If you’re just starting a company, it’s much easier to communicate your intentional culture to each new prospective recruit or employee. You can make it part of your employee handbook and orientation, and have it posted around the office in visible places. But, more than just the visuals, you need to live your values from the top down. The minute an employee sees you or the management team doing something counter to your stated values, game over. At that moment a new culture has been created and it’s called, “Lack of Integrity.” Remember the old saying that most people will give you their trust once for free, but you have to earn it back forever once it’s broken? Well, the same goes for culture within your company.
One company CEO I worked with liked to think of himself as the “father,” and he took excellent care of his employees, creating a very patriarchal culture. Then the company hit hard times. Suddenly people were laid off, salaries were frozen, and bonuses were eliminated. Yet the employees were expected to give the same level of performance if not more. What resulted was a bunch of petulant teenagers all rebelling because father didn’t take care of them anymore. To this day that company’s culture has never returned to father-knows-best, and, because of the breach of trust, it has never performed as well either. The patriarchal culture was replaced by an “it’s not fair, distrust and entitlement” culture. The lesson here is that it doesn’t matter what your culture is (assuming, of course, that it’s legal and ethical) as long as you know what it is, you can articulate it inside and outside, and you believe in and live it.
As I’ve said, communicating your intentional culture to your employees goes well beyond stated messages. What employee programs do you have that reinforce your culture? One of my clients decided that “learning” was one of her company’s values, so she implemented quarterly programs open to all employees to learn and grow. The company also had a very generous plan for ongoing education to reward employees who took it upon themselves to enhance their skills. Like this CEO, develop opportunities within your company to allow employees to use, communicate, and “live” your culture every day.
Now back to the lobby. Please, please, make what people first see when they enter your building (or office or store or website) consistent with your culture. Remember your first date? Didn’t you want to make a good impression? You might think about this in terms of customers, but it matters for your employees too. Make sure everything you communicate both visually and verbally is aligned with your culture. Daily reinforcement contributes to employees feeling satisfied with their jobs—more so than money.
Excerpted from my book, “Putting Together the Entrepreneurial Puzzle: The Ten Pieces Every Business Needs to Succeed.” Available here on Amazon.