There has been a lot of interest in corporate culture this week. The recent coverage on the culture of Amazon has people talking about and sharing what motivates them as employees and what they expect from the environment their employers foster.
As companies of all shapes and sizes continue to compete for world class talent, culture becomes a very important part of the decision-making process.
People want a place where they can do their best and feel like their contributions are meaningful and their role valued.
During my career I have worked in a big company setting at Microsoft and for the last two years I have done the startup thing at Porch. In both instances I have been fortunate to work with people that appreciate the importance of culture. But that isn't always the case. There are companies that don't value the importance of culture, which can result in a high turnover rate, disgruntled employees and a lack of motivation.
So how do you get in front of a cultural deficiency? Here are five signs that your company may need a cultural makeover.
1. You are starting to notice a lack of patience.
Building something great takes a lot of time, especially if you are working to solve a big problem that impacts a lot of people. Success does not come overnight and you need to appreciate that the journey is the reward. You are going to have ups and downs, wins and losses, good days and bad days.
When people start to lack patience they begin to make short sighted decisions. Long-term strategies take a backseat to short-term problem solving as people lose sight of the big picture. When a lack of patience emerges people tend to lose perspective and focus, which are vital ingredients for both business and cultural success.
When you are able to maintain a culture that understands this you will see people exhibit the patience needed to ride out the tough times (and stay grounded during the high times).
2. You are starting to notice the emergence of silos.
For a company to succeed, silos must be removed so information and ideas are able to flow freely. Information is a powerful weapon at every level of the company. Are people working on the right things at the right time? Are people aware of any strategic shifts that may impact their day to day priorities? Are people clear how their work impacts others? When people are able to share without barriers you create a sense of empowerment and collaboration that puts the company above individual business units and teams above self.
When you start to see silos form, tear them down. If people are starting to form cliques, change the office setup so people are not lumped together on their own islands. Publicly acknowledge (and celebrate) shared goals. Encourage cross-company mentoring and networking so people have exposure to other parts of the business. More than anything, give people a forum to be curious so they can understand how their work impacts the success of others (and how others can help them).
3. You are starting to notice a lack of empathy.
One of my favorite core values, and something I always look for in the people I work with and for is empathy. When people genuinely care about those around them and take a keen interest in making them better, the entire business benefits.
When you start to see people act in a way that compromises empathy you will begin to see your culture fray. Accountability becomes an issue. People are more likely to blame others than help them. Kindness starts to become an absentee value and people don’t feel like they can rely on others. When teammates start to feel like they cannot rely on others you are no longer getting the best out of your teams. Empathy is the catalyst for world class teamwork. Don’t overlook it.
4. You are starting to see more managers (and fewer leaders).
As a business grows it is inevitable that more people will be put in positions of management. People who have excelled at whatever task they are responsible for are generally a great model for others to follow and learn from. If someone is succeeding how can their acumen and style be passed on to others? In addition, management positions can be used as an incentive for motivating high flyers and people who are looking to grow their skills.
But management is different than leadership, and when you start to have more managers than leaders you start to lose cultural balance. Leaders are able to solve day-to-day problems, but they also set the tone for what is acceptable behavior through their actions. Leaders are able to keep people motivated, grounded, inspired and engaged. They correct bad behaviors that are starting to emerge within the team. When people are being managed vs. led, you are going to see a decrease in productivity and overall engagement. When you lose engagement, you begin to lose commitment.
5. You are starting to see a decrease in engagement.
Employee engagement is a vital part of a company’s culture. It is something that comes from everyone being on the same page, understanding the mission of the company and knowing how they can contribute through the work they do. Great companies also give people tools to be engaged. Whether it is through all-hands meetings or technology that allows people to share feedback in real time (at Porch we use TinyPulse), an engaged employee is one that helps make culture great through his or her interactions and overall interest in every facet of the business.
When a company does not create a platform for people to be engaged, a job starts to feel like, well, a job. Employees don’t feel valuable. They don’t feel like they can go to anyone with concerns. They don’t feel like they have a voice. When employees start to feel like they are just a cog in the wheel the results will show. Not only will their sense of fulfillment and overall satisfaction dwindle, the business will suffer as distractions, worry, and uncertainly ultimately lead to a lack of productivity.