. On a personal level, small business owners tend to be more involved with the day-to-day happenings of their company. They have their boots on the ground and directly interact with employees. That is, the culture of the company directly affects them.
On a more practical level, it’s in their interest to cultivate a culture that inspires and supports employees. They may not be able to compete with larger corporations when it comes to pay or benefits, but they can create a culture that attracts top talent and keeps them around.
From an employee perspective, 53 percent of employees say that a greater work-life balance and personal well-being is “very important,” according to a Gallup poll. According to another survey, 80 percent of millennials report that a highly flexible workplace has a very/fairly positive impact on their work-life balance.
For employers, a strong culture means a more engaged workforce. With only 16 percent of employees reporting that they felt “connected or engaged,” it’s in the best interest for a company to strive to create a culture that engages their workers.
This is especially true for businesses with a small number of workers.
How you set out to define and shape your workplace depends on the needs of your employees and your business goals. Companies that foster positive workplace environments have one thing in common: They all do it differently!
That being said, it does help to learn from those who have mastered this particular art. In these examples, it’s likely that you will find an idea or two that could have an impact on your culture and improve your overall business.
1. The icon of workplace culture: Google
We admit that it’s something of a cliché to cite Google as an example of a great place to work. Perks like table tennis, beanbags, nap rooms, multiple cafeterias serving up free gourmet food and yoga classes are legendary. You might have some beanbags in the office, but as a small business owner, how can you possibly compete?
While you might not be able to provide the same material comforts and goodies, you can take a cue from Google’s workplace spirit: Expect the most from your employees, but at the same time, trust them. Offering them perks and time to relax will make work seem less like work. At the same time, employees should know what’s expected of them. This combination helps bridge the gap between work and life, creating a more engaged workforce and greater employee loyalty.
2. Creating connections at Zappos
Not too many companies have such a fun culture that they offer to bring in groups to tour their offices. Zappos does. But it’s not just ball pits and quirky art that make for a great company culture. Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, doesn’t have an office that takes up an entire floor or is behind a wall of security. He sits in the call center, right alongside those listening to customer complaints and trying to figure out how an order got messed up. In fact, every new hire is required to work in the call center for four weeks. The hotshot with a freshly minted Harvard MBA interacts with a high school dropout. This effectively breaks down the hierarchy, allowing them to build honest relationships and keep lines of communication open.
3. Flattening hierarchy at Evernote
Through its Officer Training program, employees at Evernote sign up to learn how everyone else does their job. Part of this training involves attending two additional meetings each week, in a department they don’t work in. Those in Officer Training absorb the information, ask questions and become more involved in the company’s overall operations.
4. A wild experiment at Treehouse
The world of tech startups is a notoriously fast-paced, stressful environment where burnout is high and competition stiff. As CEO of Treehouse, an educational site where people can learn to code from any number of courses, Ryan Carson had firsthand experience of this crushing culture. So he tried something that many people would call foolish: He implemented a four-day work week. The idea is simple: More time doesn’t mean more productivity. Employees who are not squeezed are more likely to have those epiphanies that can bring the project, or the company, to the next level.
5. Putting employees first at Publix
When you think about working at a grocery store, the words “loyalty” and “ownership” don’t exactly come to mind. But the Florida-based supermarket chain Publix has created a culture that revolves around employees. Full-time and part-time employees are given stock options that increase the longer they are employed. Their Publix career site is full of resources to help employees grow in their career. A huge inspiration for this is the fact that President and CEO Todd Jones began his Publix journey as a part-time bagger. The result? Among full-time employees, Publix has a less than 5 percent voluntary turnover rate and is the largest employee-owned company in the world.
A great company culture doesn’t just happen. It can take some time, but with a dedicated vision and leadership, you can build a culture that makes employees feel valued, and excited to come to work and further your company’s mission.