In 2018, Linkedin conducted a survey to determine the key ways to attract, attain and foster professional talent. While respondent answers varied in terms of salary, professional development options and flexible working schemes, one thing became overwhelmingly clear; company culture matters. So much so that 70% of survey respondents in the U.S said they wouldn’t work for a leading company if it meant having to endure a bad or ‘toxic’ workplace culture. Furthermore, 65% of these respondents said they would put up with lower pay and 26% said they would forego a fancy title, rather than deal with a bad work place environment.
Over the years, the concept of company culture has blurred. Thanks to the media, when people hear the phrase they often think of tech giants like Google and Netflix, with their stocked bar fridge, ping pong tables, ‘nap pods’ and unlimited employee holidays. And yes, while these perks can all be classed under the umbrella of company culture, they are usually the result of a strong culture already in place, which dictates a company’s actions.
The Subjectivity of Company Culture
Popular sales and marketing software Hubspot, define company culture as the shared set of values, beliefs and behaviours that informs a company’s decisions and unites it’s employees under one common vision. Similarly, when Design & Build conducted a survey asking our own network what company culture meant to them, 78.94% of respondents said it meant having employees know the values and mission of a company, while 77.36% of respondents identified company culture as working as a team rather than as individuals.
These statistics demonstrate the subjectivity of company culture; it will look and feel different for different organisations. Tech giants like Google and Facebook have a shared set of values and beliefs around innovation and forward thinking and this focus informs everything they do; it is encouraged and expected of their employees, in their product offering and in their marketing. Alternatively, e-commerce giant Amazon has a key leadership principle of ‘delivering results’ and encourage their employees to ‘rise to the occasion and never settle’. This mission has created a results-driven culture, where achieving goals and quotas are inherent to the company’s success. For Design & Build, our biggest focus is on building relationships- with our clients, our candidates, and our teammates. We believe that the key building block in any long-lasting relationship is trust and consequently ‘building trust’ has shaped our company culture and ensures that we are always doing the right thing by our stakeholders.
The Signs of a Positive Work Culture
While culture can be unique to the particular organisation and their business goals, there are a few common factors that create a positive environment for employees across the board. When consulting and training company The Energy Project teamed up with Harvard Business Review they discovered that employee happiness revolved around 4 core human needs being met: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs . Within a workplace setting, this translates to ensuring your employees are feeling seen and valued at work; having the space and time to collaborate and be creative within their work, feel a deep sense of belonging with the company and feel like they’re part of something worthwhile.
Examples of ways workplaces have addressed these core needs are through recognition programs (awards, bonus schemes), learning and development opportunities, flexible working options and philanthropic opportunities. Benefits like gym memberships and free food come under this category too but interestingly only 19% of respondents in Linkedin’s survey said that employee perks like a gym membership or complimentary lunches were the reason they stayed at their company.
Another key element linked to employee happiness and engagement is being able to align with their company’s values; believing in and being passionate about what their company stands for. In the same Linkedin survey, 87% of respondents said that having pride in the company they work for matters while 39% said that they would leave their job if their employer were to ask them to do something that they had an ethical dilemma or conflict with. Furthermore, when delving into what made those respondents feel ‘proud’ to work for their company, 46% listed having a positive impact on society.
Having a common purpose allows employees to feel motivated in their role as they can clearly see what they’re working towards and feel a sense of belonging as they work towards that purpose as a team. And as these statistics demonstrate, the more employees believe and agree with a company’s values and behaviour – their commitment to reducing their carbon footprint for example- the more motivated and engaged in their work they become. It also reflects Design & Build’s own survey in which the overwhelming response for identifying what company culture meant, was both uniting together and having a clear understanding of the overarching visions and goals of the company.
The Benefits of Company Culture
It goes without saying that creating a happy and stable work environment will help retain and attract talent. As Hubspot state in their own culture code “culture is to recruiting as product is to marketing; customers are more easily attracted with a great product and talented people are more easily attracted with a great culture”. However, happy employees can also lead to greater overall productivity. A study in the UK found that the number of sick-days of an employee increased, depending on their unhappiness levels at work, while a team at the University of Oxford Business school discovered that workers at a call centre who rated themselves ‘happy’ each week, made more calls per hour and achieved 13% higher sales than their ‘unhappy’ colleagues. Similarly, when Sony Pictures addressed their problem with employee disengagement in 2008, they decided to focus on fulfilling the four key human needs (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs) rather than pushing their workers to perform better. The result was that despite the recession, Sony had one of their most profitable years ever.
In addition to productivity levels, company culture can also help to establish your brand within the market. Andrew McGregor, managing director for Design & Build believes a clearly defined company culture has been integral for differentiating Design & Build from other recruitment companies:
“A company’s culture will set the tone for how business is conducted; how you interact with your clients, your staff- and for us- our candidates. It will come to define you and if communicated effectively will differentiate you within the marketplace.”
Indeed, there are hundreds of recruitment companies both clients and candidates can choose from. However, having a reputation as a trusted recruitment company that has built strong relationships within its network – those are quality’s unique to Design & Build. Similarly, tech company Apple have created a culture that values creative innovation and challenging conventions and standards. This culture has dictated the products Apple develops and how they market themselves. The Apple brand has now become synonymous worldwide with innovation and creativity, which has seen it dominate over its competitors.
Creating Culture; A Starting Point
Despite understanding the benefits of a strong company culture and knowing the values and policies that make for happy employees, effectively communicating your culture internally and externally can be a challenge. A Deloitte study found that 87% of organisations find culture and engagement one of the hardest things to instil in their workplace. Especially in today’s work environment, where so many employees are working remotely, and communication channels have become more fragmented. So how can companies effectively instil their culture?
Ultimately, something as subjective and intangible as culture cannot be changed or fully implemented overnight, however a transformed company culture can transform your business for the better. Both in terms of the talent you can recruit and retain and the increased brand awareness and productivity levels you can cultivate. It can be a worthwhile exercise for any business to look at it’s own company culture and consider if there’s any room for improvement.