Culture is the lifeblood of a successful company. It’s the beating heart and soul of what you do, a manifestation of your values in a team that is all-in on your vision. You hear about it constantly, and are committed to creating an environment that attracts the right people for your company to grow.
Every startup founder knows how important culture is from day one of their company, but often culture is difficult to define. More than 85% of companies when surveyed were unsure if they had a grasp on what constitutes a strong culture in the workplace, and others were still working at it.
By definition vague, culture is the culmination of your values at an organizational level. It’s how you show people what you really believe, and in response, how they come to embody those beliefs. To build the kind of culture that your employees want to be part of, let’s take a closer look at five specific things you can do.
Know Your Values and Communicate Them Clearly
You know your values and have discussed them in-depth with your co-founder(s). They are a fundamental part of not just you but your business and the people you want to hire to work for you. And early in the life of your company, it’s easy to do this. A young startup is small enough that everyone is aligned on values automatically, but as you grow, you can’t assume people will fully understand and grasp your mission.
Values are, at their core, the foundation upon which your company will grow. As a startup, you have complete control over how you hire, execute, and grow with those values in mind. Communicate them clearly during the hiring process, in regular one-on-one meetings, and in company-wide messaging. Document your values in a way that will persist when you are no longer personally involved in the hiring and daily management processes.
Encourage a Sense of Ownership
When asked, recent college graduates had an overwhelming preference for startup work with only 14% saying they wanted to work for an established company and 44% saying they preferred a startup for their first job.
There’s a reason for this. People want to be important.
In a startup environment, you don’t have the structure and precedent to say that a developer only works on a set list of tasks in any given week. In a startup, when there’s a fire, everyone gets involved – including management. Encourage this sense of ownership by being part of it. Nothing is “someone else’s problem” in a fast-growing company. You’re all in this together, and that includes you and your leadership team.
Invest In Your Leadership Pipeline from the Get-Go
Invest in new leaders today to build a better future for your company tomorrow. The people who are there with you from the start are your most valuable resources – these are individuals who have been through the ups and downs, worked the 21-hour days, and come out the other side. More importantly, they’ve bought into and support the culture you’ve been building.
Do this by selecting and mentoring people you feel are appropriate for those leadership roles; investing in coaching and outside support to prepare people to lead others; and having regular one-on-one meetings with all of your direct reports to ensure they have everything they need.
Make Every Team Member Feel Important
People want to be part of something bigger, but they also want to be recognized for their efforts. Regular one-on-one meetings are an important part of this, but so too are programs designed to recognize the efforts of your top performers.
Have an employee of the month or quarter and actively recognize people who do a good job during company-wide meetings. Even a simple high five can go a long way. This simple, immediate feedback is especially important in a small company where one person’s work has an impact on everyone else.
Provide Valuable Feedback as Often as Possible
People need to know how they’re doing, not just on an individual basis, but as a company. In particular, financial status and performance can be a huge motivator, increasing productivity and morale.
At the same time, be as open as possible to their feedback of your efforts. If the company is struggling, seeking solutions for a specific problem, or you are in the midst of rapid changes to the company, encourage feedback from your team to get a sense of what works and what doesn’t.
Culture is the Core of a Healthy Startup
Culture is the values you communicate, the attitude you personally display to people, your openness and transparency as a leader, and your ability to cultivate and groom new leadership as you grow. Invest in yourself as a leader, your team as a valued resource, and the foundations of your company to attract exactly the type of people you want at your side.
Download our eBook with 6 tips for improving retention of your top performing engineers. In it, you’ll learn which factors have the greatest influence on retention, how to build a culture that fits your company’s values, and encourage people to stay for the long haul.