“Don’t be evil.”

It’s such a short, bold statement that it makes most people laugh the first time they hear it. And yet, it’s one of the greatest assets Google has: it’s the basis of their culture.

87% of organizations struggle with culture and engagement — aka “How do we make our business a nice place to work and get employees excited to be a part of the team?” — which is a real shame, because if you can get this one thing right, the positive effects on the rest of your business are virtually unlimited.

What’s culture again?

If you ask many in senior management what their company culture is, they’ll trot out some really nice-sounding statement like, “We stand for high quality, accountability, and great customer service.”

All well and good … but chances are that’s not the real culture of the company. If you want to really see the culture of a company, look at the stories, symbols, behaviors, and habits of the employees.

So many companies have one culture on paper and a totally different one in the day to day. Every organization has a culture, whether intentionally or unintentionally cultivated, and it should reflect the values and purpose of the organization. But that’s not always the case. And when your values and your culture get out of whack, that’s when you start seeing things like burnout, bored employees, absenteeism, and poor work ethic.

It all comes back to values.

People want to work for companies that stand for something. In fact, it’s really hard to get them to do good work otherwise. That’s why your values should drive all your organizational decisions, including the culture that you decide to foster. And when I say that, I really mean it — every single thing that happens in your company should be a reflection of your values. That’s the way you create a culture that actually works, instead of one more document to join the dusty pile of well-intentioned but rarely referenced documents on the top of your bookshelf, like your mission, vision, and strategic plan.

But what about the money?

Historically, business owners have seen values and money as being in a standoff: one that values often loses. But that’s a false dichotomy. In fact, your values and culture can be one of the best drivers of performance and revenue you have. And we have the data to back this up. 87% of consumers buy products based on their values — because a company advocates for an issue they care about — and 76% boycott brands that support issues contrary to their beliefs.

A purpose mobilizes people in a way that pursuing profits alone never will.

What’s more, having a strong, values-based culture motivates your employees like you wouldn’t believe. Employees in companies with constructive, positive cultures are dramatically more engaged, and companies with highly engaged employees outperform others by nearly 150% in earnings per share. Engaged employees are also 21% more productive than others, and they stick around longer (73% of employees who aren’t engaged in their businesses are actively looking for jobs), which means you get to save the 6 – 9 months’ salary it typically takes to replace an employee. And just in case you’re starting to think about your budget and wonder how you can shoehorn a massive push for engagement in, know that this doesn’t have to be some big, end all be all thing. Even a 10% increase in investment in engagement can increase your profits by $2400 per employee per year.

How to cultivate a great company culture:

Whether you’re just starting your business or you’ve fallen into a not-so-great company culture, there are many things you can do to build a strong culture that serves your business, your staff, and your target market. Here are four key pillars of culture building:

  1.   Be Authentic. Ask your leaders why the organization exists and what they stand for? Most organizations reflect the values of their leaders. Don’t use words to describe values that no one will understand. You better mean it or no one will believe you.
  2.   Invest in recruiting. Hire for values and then competency. You can improve skills and increase knowledge. But, character is much harder to change.
  3.   Create accountability. Fire when values are violated. No excuses. You will send a message to all of your employees as to what you stand for.
  4.   Celebrate value wins. Sharing is caring and employees are demanding more transparency. Celebrate moments when values are exhibited in the work and in how you work together. Talk about values being tested and how your organization’s values have prevailed.

It really is that simple … but it’s not always easy. In fact, it can be really hard to get a handle on your company’s culture without some outside help, because you’re so down in the day to day that everything seems normal or inevitable.

That’s where we come in. When you’re ready to define your organizational values, align your culture, and enjoy the amped up engagement and efficacy that inevitably comes along with that, get in touch!