By Melissa Crossman
The importance of company culture and how it impacts productivity can’t be understated; the way people see their work world makes a difference in the final product. Many a successful startup and new venture has been launched and carried through hard times with a tightly-knit, cohesive group of coworkers who all understand how they fit in a new company. Company culture represents the glue that keeps all these different geniuses and dynamos working towards a common goal, but it also needs to be managed to stay productive.
Rackspace and Core Values
The building blocks of a company’s culture are its core values. Employees will follow what management displays as priorities for the company. Rackspace is an example of a company that has stuck so relentlessly to its culture of fanatical support that it’s actually become a marketable aspect of their business. However, this isn’t as simple as it sounds. While management could list clear priorities, actions speak louder than words. As a result, company culture can be influenced as much by management behavior as the words in the company newsletter. Once the core building blocks are defined, however, it becomes very hard to change them, absent a radical change process that generally turns everyone upside down psychologically. This sort of reform usually only happens when the company merges with another, gets bought out, or goes out of business.
Apple and Steve Jobs
Apple represents a modern and primary example of the effective impact of company culture. Because Jobs clearly defined what he wanted Apple to be at every level as a company, there is no confusion in Apple or its employees regarding their role, their mission and their function. While Apple is often cited as an example for just about anything good in tech business, Apple’s operation and mantra was clearly driven by Jobs' vision of how his company’s culture should operate. Jobs drove people to see design in every aspect of Apple products. As a result, the company produced technology products that enhanced consumer life rather than got in the way.
Zappos and Shoes
Tony Hsieh designed his Internet shoe company, Zappos.com, to work around a culture of customer-happiness focus. If employees didn’t jive with that approach, they didn’t last long. The results have been a huge validation of Tony Hsieh’s direction. Zappos has grown to be a multi-billion dollar success still following and implementing the same eagerness of employees to help customers with shoes. To this day, Zappos’ new hires are still interviewed for culture fit and service rather than anything else.
Surprisingly, many in management don’t really recognize their own business culture. They think they do, but many managers and even business owners don’t really see their own business culture in full detail. Self-examination means asking some hard questions to confirm being on the right path:
- Do the critical teams of the business emotionally invest in what management deems as important? A business may have a mission and set of goals, but if the operating teams don’t really give a darn what those are then what keeps them working towards the same common goal?
- Do employees exude passion and excitement about the business, or are they just going about their regular daily business pushing paper? A vibrant company culture can be easily seen; people want to come to work and create, produce and design. A dead business culture shows signs of decay and stagnation. People clock their time and work for the weekend rather than feeling happy about what they produce.
- Are people hired to enhance a culture, or is it random selection? If management doesn’t pick people based on how they will fit into an existing, desired culture, the mish-mash will result in conflicts.
If management doesn't make sure its office culture is clearly defined, the employees will create one by default. That ad hoc culture could be detrimental of no one is paying attention to it or how it affects a business.
Melissa Crossman is an avid reader and writer who loves dispensing practical advice, ranging from methods companies use to keep their employees happy to maintaining a positive company culture that attracts potential employees. She writes on behalf of Rackspace.