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3 ways to ensure your ‘company culture’ is an actual thing

Group of happy business people working together on project in office.

‘Company culture’ has long been a buzzword, particularly among start-ups. The idea is that you, as a founder, should define your company values, preferably even before the business enters day one.

Company culture and founding values set the business’s principles by stating what the company stands for, where it fits into the market, and the kind of environment you and your team expect to work in.

In theory, it’s a great idea. However, a lot of the time, company culture and founding values prove to be barely worth the paper they’re written on. They are too easily forgotten or compromised in the day-to-day running of the business. And this happens whether that business is facing challenges or beginning to thrive.

For a company’s values and principles to actually work, everyone should be regularly reminded of them, and it’s you and your leadership team’s responsibility to not only remind but to be the reminder, in the way you treat people and conduct business. Working together and being totally committed to well-thought-out and solid values can not only help a business thrive, it can also engender an emotional solidarity and shared mission that is there to keep things going when it gets tough.

Here are 3 ways to instil and maintain solid company culture…

1. Recruit for loyalty

If you’re really serious about your company’s values, they should feature strongly in your recruitment process. Yes, you want someone who is well-qualified for the job, but does that candidate appear to align with your principles and long-term vision for the company? Do they have a growth mindset or is it just a ‘job’ for them?

To establish and solidify company values, you need to look at the whole picture. If, when recruiting, one candidate is better qualified and professionally suitable, but another, slightly less qualified one seems to be emotionally in tune with your ideals, then you must employ the latter. Whatever shortcomings they have will be quickly overcome by their willingness to learn and become an integral part of the team and the company’s mission.

Taking a chance on someone—especially when that person knows you took that chance—is a very good way of establishing mutual trust and loyalty.

young colleagues conducting a business presentation while working in a creative office
A subtly-placed vintage bicycle in the workspace is desirable but not essential…

2. Make your company culture public

Extolling the founding principles within your business is one thing, but to be truly brave and accountable, you should state them clearly to everyone. This could mean listing them on your website, talking about them on a video and discussing them in the content you produce. At its most extreme, it could even require you to turn down (!) clients who you don’t think fit your principles.

By being bold enough to openly communicate your principles, and solidly stick by them, no matter what, you’re not only strengthening loyalty within your team—everyone becomes a brand ambassador—you’re also getting clients and the general public to back and believe in whatever it is you’re selling. This also extends to potential investors and strategic partners, who will factor in company culture as a sign of a unified team and therefore an entity that is always growing, and willing and able to take on more challenging and exciting opportunities.

3. Measure it!

In the same way you strategise and analyse your business’s performance via KPI’s and customer engagement and reviews, you should and can regularly examine and review your company culture.

This can be done in a number of ways—a weekly open-floor meeting where everyone is free to express themselves about anything; regular one-to-ones where you check in on your team members’ emotional state and encourage total honesty of opinion; and/or employee surveys. Total transparency from the top down is incredibly powerful—it resolves issues before they become much bigger problems (think staff losses!) and, again, further entrenches that sense of loyalty, togetherness and being part of something meaningful.

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