A few weeks ago, Great Place to Work announced the 2014 list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For. While no one company is like the other, we find common themes among our list winners, which we explored in our latest whitepaper, the Great Place to Work Guide to Greatness.
We obviously see tremendous value in creating great workplaces built on trust, but it’s not always easy to convince leaders that company culture is more than just “the fluffy stuff.” In fact, at our 100 Best Companies, we find that a strong workplace culture is considered key to business success.
When you’re on the journey of building a great workplace, how can you make the case for investing in culture?
A strong culture helps companies attract and retain employees.
When an employee decides to leave a company, the organization faces an expensive loss. Not only does all of their organizational knowledge leave the company along with the employee, but the costs of selecting and hiring a new employee, transition costs, disruption to the talent pipeline, and more are estimated to be one to three times the employee’s original salary, depending on his or her level of skill.
Among recognized 100 Best Companies, voluntary turnover is quite low--as much as 65% that of industry peers. Simply put, focusing efforts on building a great place to work--a place where people trust the people they work for, have pride in the work they do, and enjoy the people they work with--creates an environment that employees will be less likely to leave.
A strong culture strengthens the company’s brand.
In this era of social media, employees and customers alike broadcast their experiences for the world to consume. Keenly aware of this, many of the 100 Best Companies actively work to align their internal and external brands, so that employees and customers share the same positive experience of the company. For example, at Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, recognized as the #21 Best Company this year, the internal motto is: “What’s good for the customer is good for the employee, and vice-versa.”
Efforts to ensure employees are happy are paying off, as employees at great workplaces are likely to become brand ambassadors. According to the 2012 Social Workplace Trust Study by Human1.0 and Great Place to Work, employees in high trust environments are 3.3 times more likely to talk about their companies on social media, and are two times more likely to express pride in their organizations.
A strong culture can be leveraged to execute strategy.
A company with a strong culture that incorporates common values has the benefit of clear guidelines (the “how”), for people to follow as they strive to achieve shared company goals (the “what”). As an example, at The Container Store, “The Seven Foundation Principles” provide a framework for employees from sales clerk to CEO to use in guiding actions and decisions--from how to handle a return to how to navigate the economic climate. As a result of this shared language, employees across the company are aligned in all they do. The Container Store leaders attribute much of their success as the nation’s leading retailer of storage and organization products to these principles and their ability to inspire alignment across the company.
How you can leverage your company’s culture for business success?
1. Hire for skill and culture ﬁt.
Turnover is expensive, and it’s important that companies do everything they can on the front end to ensure they’re bringing the right talent into their organizations. Best Companies have rigorous hiring processes that not only assess skill, but also the candidate’s natural synergy with the organization’s culture. What’s more, Best Companies will often hire a less skilled employee if they are a strong culture fit, knowing that skill is something that can be trained--but culture is not.
By using your company’s culture as an additional screen in the hiring process, you increase the chances that your new hires will quickly find their footing and become fully integrated. You also do your existing employees a favor by bringing someone on board who will have an easier time integrating into the team. Finally, you add another person to your company who can contribute to your success in a rich way by bringing their full selves to the table.
2. Put your organization’s values to work.
In great workplaces, a company’s defined shared values and other cultural pillars are integrated into everything--hiring, communication, recognition, celebration, even termination. They can also act as a compass during difficult times and decision making. Shared values provide a sense of consistency, cohesion, and purpose across the organization.
Take a look at your organization’s values and see if there are ways you can integrate them more fully into the daily fabric of the company. And, if they feel irrelevant, it may be time to re-examine and possibly update them.
3. Find out what makes your company great—and build on it, internally and externally.
Why do your employees think your company is a great place to work? What do they enjoy the most? What makes your organization special and unique? Having a clear sense of what you do well is just as important as knowing what to improve, because what you do well is what you need to highlight, build upon and leverage.
If there are components of your culture that you know are very strong, think about how you can lift those strengths up and make them even more visible for employees, or even for your customers and others from the outside world who come into contact with your brand. Great workplaces are great not because they learned how to be someone else, but because they have become incredibly successful at being themselves at their very best.
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Jessica Rohman develops content for Great Place to Work® programs and materials. In her long tenure with Great Place to Work, she has also worked as a consultant, facilitator, list evaluator, and conference program director, bringing a depth of understanding of Great Place to Work concepts to her work.
Jessica holds an MA in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, and has conducted doctoral studies in Human and Organizational Systems at the Fielding Institute and the National Training Laboratory. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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