How to Create a Winning Company Culture

In Leadership & Strategyby Tiffany Hernandez

Every company has a culture. And let’s be clear – organizations that claim not to have a culture, by default, have a culture. Most successful things in life don’t just happen serendipitously; they’re intentionally planned for and strategized. You wouldn’t be a very fruitful entrepreneur without a business plan. Football teams can’t run routes without a playbook. Teachers don’t effectively guide a class through the semester without curriculum. If you’re hoping a positive, motivating company culture develops organically without any intentional stewardship on the owner’s part, you’re likely headed for disaster.

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Evaluate What Your Company Represents

company culture - modern office with yellow wall reading ideas start here

If you want your business to reach its fullest potential, first define and promote a culture that reflects the core values of your company’s brand. What common goals are driving shared beliefs and behaviors?

Often, brands are mistaken for logos and colors exclusively, while culture gets mistaken for posters with words like “honesty” on the wall. Most businesses have integrity standards and creative elements. But the great ones attract clients and employees by creating repeatable stories and experiences that lead people to feel something. When clients feel something, they will continually come back for more. When employees feel something, they’ll push the creative limits and chase results. Great success lies in the marrying of your brand and your culture. By intertwining the two, you can create and cultivate connected feelings about your organization.

Once you’ve clarified what your brand represents, you can begin to implement changes that will bring your operations into alignment with the desired company culture. It’s vital that your values easily translate into action, both externally and internally, otherwise you risk looking insincere.

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Put Theory Into Practice

company culture - team working at community table in office

In order for your company’s values to be represented accurately, they must evolve into your personal pattern of behavior. Once you’ve set the example, your team can follow. For instance, if one of your core values is accountability, you might want to adopt the following strategies.

  • You are responsible for each decision you make and its subsequent outcome — no “passing the buck.”
  • You seek viable solutions to the challenges you encounter.
  • Your punctuality demonstrates respect of your team’s time and efforts.

Translating lofty goals into workable standard operating procedures distills and clarifies the message to your employees while offering tangible steps to meet goals – both their own and the company’s. This helps mold your culture into one with clear expectations and an achievable path to success.

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Ensure Your Hiring Process Reflects Your Brand

company culture - man smiling standing in community office space

If your business is going to flourish, you need to be sure that all new hires are a good fit for where you want to take the company’s culture. It’s helpful to identify a framework you’d like employees to align to, and a good way to clarify that vision is to look for defining people inside your organization that you’d want to duplicate. What is it about them that stands out? Identify those features and make them a priority in future hiring practices. If you want to build a solid team, pursue candidates who naturally project the values your company culture represents.

… But Don’t Become an Echo Chamber

In a recent report on Global Human Capital Trends based on an international survey of more than 7,000 respondents, Deloitte acknowledged the impact of globalization on today’s workplaces. With that in mind, your company should be inclusive and value the different perspectives your employees bring to the table. A baby boomer won’t necessarily see the world from the same perspective as a millennial, yet both points of view are valuable for building culture and strengthening your brand.

company culture - people having meeting around wood table

While you want your employees to share your vision, it’s important to include people on your team who aren’t just “yes-men” or “yes-women.” A respectful challenge of a particular thought or idea stimulates growth. One example of this could be a CEO known for taking outrageous risks tempering those inclinations by hiring an executive with a more conservative perspective to point out any potential pitfalls.

Having a good mix of diverse individuals who bring unique perspectives to the table but who all share the same vision for your business is a good way to develop and promote a healthy company culture.

Recognize and Reward Excellence

If you want to inspire your team to exceed expectations, you need to exceed regular motivations. Verbal compliments are always a good way to showcase excellence in action, but there also needs to be a tangible expression of the company’s gratitude.

company culture - woman holding blue box with gift card

One way to do that might be to reward your sales associate with the highest totals with a trip, a spa day or a bonus. Don’t be afraid to think out of the box when it comes to affirmation – compensation doesn’t always have to be financial. Extra time off or a reserved parking spot can also be motivating. Regardless of what you choose, offering a reward for a job well done is usually a great deal more effective than negative reinforcement.

Everyone wants to be recognized for their efforts in achieving an organization’s goals. When your team members are working overtime, offer a long weekend to make up for the personal time lost. Designate days for team outings to celebrate victories and milestones. Showing appreciation for dedication is a good way to retain the best and the brightest members.

Encourage Open Communication

Think about the last meeting you held for your team. Did everyone appear as if they felt they could speak freely? Or did most of them have their heads down and seem like they didn’t want to be noticed? If it’s the latter, you may have unconsciously fallen into a company culture that devalues free expression of ideas.

company culture - team having meeting and brainstorming ideas on post it notes on wall

While structure is important, it’s also vital to allow team members to have a voice in decisions. They’re often on the front lines, and their customer-facing perspectives have extreme value, even if the ultimate decision lies with the CEO. No one should feel too stifled to voice legitimate concerns or express an opinion in team meetings. Leaders should always be conscientious of what they’re communicating –both verbally and through body language – when they receive feedback from employees. Their response sets the trajectory for future dialogue.

Learn More: Improve Company Culture: Ways to Engage Your Team

Move the Needle

Upon reflection, you may realize that your company culture needs to shift in another direction. It can be helpful to choose several examples of the habits you’d like to see change.

company culture - team sitting around table laughing and smiling

After identifying these behaviors, you can plan how to substitute them with those that bring your company closer in line with its goals. Change is intimidating and doesn’t happen organically, so it’s important to have a path of implementation that clearly shows steps your organization needs to take. Don’t expect a transformation overnight – these steps need to be simple, manageable and encouraging.

Be the Example You Wish to Set

If you want to make your company an industry leader for the 21st century, your actions should fully demonstrate the behaviors you want your employees to model. Remember that as the business owner, the ultimate responsibility for establishing a solid corporate culture lies with you.

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