A company’s culture is like the personality of the business and is a combination of its business practices and values. Culture is the internal and external image/perception of the company’s character. When employees believe in the company's mission and the leader leading it, they go out of their ways to fulfill it. A positive culture and work atmosphere can magnify the growth of the company in ways one can’t imagine. It is reflected in the team's motivation and productivity, vendor relationships, customer perception, public image, etc. For example, Google has a mission statement “to organize the world’s information and make it accessible and useful” which is a large enough mission that can take decades of effort. This enables each and every individual to contribute towards it daily with full throttle without it coming to a dead end. This broad mission keeps the spark alive to innovate everyday for such large and talented manpower.
Companies like InMobi have taken culture to newer heights. It has successfully created an innovative culture where a team is encouraged to come up with something new and is given a chance to pursue the idea. They are made to lead the idea to the product life cycle and feel recognized. As the quote “ We hire people who have failed and bounced back in life. One who has never failed doesn’t know what to do if he/she fails in future”. In companies like this, failure is not really looked down upon.
Another example of great company culture is Hubspot’s no-door policy. It means that anyone can approach anyone, and that creates a transparent culture and better accessibility for everyone. Similarly, a few companies have a first-name-only as a way of addressing their co-workers. Though this is a small step, it definitely lowers the barriers of the hierarchy while working.
Importance of building the right culture
The right culture helps in attracting and retaining the brightest minds from the pool, and that is the best thing that comes out of a good culture. Talent results in better products, better services from the company, and ultimately in growth. A talented workforce is always attracted to innovative environments, openness to new ideas, work flexibility and productive office spaces
The right culture encourages more involvement and participation and a sense of ownership in the team’s mind and they thus bring a lot of intangible value to the table. They tend to make more contributions with involvement and also enable teams to be more adaptable to changes.
Culture during crisis and decision-making
In times of crisis/decision making, the culture of the company plays a very important role in shaping up decisions from top to bottom. For example, in order to maintain the best culture and do the right thing, many companies have laid off senior staff when there have been questions on their character. A move like this where a company stands for what is right goes a long way with consumers. Customers value companies who are doing good work and have a better culture.
A good culture reflects good ethics in business practices and gives you the premium for a company's valuation. Probably a wrong reason to have a good culture, but it’s the truth. For example, I know of a Pharma company that returned a large batch of medicines for want of a small change and incurred losses. However, they commanded the highest multiple valuations while sell-off among their peers due to their ethics and transparent governance practices.
Happiness and satisfaction levels of a team significantly impact the work productivity and thinking capabilities of the team, and this in turn impacts the product and services of the company. The mind works better in a good atmosphere and tends to slow down in bad environments. Something as simple as employee perks, logistics, and transportation arrangements by the employer relieves the employee from stressing about smaller aspects and focus on the actual work that makes him/her more productive.
Advice to founders
For small startups or companies in the early stages, a lot of to-dos are not possible due to associated costs. In most of the cases, founders evaluate the impact added Vs. cost of a said/proposed policy to arrive at a decision. Typically, low-cost items that add a lot to the team’s well-being can be adopted quickly. However, I believe creating a good work culture is not really about spending. It is more about keeping the team motivated, engaged, and happy to achieve the organization’s objectives. Since the employees also understand the company’s constraints, they know what the company can and cannot do but expect discretional policies to favor employees.
Keep flexible leave policies, flexible working hours, and sabbaticals. Simple steps at the company level can make a huge difference in the lives of employees. For large companies, keeping healthy food options, fitness activities, and equipment adds a lot of value compared to its cost. The more the team feels better, the better it will perform. Once a good culture is built, it takes care of the most difficult situations in the company and ensures it survives and thrives in that.