Companies that consistently overperform expectations and earn exceptional loyalty from their employees often have one thing in common. They took the time to build a culture deck: a codified representation of the company’s values and culture. They have clearly communicated a shared vision of success for both employees and the organization.
A culture deck represents what makes your company unique. With this information in hand, you can hire and build a team of rock stars that are committed to the same ideals that inspired the company’s origin.
While there isn’t a clear blueprint for building a culture deck, there are five questions it should aim to answer to provide guidance to current and future staff. Let’s look at those questions and how best to answer them.
What Problem Does Your Company Address?
What is your mission? Why was your company founded and how does your culture reflect that mission?
You may already have a clearly defined mission statement. Your culture deck is a great place to include it and unpack it in more detail. This is more than just market need – it’s about what makes you and your product uniquely qualified to tackle the issues you are solving for.
The purpose of this question is to ensure everyone you hire is to cultivate a shared purpose. New hires should be excited about and eager to join you on your mission.
What Does Leadership and Teamwork Look Like?
Now that you’ve established the mission your company works toward, how will you do it? What are your values and how will you commit to them? Focus first on what leadership in your organization looks like, and how teams work together towards the goals you’ve set.
Start by identifying your core values and how you expect these to show up in employees’ day-to-day experience. This should be one or two paragraphs that outline how you want to do business and the ethics that will guide your efforts.
Next, define what your company looks like when it succeeds in espousing those values. What do your managers and executives prioritize and how should they interact with employees, customers, vendors, and partners? How should employees work together towards the shared vision you’ve laid out?
What Does Success Mean for Your Company?
When hiring new employees, the most important thing you can communicate to them (after your mission), is how you measure success. This doesn’t necessarily mean the specific performance KPIs by which they’ll be evaluated. It means your philosophical approach to success. What mindset and level of effort do you expect from your new hires? What do you expect from leaders?
Going further, how do you respond when these successes are achieved? And what is the expectation for failure and how the company responds to it? You can be as detailed as you want in answering these questions, but by answering them, you provide a clear picture of what it looks like to thrive in your company culture – an invaluable resource for potential hires.
Who Are Your Rock Stars? What Do They Have in Common?
The most successful culture decks are collaborative efforts that are as much a product of your employees as they are of the founders and executives. This can be challenging for founders who have been close to the company for years and feel they have a keen understanding of what is most important.
As a founder or managing partner, how do you entrust the most important documents you’ll ever produce to anyone but yourself? You start by identifying your rock stars – the high performers who have demonstrated their commitment to the organization time and time again. Ask yourself what they have in common – both in terms of their work habits as well as their attitudes and personalities.
Use what you know of these people as reference points as you build your culture deck, but even more importantly, ask them for input and guidance on what matters most to your team. Why do they show up every day and what inspires them to put their best foot forward?
What Are Your KPIs for Culture Success?
Like any element of your business, it’s important to measure the impact of your culture deck. But what should you measure? Key performance indicators for intangibles like culture-fit and employee engagement are difficult, but not impossible to quantify.
Part of the answer will depend on what is important to your business, your current stage of growth, and your current benchmarks. If you’re attempting to revitalize a team with historically low morale and high turnover, those KPIs may be related to retention rates, productivity, and employee feedback. If you are operating a smaller company in an early growth stage, KPIs might address the growth rate of your company, quality and tenure of your hires, and performance consistency as the company grows.
Realizing the Benefits of Building a Well-Written Culture Deck
When you know your mission, clearly define your values, illustrate what success looks like, and solicit employee feedback, your culture deck becomes a transparent representation of the company you want to run – both now and in the future.
The resulting document should be an easy-to-use reference guide for existing employees and a sneak peek into what makes your company unique for prospective hires. Done right, it will inspire and attract the right talent, helping create a culture that provides flexibility and room to grow while also giving them clear guardrails.
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