In a recent post (Why Does Google has a Bowling Alley?) we discussed why it's important to the success of a company to have a good corporate culture now it is time to give a few tips on how to create that culture. While the task of creating a culture is something that should be different for every startup based on the culture of the employees, here are a few more universal tips on what goes into create culture.
1) Define a set of values: This is something that sounds sort of boring. It's fun to simply add a bowling alley to your office but the alley should be a symbol for something that your company values - maybe it is keeping your employees active or having a good work/play balance but the bowling alley is a simple means not an end. Think of what values you hold true about business and that you would like your employees to hold true. Maybe you think it is good to have flexibility in work hours to be able to not stress the 9-5 and be able to spend time with family or you think it is important for your employees to be entrepreneurial so you allow them to spend work time on other projects - these are things you think are valuable and things you think would be valuable to your employees. Come up with a few of these to share with your employees.
2) Discuss Culture from the Start: One bad apple can ruin a whole bunch so it's important to make sure those on your team share your values. We discussed in the last post why it is very expensive to hire so when you do hire folks, you want to make sure they are good. It's important to find out what they value and find out what they consider to be a bad company culture. This is not to say all of your employees will be clones, but if you and your other employees value something that the new hire does not it can cause tension and could ripple through the company.
3) Communicate and Take People to Task: Corporate culture is something to not take lightly, it's important to make sure people are living up to these values. If, for example, your company values transparency and an employee has been hiding something - call them out. Do so privately and do it in a way to understand how you can better foster that value. If the employees are not living up to this values it might not necessarily be their fault, you as a manager might not be making them feel as though they can truly be transparent. This dialogue and accountability will resonate. However, if you have an employee that is truly disrupting the culture of the company, it might be worth it to simply let that person go. Like a company's vision, a company's values are too important to lose sight of.
4) Be a Partner: One of the problems with the old school corporate culture of mega-corporations in the 80's was that most the corporate culture was only cool stuff for executives, while the lower level employees simply punched the clock. If you are truly trying to make a great culture lower your ego and be an employee yourself. Be open to suggestions, be available to meet and be a partner to all your employees - this will allow culture to flow freely through out the company and not simply from the top down.