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Building a positive and strong company culture

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One of the perks of starting your own company is creating your ideal work culture. However, creating a company culture can be easier said than done, especially when you’re not making deliberate efforts to develop and maintain it.

But before we get started, what exactly is company culture? It is an implicit hierarchy of values that informs how members of the company behave. It influences every aspect of a company – from establishing core values, recruiting the right people, and having a motivated workforce. A great company culture supports positive business practices that ensure a company’s long-term success.

On the other hand, bad company culture can ultimately ruin a start-up. The lack of positive company culture is especially detrimental to employee morale, which has negative consequences on the bottom line. In a survey by Deloitte, 94 per cent of executives and 88 per cent of employees said that a distinct corporate culture is important to a business’ success. The study concluded that there’s a strong correlation between employees who claim to feel happy and valued at work and those who say their company has a strong culture.

Start early

If you have a young business, you are probably thinking that it is too early to worry about company culture. But right from inception is the best time to start building company culture. Just like raising a child, it is easier to instil the values you want in your company when it is still young. The longer you wait to instil the right values, the more difficult the process will be for all involved.  For example, when you make sure that your first few employees have embraced a positive and productive company culture, they will transfer the right values to the company’s later hires.

Bear in mind that it is almost all start-ups experience a rough patch in their culture, something popularly known as “cultural chasm.” This might happen when long-term employees identify disheartening changes in the culture.

Establish your mission and vision

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What value does your business add to society? Having a clearly defined vision and mission goes a long way in establishing a company culture. Without a mission and vision, you are just in the business of asking people for money – and while that might work in the short-term, it isn’t enough to inspire your team in the long-term.

Your mission and vision define who you are as an organisation, how you do business, and why you matter. Before you even hire your first employee, think about why you started the business. Make sure that each employee understands what your mission and vision is and that it aligns with their personal goals. This will give your employees a sense of purpose that will keep them motivated, even when your organisation is going through a rough patch.

Define your core values

What are the values that you want to embrace and emulate in your company? For example, do you want an energetic and innovative team? This will guide you in hiring people who can reflect your values and create the desired company culture.

Your company values should be tied to your mission and vision. For instance, it doesn’t make sense to emphasise innovation and risk-taking without a long-term plan to break into new space or bring cutting-edge changes to your industry.  In simple words, the expectations you set for your employees should match with your organisation’s broader strategies.

If you didn’t create a concise and relevant list of core values before starting your business, it isn’t too late to do so. Put together a focus group of employees who have been with your company for several years to brainstorm and identify the values that align with your company. Ask them to lean on good and bad experiences that the company has gone through as they conduct this exercise.Hire and recruit carefully

One ill-advised hire can poison your team’s morale and negatively affect the positive culture you have worked hard to develop. Bear in mind that each individual you bring into your company will contribute to your cultural evolution. Therefore, don’t hire employees solely based on their skills, but also consider their cultural relevance.

Look out for individuals that believe in your vision and mission and exemplify your core values. However, take care not to fall into the culture-fit trap. Hiring cookie-cutter replicas of your existing employees won’t enhance your culture.

Instead, look for “culture adds”- employees who will mesh with your culture as well as bring unique perspectives and experiences to your team. Studies show that diverse workforces are more successful. Diverse companies enjoy 2.3 times higher cashflow per employee, while companies with diverse management teams enjoy a 19 per cent increase in revenue compared to their less diverse counterparts.

Lead by example

Your employees will look up to you as an example of how they should conduct themselves at work and to some extent, you will also have influence on their personal choices.

To inspire your employees to give their best to your company, they need to see you fully committed to the company’s mission and vision and living up to its core values. They should know that no matter how hard they work, there is always someone working harder…you!

Company culture is set by leaders, maintained by employees, and monitored by Human Resource departments. If you don’t adhere to the culture expectations, it will be disingenuous to ask your team to.  

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