One of my long-held beliefs about business is that culture is the key to success for any business large or small. My new book The Great Culture [Dis]Connect contrasts “good” and “bad” cultures, (which are really just ineffective cultures), and shows you a way to create a great culture in your business and why it matters.
As you can imagine, I was very interested to read this article during the holidays on how small businesses are changing their cultures. It’s a great article and discusses what many companies are “doing” to have a better culture in their business to attract more and better talent. The reason for my emphasis on “doing” is that you can’t actually “do culture,” you have to live it. In most of the cases featured in the article, I believe it’s more that they are actually defining their culture and creating ways to live it that are more aligned with who they are.
Any company who decides to change policies to attract employees but doesn’t really believe in the program has more of a gimmick than a policy. Take the example of a local company that decided to create a flexible work schedule. From everything they had heard from their current workforce and interviewing potential employees, this was important to attract talent. However, when HR made the proposal, it really only allowed employees 1 day per month that they could work from home, which by any definition doesn’t really mean “flexible” work schedule. In addition, the CEO really disliked the idea of even having to offer this benefit. He believed people should be in their seats from 8-5 just like he had always done. This resulted in new hires feeling a bit like they were on the receiving end of a “bait and switch” when they found out what the flexible schedule really meant in this organization. The culture hadn’t changed, but some window dressing had been added to attempt a makeover.
Contrast that with the company who had team members interview candidates to talk about culture without management in the room. This is a gutsy move on the part of the employer but strongly communicates the value of transparency and shows that they really value the culture and that employees really do have a say in it.
Culture matters and not all cultures have to be the same. You should hire based on what your culture is. Your policies need to reflect who you genuinely are, or it will become apparent pretty quickly what you really value. Then you have a bigger problem because people feel cheated or that the company was dishonest.
Culture starts with your values, then creating policies and procedures that reflect them. For a culture to really thrive the whole organization must embrace and live it.