What do you think of when you hear the words “company culture”?
Perhaps you think of quirky office perks, like free lunch on Fridays, games tables or even team building activities at fun locations. Or the classic bean bags and a ping pong table.
If this is what you believe culture is, I’m afraid you’ve got it all wrong.
You see, your company culture goes much deeper than simply coming together to have some fun.
Company culture is how you do things in your company that encompasses your businesses values and purpose. It’s how you collaborate with each other, it’s how you manage conflicts. It’s how you hire, and how you fire.
Every action your business takes, every process, every attitude and behaviour is your company culture in action.
You can have an arcade worthy office environment that replicates the likes of tech giants Google or Facebook; but ultimately you can still have a toxic culture, with an unmotivated team.
Your culture has to connect with your team on a human level and provide them with the environment to thrive.
Numerous studies have found that company culture has a direct link to the success of a business. For example, a study by Forbes has found that companies with a strong company culture see a 4 x increase in revenue growth. And furthermore, a study by Deloitte has found purpose-driven companies have 30% higher levels of innovation and outperform on the stock market by 42%.
Ask yourself this question. Does your team know what they’re getting up for every day?
It’s no longer just about the paycheque but what you as a business are striving to achieve. Your team connect with that more than you give them credit for.
To give you a deeper understanding of why you should be focussing your efforts on your culture as part of your business strategy. Here are just a few ways company culture sets your business apart.
It Gives You Competitive Advantage
It’s very rare that what your business provides is completely unique. Your service or product is probably one of many, or slightly different to what is out there.
When we live in a world where there is not much of a difference between service or product providers, we begin to look harder at what that company represents.
Take Apple as an example. The products they sell are not unique. But their branding and what they represent as a company aligns with the values of their ideal customer.
Apple buyers are loyal, to the point they’ll upgrade a phone they don’t need and spend more money in order to keep up with Apple’s latest trends.
Competitive advantage is no longer in the product or service you provide; it’s in how you do it. And that is part of your culture.
As our world is increasingly saturated with choice, we’re making more conscious choices of how, and with who, we spend our money with.
A company’s purpose and values have never been more important.
If you want to look at more examples, just look at the rise of Fintech brands such as Monzo over the traditional high street banks.
Your typical Barclays and HSBC are outdated institutions with archaic processes and systems which leave customers consistently feeling frustrated with the banking experience.
Disruptors such as Monzo, Tide and Starling Bank, didn’t change the service, they changed the way everyone else was doing it. And now they’re the fastest-growing banking services, leaving the old and outdated high street banks scratching their heads.
It Impacts Your Customers
As I’ve already touched upon, your company culture impacts your customers. But goes deeper than just feeling an affinity to your purpose and values.
When your company culture is toxic, and your team is frustrated and unmotivated, those negative feelings ripple out onto your customers. Even if your team is not in a customer-facing role, highly disengaged team members are more likely to sabotage a project or the business out of resentment.
If you start seeing that your customers are leaving negative feedback, or that projects are falling apart; this is one heavy sign that there’s something wrong in your company culture.
When your team is feeling driven by the work they are doing, they are more likely to go the extra mile for both colleagues and customers.
To put it into perspective, consider how much your customers are worth to you. What’s the lifecycle of your customer, and how much over a year may they spend with you?
Now imagine if that was lost, and that was a regular occurrence. You can not only see that poor culture is costing your business financially, but it will also cost your business reputationally as you will not incur positive referrals as you would if you had happy customers.
It Makes You An Employer Brand
Let’s face facts for a minute. The average amount of time someone stays in a job role at a company is now 4.5 years. In our modern world of work, there is no longer a job for life; it’s a job until it doesn’t fit their life.
Now to some people, this would give them a very data-led reason to not invest in company culture. The old, “well what’s the point of improving the culture if they’re just going to leave.”
But this reasoning is not only short-sighted but can cost the business its ability to grow and be sustainable.
Firstly, even though people are not staying in a job for life, you still want them to be productive while working with you, and to create their best possible work. Otherwise, you’ve got a very expensive role that is not contributing to the company.
Secondly, you have to realise that people talk about where they work. It comes up in conversations with friends, it comes up in conversation with family, and even in the supermarket when at the checkout. People talk about work because it’s the thing they do most!
Be under no illusion, that your team isn’t talking about work. The reason this matters to your business is because even when someone leaves, you want others to recommend your company as a great place to work.
Having people leave isn’t a bad thing. People leave for many reasons. They want to try something new, move to a different area, or find something that fits their life. What you don’t want them to leave for is because the company culture was toxic.
Your culture sets your business apart as an employer brand. The better your culture, the more likely you are to attract great people, and keep them for the full 4.5 years and beyond.
People who you train well, and treat well, will speak highly of their time with your company. This in turn will help you to attract more motivated people into your company who also want to experience what you’ve provided for previous employees.
Companies who truly embed their purpose and values into their culture see far more engagement in their teams than just ticking the boxes of culture.
As I hope I’ve outlined in this feature, company culture is no longer just a nice to have, it’s a must-have if you wish for your business to become more agile and resilient, and build an environment where people and business thrive together.
This is a guest-written blog by Lizzie Benton of Liberty Mind.
Lizzie is a people and culture specialist who supports start-ups and small businesses in developing a purpose-driven company culture and more autonomous teams. Lizzie has been recognised as one of the top 30 millennials changing the world of work and has been featured in the Metro, HuffingtonPost, Forbes and the Financial Times. Lizzie is best known for her honest approach to company culture and believes in building more organisations that support our human potential.