There is a misconception that companies with great culture are full of hipsters working in a novelty office space, playing games all day. Yes, a company’s culture can be fun and unconventional, but having a great culture can be a way for you to drive your company to outperform your competitors.
Company culture is rooted in the development of organizational psychology. In a study by John Morse in the 1970s on the ‘fit’ between personality and organization, he found that those in congruent jobs that matched their personality reported feeling more competent. A positive cultural fit can improve self-esteem and make team members feel more capable of carrying out their work to the best of their ability. They have greater job satisfaction, identify more with their company, are more likely to remain within their organization, are more committed to their job and show superior job performance. Ding ding ding! That means lower staff turnover and better company performance.
Inspired by the Zappos culture, we wanted to ensure that as we grew as a company, we were financially successful as well as an enjoyable place for people to work, with a common goal and values that we all agreed on and were willing to live by. To build a culture that we wanted our team to nourish, we engaged and collaborated with the entire team to find the common values that connected us together. We held numerous team meetings where we were really able to flesh out what was important to us and came up with our eight values – Passion, Reliability, Teamwork, Creativity, Fun, Transparency, Learning & Accountability.
The common mistake companies make when coming up with their company values is they invest a lot of time in defining them, but then they make the assumption that, by sticking them on a wall, people will live by them. Committing to a newly defined set of values is initially a challenge and requires finding a way to positively reinforce them early and often, so that every team member knows them and knows how to apply them to their everyday work.
We talk about our values in Team Meetings, use them to give feedback and award a weekly prize to someone who really exemplifies one or more of our values. We also use WooBoard, a team recognition platform, to maintain a constant stream of praise, where we also tag our company values. We have also integrated our values into performance reviews and our recruitment processes. Even our Christmas Party awards are awarded based on our values.
Our culture isn’t just about driving an efficient business. It’s also about looking after our team. Whatever our priorities are in life, we look for more than just earning money in our jobs. Over the years we’ve adapted a number of benefits for our team to encourage work life balance, healthy & active lifestyles and self development. Each month we have an event to celebrate the successes of the month and provide an opportunity for the team to socialise outside of work. We provide annual flu vaccines, incentives for exercising, Friday night drinks and a complimentary cereal station to name a few. We have a relaxed open plan office space that nurtures a very collaborative environment where input is welcomed amongst all members of the team and transparent feedback (from both our team and our clients) is encouraged.
We received independent recognition in 2016 for the effort that we’ve put into making 4mation a Great Place to Work, ranking 3rd in the Best Places to Work in Australia Study.
In short, investing in your team is investing in your company.
The hiring process is the cornerstone to ensuring our culture is embedded in the genetics of our company. Cultural fit is not something that prospective employees can instantly create or change, so we look at whether their behaviour, their values and their attitudes are in line with ours. Imagine you’re in a boat with a group of people and everyone has an oar. If some people row at different speeds, or in different directions, or some don’t want to row at all, you won’t get anywhere very quickly. The success of our company relies on a happy and cohesive unit and that’s why hiring the right fit is important.
While hiring for cultural fit means sometimes you have to let go of smart, talented and experienced people that could make an impact on the company, a bad hire can have an even greater negative impact on your employees. Employees who don’t fit in with your culture can stifle enthusiasm, motivation and the dynamics of your team which diminishes productivity and profitability of your organisation and ultimately leads to poor retention. Poor employee performance generally stems from incorrect hiring decisions, which is why we have an extensive and somewhat unconventional hiring process.
Candidates go through a number of stages which begins with an initial phone call to qualify them to come in for a group interview. This consists of a meet and greet with a few of our team members, a tour of the office followed by a presentation that outlines our values and how we apply them to our company. This gives candidates a more informed choice as to whether they actually want to work with us or not. For those who are successful, they are invited back in for an one on one interview, where the questions they are asked are shaped to highlight how candidates might or might not fit into our culture. All roles are required to sit a timed technical test to assess hands-on skills, but the results hold less weight than cultural fit. When looking for new team members, we don’t want people who can just ‘do the job’. It’s a easy to train up new skills, but very difficult to change someone’s personality.
Don’t assume that a great company culture is self-sustaining. It’s like a living organism – if nurtured it will grow and flourish. If ignored it will wilt and die.
Ultimately, the company’s culture defines how people behave when the boss is out of the room. It is the principles that will guide your employees’ behaviour, decisions and processes and is the glue that holds your company together. Your employees will live by it, it will sustain their enthusiasm, it will get you through hard times, it will be the basis for your hiring and firing decisions and it will get all of your employees working towards the same vision.