Are you Googly? Zapponian? Patagonian? Company culture as a way of life.

Are you Googly? Zapponian? Patagonian?

Engaging, inspiring company cultures like Google, Zappos and Patagonia aren’t build in a day.  They’re the result of a conscious effort to engage each member of the company in a core vision mission and values that are about more than just making a buck. To create an inspiring company culture you’ll need to do more than just a one day workshop to team build or add a ping pong table to the break room, you’ll need to examine your core beliefs.

Building a company culture that inspires and motivates its people is about creating and reinforcing a social structure that every member of the company feels a part of, from the CEO to the newest hire.

According to SHRM (the Society for Human Resources Management) Losing an employee due to poor company culture-fit costs the company about 50-60% of that employee’s salary. So an $80,000/year employee would cost $40,000 in replacement costs!

According to Deloitte’s 2014 survey, 78% of Millennials want to work for a company that encourages innovation and creative thinking, yet most say they’re not getting this at their current company.  It is suggested  that the major roadblocks preventing greater innovation are management (63%) and organizational structures and procedures (61%).

So, how do you shift your company culture to one that pulls people forward with internal motivation rather than pushing them along with rewards and punishments as so many companies do?

  1. Flatten out your Hierarchy:  Red tape, meetings, quotas and highly structured work environments make people feel like unimportant cogs in a machine that would roll right over them if they don’t keep up.
  2. Loosen the reigns: Don’t have a meeting until 10AM on Monday? Want to surf before that meeting and work from home later? Hey!  You and your team have reached your goals and inspired the new hire to come up with our great new app!  You’re clearly capable of managing your own time.  We trust you to get the job done, hang ten, dude.
  3. Make a difference: Do you make socks?  Donate a pair to charity for every 10 pair sold!  Do you build apps?  Build one for the team to rate the day’s activities and share feedback in real-time (like Atlassian did).  Do you build furniture?  Give  each employee 5 volunteer days a year to work with Habitat for Humanity.  When people feel they are making a difference they are called to do more, work harder and be innovative.
  4. Clearly define your Company purpose: If it’s just to make money, look deeper.  What value do you bring?  What pain point do you solve for people?  It’s not about marketing it’s about identifying who you are, how you help and then aligning that core purpose with every member of the team.
  5. Create a team of your HR department: If you’re like a lot of small companies, your HR department is 1 or 2 people and they’re focused on the nitty gritty of running the HR elements of your company.  Make a team! Call them The Human League (just a suggestion)! Their job is to come up with a cool event once a month, a get together, a bouncy house on a Friday, a volunteer opportunity in the community? A bring your dog to work initiative.  Give them free reign and watch the company morale soar.

Implementing these steps all at once is insane.  It’s going to take time.  And changing company culture is not easy when you’ve been doing business as usual for years.  Getting into the core message, changing the culture and redefining your purpose takes time and dedication.  It takes money, you’ll want a coach to work with you through the process, and it takes a willingness to let the people around you take the lead (letting go of control).

A really effective culture realignment will mean that some people will dive right in, be motivated and engage with your vision 100%… and others will jump ship.  And yes, a few might even have to find a better culture fit with another company. But the benefits of a clearly directed socially aligned culture are immediate, impactful and long lasting both for everyone’s happiness and for your fiscal bottom line.

Happy company culture = happy CEO, CFO, and the whole rest of the team.

For more tips and tools on how to shift your culture one step at a time, email or visit