May 07

Got Culture? What it is and How to Get it

I've been thinking a lot about culture and what it means and how it can define a company. It's a trendy buzzword as of late peppering blogs and whispered about at HR seminars with its promises of  providing a cool factor to any company. But what is it exactly and how can you get it? According to Frances Frei and Anne Morriss at Harvard Business Review: “Culture guides discretionary behavior and it picks up where the employee handbook leaves off." To some culture is a guidepost that helps employees understand their company as a whole. If one were to mention Google, immediately people think of a progressive company; one that provides their employees with organic chefs, hearty vacation packages and of course is fido-friendly. But do perks make a culture?  To me the answer is yes and no. Culture is not about, Nerf wars, Foozball matches, free donuts, or bring your dog to work day. Those things are awesome, but they should simply be an extension of your company not what defines you. Company culture should be defined by: values, behaviors, attitudes and environment. For me culture begins and ends with the mission and values of a company. If you don't have a clearly defined mission or values statement it's hard to communicate to your staff, "this is what we stand for.” Culture must be incorporated from the top down – practice what you preach. If upper management is not practicing the values of the company, then it's hard for the rest of the team to get on board. In addition, hire people that you feel embody the spirit and passion of your company. The greatest negative impact on a company is hiring employees that do not share your company’s values.  If you get the right team, your culture will follow. Moreover, foster positive attitudes. Make it a point to check in with your team to measure satisfaction levels. If happiness levels are high it can mean increased productivity and great PR. A happy employee is your best advertisement. It can actually become a competitive advantage for your company. It's also about environment. Trying to emulate the culture of Google or Netflix is not going to work for every company. So focus instead on the things that make your company unique and go from there. Finally, understand that culture is organic and ever evolving. Allow your employees to be a part of the formulation process and you will be able to sustain culture over the long haul. Take Zappos for example, which created an actual Culture Book that is added to by employees all the time: http://www.zapposinsights.com/culture-book With that being said, at DO I'm making it my mission to help to cultivate a culture that our employees can be proud of. It may not include personal masseuses or nap pods but it will involve creating a positive environment that fosters communication, openness and yeah the occasional Nerf war. Shannon is DOs resident HR/Office Manager although she prefers the title Fun Ambassador