How keeping a bootstrapped team led to our company’s profitability, and what our Chief Appreciation Officer, Gary Willmott, is up to next.
It seems many HR professionals and thought leaders give culture some mystical presence in your company; the vibe in your office, the proverbial glue that sticks your team together (or the proverbial baseball bat that breaks it apart, if it’s deemed as ‘toxic’). These days, many workers are removed from their natural habitat called ‘the office’ — and without the office, does your company culture really exist?
Of course it does. Culture is something intrinsic to people — not objects or spaces, even though we use those things to express our culture 🏓 🎱 🍔
So, now co-workers and leaders alike are faced with the problem of cultivating an environment where people can flourish, without being physically together and able to use their observational skills (“spidey senses”) to gauge employee productivity, happiness, motivation and engagement.
Company culture looks something like this:
Imagine your company is a narwhal. Your culture is the unicorn.
“Culture is simply a shared way of doing something with a passion.” – Brian Chesky
“Culture is the way the company’s set values are being lived out every day, through actions from everyone within the company.” — Terry Steenhuisen
“Company culture drives people’s behaviour, innovation, business strategy & customer service.” — Matthew Marz
“I think as a company, if you can get those two things right — having a clear direction on what you are trying to do and bringing in great people who can execute on the stuff — then you can do pretty well.” — Mark Zuckerberg
It’s clear that company culture is defined by people and actions, not spaces and privileges. Company culture is sort of like an ideology or concept. It sets the tone of the thinking and behaviour in your organisation — which also means it can be steered in a direction, just like a narwhal, but we’ll deep-dive into that soon 🐳
Now, in general, ROI (Return-on-Investment) is easy to measure when you’re dealing with numbers and it really gives you a standardised, universal way to gauge your company’s profitability. Simply subtract the initial value of your investment from the final value (this is the net return), then divide this by the cost of the investment, and, finally, multiply it by 100.
This is primary school stuff, right? #entrepreneursday 🤓🏆
But it gets tricky when we try to apply it to people and intangible things like sentiment, happiness and engagement. This is the thing with company culture — it’s a Unicorn 🦄, a Big Foot 👣, a Leprechaun 🍀… You’re pretty sure it’s real, can convince yourself you’ve observed traces of it, and you can definitely describe it to others. But how do you measure it?
The answer is: 🌈 Rainbows.
No I’m just kidding. The truth is, you can measure company culture by setting some variables and following the trails of success in your company. Let’s check it out:
You have a dream for your company, and everyone in your company needs to buy into that dream and make it their own in order for your business to succeed.
With our recent launch of Get Remote, I’ve seen a lot of job ads and how companies put themselves forward to potential employees. My favourite so far is Zapier — their vision is simple (make computers do more work) and their team is all-remote (because their mission is to create more productive workplaces). In essence, they’re living their dream.
“Camaraderie from afar. 100% distributed doesn’t hold us back from building bonds.” — Zapier
So, a great way to measure culture is to constantly check if you’re still sticking to your mission, and that everyone is still focused on the vision. When working remotely this could be done via a video call, or a quick poll. We do a 15-min standup every day and declare our 3 frogs (you’ll understand what I mean when you read this).
You’ve set values in place to steer your narwhal (right?). Imagine a unicorn customisation game, where you pick the colour of your mane, the flavour of your rainbow and the colour of your sparkles — these are your company values. It depicts the kind of unicorn your company wants to be, and is.
In practical terms, it’s really important that your company’s values are wrestled through and chosen democratically. Yes, leadership sets the pace for company culture, but ultimately the values you put forward need to, firstly, be true to the management and company (ahem, “integrity”) and secondly, they need to resonate with the employees.
Once your values are agreed upon, you can measure how everyone is living up to them. With Hi5 we use a simple Lickert scale to measure culture via company values. Co-workers can do this using mobile, desktop or browser apps.
You can read up on social psychology and behavioural science, which studies human behaviour and the reasons behind the decisions we make. This research is most often used in marketing and advertising (like, why did I buy the crisps that were 2 bucks less with a red ‘sale’ label, when I never intended to buy crisps at all?).
“People are always making choices, and therefore always influenced by behavioural biases — whether they are shopping or working in the office.” — Richard Shotton
When it comes to human behaviour at work, there are plenty of consultants and psychometric assessments out there that can help you understand your co-workers a bit better — what makes them tick, and some of the reasons behind their behaviours (good/motivating and bad/demotivating). Once you’ve nailed the good behaviours (in line with your vision 🔭 and mission 🚀), you can set out to encourage more through positive affirmation.
Showing recognition and appreciation for good behaviours is not a top-down thing: everybody needs to do it. It builds an awesome culture: our survey with 1000+ employees found that in companies where frequent employee recognition is practised, the culture gets a higher score. It’s also good for your brain, and your heart ❤️
The words we use are a reflection of ourselves and how we think. You can often pick up frustrations in meetings, or you may have an inkling that something’s up when you watch colleagues interact.
This is a little harder when working remotely, but there are actually analysis tools out there for this! For instance, you can use a sentiment tracker to get a sense of how employees feel about their jobs and the company culture, by feeding in customer conversations, internal emails, or social media comments.
Last but not least, you can measure company culture by just asking your employees for feedback. Oftentimes when people have burning questions or issues they want to raise, all they need is a platform to air these without the fear of being judged or fired.
I know these days ‘survey fatigue’ has become a buzz phrase, but I honestly believe it comes down to how it’s done, and whether the employee understands how they benefit from it. Another huge role player here is whether the employee believes that management would put the words into action.
Using communication and survey tools wisely, you can get some seriously powerful feedback on your company culture from your co-workers.
A great company culture leads to happy, productive employees. Whoa, before you shut down and call this statement cliché, consider the numbers:
It’s more expensive to have unproductive (disengaged) employees than to lose employees. In the end, both of these situations cost your company money (loss through replacing and training employees or loss in production, respectively).
“Engaged employees are those who are fascinated by their work and committed to face every challenge to attain their goals.” — Management Study Guide
Employees are your bottom line. When you have engaged employees — committed, loyal, motivated, trustworthy — you will retain more of them for longer, ending up with more people highly skilled in their jobs with your company’s vision, mission and values emblazoned on their work ethic and service delivery. Just imagine how much that means to your customers.
“Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” — Simon Sinek
So make sure your narwhal is steered by an awesome unicorn.