Feb 12

Want a Good Company Culture? Be a Decent Human Being.

When you consider how many years we will work, I’m pretty early on in my career.

I’ve got five years of being an active participant in the working world under my belt, along with an additional year of internships that gave me a taste of what it’d be like to be a professional.

So – we’ll count it. Six years of experience. Six years of different company cultures and work environments. And while six years is a small number of the 35+ years that I have left, I take pride in saying that I’ve gotten pretty good at sniffing out company cultures: The good. The bad. The great. The ugly. And in that six years, I’ve experienced several different working cultures that have landed in incredibly different places on the spectrum.

I’ve worked in an office with a pool table in the lobby and a keg in the kitchen. I’ve worked in an office that had no windows and was the definition of a ‘cube farm.’ I’ve worked in the old warehouse-turned-edgy-workplace and the old house-turned-snug-workspace. But company culture is much more than physical environment and office décor—and it means a great deal for all companies and whether or not they will thrive.

I’ve always been surprised by the leaders I’ve ‘followed’ who don’t understand how important company or departmental culture is to the success of their people and the work that they do. Not only is a positive company culture critical for employee attraction and retention, but it has been proven time and time again to have a significant impact on the overall productivity of the business.

According to the Harvard Business review and a study completed by the Queens School of Business and the Gallup Organization, employees who were disengaged had:

  • 37 percent higher absenteeism
  • 49 percent more accidents
  • 60 percent more errors and defects

So how do these percentages impact the organization as a whole? According to the same study, organizations that received low employee engagement scores experienced:

  • 18 percent lower productivity
  • 16 percent lower profitability
  • 37 percent lower job growth
  • 65 percent lower share price over time

Oh—and businesses who had engaged employees? Well, those companies received 100 percent more job applications—talk about a talent pool.

While there have been countless articles and blog posts written about company culture and its simplicity, it’s relatively impossible to create a positive company culture overnight. It’s something that must be intentional and numerous complex factors that play a part in developing and fostering a positive company culture must be taken into consideration. In my opinion, three big ones come to mind:

WELLBEING > PERKS

Sure, a pool table is nice and having a keg in the kitchen provides that laid-back feeling on a Friday afternoon. But great culture is so much more than perks. Good culture is kindness and respect. It’s work-life balance (actually practicing it, not just preaching it). It’s genuinely supporting others and treating mistakes as learning lessons. It’s feeling good about yourself, your work and the company/product/thing you’re working for. Employees need to feel fulfilled and like they are contributing to something worthwhile—they aren’t just there because you occasionally offer them a glass of wine (although, I’m sure they also appreciate the vino). Perks are great and they help to foster genuine relationships among colleagues, but don’t think that by offering them a few awesome benefits, your culture is golden.

BE A DECENT HUMAN BEING

This one really isn’t hard, but surprisingly enough, is missed quite often. Think of the last time someone was a complete jerk to you. Now think about how you felt. Yeah—don’t make others feel that way, especially your colleagues who are ‘stuck’ with you.

Instead, work to build meaningful relationships at work. Have empathy and offer support when your colleagues need it (and when they don’t). If you know someone is stressed out or overwhelmed with work, offer a hand. Leave your ego at the door—no one is more significant than someone else. If you have a difference in opinion, present it respectfully. Not everyone will be your favorite (and you may not be theirs), but everyone can be a decent human being if they try. Always remember that you’re on the same team.

LEADERSHIP

Company culture stems from the top. Company culture stems from the top. Company culture stems from the top. DO YOU HEAR ME?

 Did you see the line above? The “leave your ego at the door” one? I’m talking to you, execs.

Employees look at their leadership in one of two ways: As if they are a mentor and an example – or with disgust. I’m telling you right now, if you are at the top and you think you are best thing since sliced bread, you only work to please those ‘above’ you and look down on the people ‘below’ you – you’re a poor leader and you’re likely contributing to (or the primary reason for) an ugly company culture.

Companies need to be intentional about who they put in leadership roles and pay attention to the way those individuals interact and engage with others. If it doesn’t feel good, chances are that it’s not good. Leaders should be working to develop their team, challenging them and encouraging them, coaching them and pushing them out of the nest to fly on their own. Leaders should create more leaders, not relish in keeping them as followers.

While those are just three of the factors to consider when developing and maintaining a positive company culture, they are three big ones. And if a company wants to thrive, it’s critically necessary for companies to pay attention. When people feel good, they do good (i.e. better work, more creativity, more productivity and are ultimately more fun to spend your working day with). If something feels off in your culture, identify it, try to find solutions and develop a plan to repair it.

Your company – and all the employees who make your company go around – will thank you.


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