When I hired my first team of 3 people, I gave them a challenge. I told him, “Everything we do together now is going to set the tone for the culture that we have as the company grows. So, let’s be intentional about it.” Don’t wait until your startup is booming before you get clear about your workplace culture. Your culture has a significant impact on the ultimate success of your company, so start defining it today before you end up with one by default.
Here are 5 strategies to help you.
1. Give them something to care about.
When people have a sense of purpose in their work, they are more likely to stay engaged and committed to the company. A 2019 study by Coen/Porter Novelli showed that 83 percent of Generation Z (those born between 1997-2015) consider a company’s purpose when making job decisions. Other studies show a tendency to seek meaningful work and I would dare to say that from 2020 onwards this trend has only increased and spread across generations.
Founding members of startups can fulfill this wish by presenting a vivid picture of the company of their choice. This means focusing not only on what you do, but why and how you do it.
answer the following questions. How do your products or services make a difference? What is your purpose beyond profit? What impact do you want to make on your customers, your community or the world? With whom do you want to work? How will your team work together? What kind of experience do you want to get?
How will working for you give your team members a sense of something bigger than themselves? Answer those questions as specifically as possible and you’re on your way to building a culture that fosters passion and focus.
2. Promote your purpose.
The problem with most organizations is that they spend a lot of time defining their mission, vision and values, launching them in some elaborate way and never talking about them again. Don’t be like those companies. Keep your vision and values alive and well by repeatedly promoting them internally and externally.
Spend time at the beginning of each team meeting discussing one aspect of your vision statement or the core value of the week. Or, if meetings aren’t for you, bring up weekly topics on your startup social media or communication channels. Ask team members to participate in (or better yet, lead) the conversation.
At the end of each day, week, or project, swap out stories that exemplify your purpose and your desired culture. Share them with your team and share them with your customers. In fact, the more you promote how your people are living your core values, the more you will create a sense of pride and a desire to create more stories worth celebrating.
“Company culture is the backbone of any successful organization.” – gary vaynerchuk
3. Hire with your culture in mind.
With each person you hire, your culture either gets better or worse. Therefore, it is essential that you intentionally recruit people who totally buy into your team and admire you. This means that you are as intentional about your recruitment process as you are about your culture.
First, promoting your culture externally will attract the best candidates. You can send your written vision and values to all applicants and ask them to consider them carefully before requesting an interview. If they come back to you excitedly, proceed to the next step.
Ask value-based questions like “Mastery is one of our company’s values. Tell me about a time you went the extra mile to achieve something really important to you. How would you apply that experience to this job? ?”
Involve other people on your team in the interview process. Allow time to spend with the people on the team before the finalists are officially on board. Thumbs up or down – are they a good fit for your culture.
A word of warning. A cultural fit does not mean that everyone is the same. In fact, the diversity of thought, gender, race, generation etc. makes a very rich culture indeed. I once had two candidates that I was carefully considering. Like the rest of my team, one was upbeat, enthusiastic and full of positivity. The other was also upbeat, but a little quieter and more thoughtful and deliberate. Both were equally qualified. A coworker asked, “Candidate A is just like us, but do we really want someone else like us?” I hired Candidate B, and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done.
4. Invest in Your Onboarding Process
The way you bring new people to your team determines how quickly they will become involved in your company culture. Even if you’re only bringing in one person at a time, roll out the red carpet and give them the best onboarding experience ever.
Plan their first two weeks with extraordinary detail. Provide them with an agenda of where they will go, who they will spend time with and what they will do. Expose them to as many coworkers and experiences as possible. Create an onboarding adventure that includes hands-on experience, personal and virtual learning, meetings and traditions, and little paperwork if needed. Touch on the four main elements of effective onboarding: culture, connection, communication and compliance.
5. Build engagement.
Show me a workplace where coworkers feel connected, and I’ll show you a strong company culture. Whether you all work in the same office or are spread all over the world, you can build strong peer relationships. .
Bring everyone together for an in-person meeting once or twice a year. Use that time to really focus on specific topics like sales and marketing, customer experience, or the future (insert your company name here). However, build up time for “getting to know you” activities and team outings too!
Use your virtual communication channels to build relationships between team members. Photo icebreakers are a quick and easy way for people to get to know each other. Have people post pictures of their lunch, their favorite items, or their bucket list items on their team’s social media pages or Slack channel.
Encourage weekly calls with a co-worker, and randomly group people together for 15-minute conversations. The more coworkers get to know each other as people, the better they’ll collaborate.
Lastly, be open to editing. As founders, you need to be clear about what type of workplace you want to pursue. However, as you grow, seek input from your team to continually refresh and improve your company culture.