Culture is one of those words that’s thrown around a lot but is rarely understood. It’s a bragging point of nearly every company in business today, from a startup with three employees to multinational corporations.
Yet, few companies seem to understand what they’re talking about. Culture isn’t just an attitude. It’s a set of behaviors. Culture is an intention of management, but it also has to be embraced by an entire organization. It takes more than a Ping-Pong table, startup-logo t-shirts or dense Japanese quotes carved into monoliths on your otherwise lifeless corporate campus to really be able to brag about culture. It takes a commitment, an understanding and an authenticity to truly have a culture that stands out from the crowd.
Culture, unlike a vibe or mantra, is something that can be quantified as a success metric and smart companies do that. Our partner, CultureIQ, develops software specifically to collect data for business leaders to evaluate the state of their company culture. It is because of the groundbreaking work of CultureIQ that we came up with the Top Company Cultures list for:
So what did we look at? In sum, we measured 10 areas that are predictive of high-performing cultures and combined the below scores with the employee Net Promoter Score to create a cumulative CultureIQ Score (CIQ), which is what determined the ranking.
Teamwork makes the dream work, as the cliché goes, and companies that value putting groups of people together on projects often have better work environments.
Stale thinking leads to mediocre companies. It’s that simple. You can have the occasional Newton or Einstein working for you, but the best companies take the collective ideas from their teams, foster them and put them into motion.
It’s one thing to spot trends in your marketplace. It’s quite another skill to be able to adapt to them.
Employees need to hear from leadership and have the ability to provide meaningful feedback.
It’s tough to do any job when you feel like you’re denied resources. This metric also requires that the teams feel confident leadership is aligned with their work.
Mens sana in corpore sano, as the ancients said. (For those that don't know the saying, it roughly translates to a sound mind, sound body.)
7. Work environment
You can assemble the best team in the world, but if you stick them in a windowless office, with chipping paint, leaking pipes and a herd of rats, your performance will suffer.
Teams desire ownership of projects, products and processes. More importantly, the best teams welcome the accountability that comes with such ownership.
9. Performance focus
Smart leaders give employees unambiguous expectations, as well as regular feedback. When teams do well, they are both recognized and rewarded for it.
10. Mission and value alignment
Everyone understands where leaders want to take the company and that understanding is reflected in the core beliefs of everyone working there.
Ask most CEOs, and they’ll probably tell you they have all those boxes checked. But culture isn’t a one-way street, something to be imposed upon people. Rather, culture is a reflection not only of the values of the leaders themselves but the embracing and sharing of those ideals among all levels of staff.
So, for list we didn’t just ask C-suite executives or their human-resources staff about the culture. Rather, we surveyed employees across the entire organization to get their assessment. We asked for their feedback and comments, then scored the answers based on our algorithm. If we didn’t get a sufficient number of responses from actual team members, we disqualified the company from the survey. We also ensured that team members’ responses were kept confidential and that no coercion was employed by managers.
So what did we find? Well, there are a lot of companies in the U.S. that care deeply about culture and that shows. The scores that landed companies on our Top Company Cultures list were clustered very close together, meaning, in some cases, the ranking depended on the feedback of just one or two employees. As a result, the companies that committed themselves to our process really are the best of the best, something that should help them in winning customers and attracting and retaining outstanding employees.
This list is rich in diversity. You might think that startups would have better culture, since they have fewer employees, leading to better collaboration, communication and buy-in. But you’d be wrong. In fact, culture is scalable. As long as there’s a commitment on the part of leadership to promote a strong culture, companies of all sizes can benefit. It just needs to be intentional.
As a result, we were able to create three lists, based on company size: small companies (25 to 49 employees), medium-sized companies (50 to 99 employees) and large companies (100+).
They are in a range of industries, from service business to manufacturing, from high technology to food and beverage. In fact, you can make the argument that they have very little in common, save for a commitment to create and foster a high-performing culture.
It’s important to note what we didn’t explore. We didn’t try to find correlations between corporate culture and financial performance. While there have been plenty of studies linking employee buy-in and culture to financial success, we didn’t ask for financial data. Nor did we poll customers to see whether these high-performing cultures radiated deeper into their marketplaces.
There was also an application process involved, meaning companies had to provide information to us to be evaluated. As a result, that likely caused some self-selection. Only companies confident enough in their culture would have applied for inclusion. (Having said that, we were surprised to have a good number that scored relatively poorly, something that suggests a disconnect between management and teams.)
At a time of great debate over employee pay, corporate responsibility and the impact of workplaces on corporate growth, it was great to see that so many companies, varied in size, industry and lifespan, believed not only in their products and services, but also in their culture. That’s good for managers, great for employees and good news for businesses across the nation. Here are our lists for the Top Comany Cultures of 2015:
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