Why you need to get company culture right

company culture

Glenn Elliott, founder and CEO at Reward Gateway, an HR technology company looks at why company culture is important and why entrepreneurs must get it right. 

Saying “we’ve got a great culture” isn’t good enough anymore. Every good business has a culture book and some pictures showing that their workplace is fun, and more than a boring old office.

A former colleague once told me: “Saying “we’ve got a great culture” is now like saying “we’ve got bathrooms” – it’s not enough. The best candidates want more. They want evidence. They want authenticity. And if they don’t get it they’re going elsewhere.”

Living up to the values

For me, being human and treating everyone with respect is key to our culture. We don’t want to have policies based around the assumption that people are bad and will do the wrong thing.

We don’t think that’s how you build a culture that fuels employee engagement. Companies have been writing culture decks and displaying their values on the wall for some years now, but I’ve realised that phase has had its time and it’s not enough.

A former director of talent once told me that it’s just not enough to say “we’ve got a great culture” – because every decent business says that.

This might mean re-writing your employee handbook, employment contracts and your employment policies. A set of documents that you’re proud of, and that will stand up to scrutiny by your own employees is crucial. Documents that show you’ve put money behind your values, that show you mean what you write on the walls.

Employee perks alone aren’t enough

Sometimes people think that company culture is Friday night drinks, foosball tables, free meals and cool offices, but it’s not.

Company culture is the output of your values, your brand, your company’s core beliefs, the way you lead, manage and treat your customers and the way you communicate and treat your employees.

It’s true that magazines and blogs often talk about crazy and exciting company culture in terms of the freebies, perks and workplace oddities that they have, but that’s just because they are fun and easy things to write about.

How you treat your people

How you treat people, whether it is written in an operating manual or employee handbook, is visible and has a huge impact on your culture and levels of employee engagement.

When other people are being seen to be treated fairly and with kindness it re-enforces the bonds between the organisation and the employees.

Where people are treated unkindly, harshly or without humanity, a feeling of unfairness is quick to take hold. Unfairness and inauthenticity are Kryptonite to employee engagement, they can kill years of hard work in months.

Your staff will judge you not on how you treat the most senior director, but how you treat the most junior. They will judge you less on how you treat the star performer in sales, but more on how you treat the person who is struggling.

I’ve always been obsessed about how we treat our cleaners because how you treat people is what defines your culture.

A nice office – that’s the cherry on top.