In 2018, Linkedin conducted a survey to determine the key ways to attract, attain and foster professional talent. While respondent answers varied in terms of salary, professional development options and flexible working schemes, one thing became overwhelmingly clear; company culture matters. So much so that 70% of survey respondents in the U.S said they wouldn’t work for a leading company if it meant having to endure a bad or ‘toxic’ workplace culture. Furthermore, 65% of these respondents said they would put up with lower pay and 26% said they would forego a fancy title, rather than deal with a bad workplace environment.
Over the years, the concept of company culture has blurred. Thanks to the media, when people hear the phrase they often think of tech giants like Google and Netflix, with their stocked bar fridge, ping pong tables, ‘nap pods’ and unlimited employee holidays. And yes, while these perks can all be classed under the umbrella of company culture, they are usually the result of a strong culture already in place, which dictates a company’s actions.
Popular sales and marketing software Hubspot, define company culture as the shared set of values, beliefs and behaviours that informs a company’s decisions and unites its employees under one common vision. These statistics demonstrate the subjectivity of company culture; it will look and feel different for different organisations. Tech giants like Google and Facebook have a shared set of values and beliefs around innovation and forward-thinking and this focus informs everything they do; it is encouraged and expected of their employees, in their product offering and in their marketing. Alternatively, e-commerce giant Amazon has a key leadership principle of ‘delivering results’ and encourage their employees to ‘rise to the occasion and never settle’. This mission has created a results-driven culture, where achieving goals and quotas are inherent to the company’s success. For Public Sector People, our biggest focus is on building relationships- with our clients, our candidates, and our teammates. We believe that the key building block in any long-lasting relationship is trust and consequently building trust and prioritising our stakeholder’s wants, shapes our company culture and dictates the way we do business.
While culture can be unique to the particular organisation and their business goals, there are a few common factors that create a positive environment for employees across the board. When consulting and training company The Energy Project teamed up with Harvard Business Review they discovered that employee happiness revolved around 4 core human needs being met: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs. Within a workplace setting, this translates to ensuring your employees are feeling seen and valued at work; having space and time to collaborate and be creative within their work, feel a deep sense of belonging with the company and feel like they’re part of something worthwhile.
Examples of ways workplaces have addressed these core needs are through recognition programs (awards, bonus schemes), learning and development opportunities, flexible working options and philanthropic opportunities. Benefits like gym memberships and free food come under this category too but interestingly only 19% of respondents in Linkedin’s survey said that employee perks like a gym membership or complimentary lunches were the reason they stayed at their company.
Another key element linked to employee happiness and engagement is being able to align with their company’s values; believing in and being passionate about what their company stands for. In the same Linkedin survey, 87% of respondents said that having pride in the company they work for matters while 39% said that they would leave their job if their employer were to ask them to do something that they had an ethical dilemma or conflict with. Furthermore, when delving into what made those respondents feel ‘proud to work for their company, 46% listed having a positive impact on society.
Having a common purpose allows employees to feel motivated in their role as they can clearly see what they’re working towards and feel a sense of belonging as they work towards that purpose as a team. And as these statistics demonstrate, the more employees believe and agree with a company’s values and behaviour – their commitment to reducing their carbon footprint for example- the more motivated and engaged in their work they become.
It goes without saying that creating a happy and stable work environment will help retain and attract talent. As Hubspot state in their own culture code, “culture is to recruiting as product is to marketing; customers are more easily attracted with a great product and talented people are more easily attracted with a great culture”. However, happy employees can also lead to greater overall productivity. A study in the UK found that the number of sick-days of an employee increased, depending on their unhappiness levels at work, while a team at the University of Oxford Business school discovered that workers at a call centre who rated themselves ‘happy’ each week, made more calls per hour and achieved 13% higher sales than their ‘unhappy’ colleagues. Similarly, when Sony Pictures addressed their problem with employee disengagement in 2008, they decided to focus on fulfilling the four key human needs (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs) rather than pushing their workers to perform better. The result was that despite the recession, Sony had one of its most profitable years ever.
In addition to productivity levels, company culture can also help to establish your brand within the market. Public Sector People, for example, has been able to differentiate itself from other recruitment companies through establishing a clearly defined company culture, one where it prioritises its people above all else.
Indeed, there are hundreds of recruitment companies both clients and candidates can choose from. However, having a reputation as a trusted recruitment company that has built strong relationships within its network and prioritises these relationships (with clients, candidates and candidates)– those are quality that is unique to Public Sector People. Similarly, tech company Apple has created a culture that values creative innovation and challenging conventions and standards. This culture has dictated the products Apple develops and how they market themselves. The Apple brand has now become synonymous worldwide with innovation and creativity, which has seen it dominate over its competitors.
Despite understanding the benefits of strong company culture and knowing the values and policies that make for happy employees, effectively communicating your culture internally and externally can be a challenge. A Deloitte study found that 87% of organisations find culture and engagement one of the hardest things to instil in their workplace. Especially in today’s work environment, where so many employees are working remotely at least one or two days a week and communication channels have become more fragmented. So how can companies effectively instil their culture?
Leadership drives culture: It’s important that all levels of leadership firstly agree and can correctly identify and understand the values, goals and vision that make up the company they’re trying to cultivate. The information flow in any organisation works from the top down, so if there’s confusion at the top levels, there’s no way a clear vision and purpose will disseminate throughout the company. In an article written by the Forbes Coaches Council, they recommended leaders coming together to create/update company policies like mission statements, key performance indicators or brand guidelines to ensure that everyone knows the set values and beliefs in place and that these are coming through in the overarching company goals.
If you talk the talk, walk the walk: Once a clear vision has been established and agreed upon, a business needs to thoroughly examine the policies and procedures they have in place – do these represent our values and beliefs? Will they help achieve our vision? Deloitte argues that for a company culture to be effectively communicated, the policies, systems and processes in place should be congruent with this. For example, at Public Sector People we have tried to set clear promotion and development objectives around our overarching vision- prioritising people. Employees aren’t rewarded or recognised by how much they bill, but the relationships they’re able to create and maintain. Similarly, we focus on transparent communication processes when dealing with our clients (using cloud-based systems like Google Drive and implementing regular one-on-one meetings and discussions) in order to build on our reputation of putting our people first.
Regularly measure progress and feedback: You won’t know how well your company values are being projected if you don’t measure your progress and seek out feedback. Both Linkedin and Forbes suggest a number of real-time programs companies can implement to evaluate and assess organisational culture. Engagement and awareness surveys are a great start but there are also multiple talent management software emerging which can facilitate employee feedback and uncover crucial relationships between engagement and performance, including Culture Amp, OfficeVibe and BetterCompany. The information you can glean from this feedback will help your business identify where your culture is strong, where it is weak, and how it really feels to employees so that your company can effectively strategise on how to make improvements.
Ultimately, something as subjective and intangible as culture cannot be changed or fully implemented overnight however, a transformed company culture can transform your business for the better. Both in terms of the talent you can recruit and retain and the increased brand awareness and productivity levels you can cultivate. It can be a worthwhile exercise for any business to reflect on their own company culture and consider if there is any room for improvement.