How We Build Company Culture
Celebrating four years at Social Garden recently has brought back a wave of memories, helping me to appreciate what has been created to make every day special. It isn’t one moment that defines the gratitude I feel, but what we refer to as simply ‘being a Gardener.’
I spend enough time in my workplace to understand that company culture plays a key role in the outcomes we achieve every day. Many executives know it’s one of, if not the, most important elements in building a company.
Yet, the overwhelming majority of employees don’t feel they have a strong workplace culture. So, where do you start? And how can this be ingrained to withstand waves of new hires and change?
I want to break down five great company culture examples from the Garden.
Obsess with What you Deliver
High performance is a natural by-product of a passionate workplace culture.
Care about what you do and you’ll develop an obsession for the fundamentals. This entrepreneurial spirit comes hand in hand with building culture, but needs a vision for the road ahead to flourish.
Adopt the mindset that you are your own measure of success and this should point you in the right direction. Once you have everyone on the same page, singing from the same song sheet, it’s easy to get started.
Think about what your company delivers now and what this might look like in 5, 10 and 20 years time. If you can build out the goals that drive your growth, celebrate your unique offering and understand what makes your approach different, this is a brilliant starting point.
At Social Garden, our c-suite management aligns the entire company with quarterly meetups sharing progress and, most importantly, the vision for what we deliver. This brings together even a big group of people with a common goal.
If you’re successful in sharing your vision to create an identity with the first handful of employees, then your headcount will continue to increase. With growth you might notice an evolution of workplace culture, depending on the range of diversity I touched on before.
Learn, Build and Measure
An established company identity brings with it a unique collection of values that set the tone for present and future employees. When you collaborate on these at the earliest possible stage, everyone from the top down can be on the same page.
A common misconception is that your pillars should be set in stone. Even the oldest companies endure change. In fact, you have to embrace it if you want your business to thrive. Through an open approach, your values can shape your process and evolve with your employees.
Michael D. Watkins of HBR explains:
“Culture is a process of ‘sense-making’ in organizations. Sense-making has been defined as ‘a collaborative process of creating shared awareness and understanding out of different individuals’ perspectives and varied interests.”
It’s key to let everyone contribute and find consensus. The principles of your company will be what you live by, and you get bonus points for making them measurable. Without clear definition, you can’t hope to recognise if a value has or hasn’t been met.
When employees embody your values, this achieves external results, impacting the clients and customers you engage with. These are the soft skills you should seek in interviews with potential new hires, as you look to protect the employees who have built it.
Everyone Is a Student and a Teacher
Your values are locked and loaded, now you’ve got to follow through with them or all of the time spent gaining input washes away faster than a sand castle at high tide.
Acting these values out, talking about them with coworkers, and highlighting stellar company culture examples in your daily environment will help to ingrain them into your company culture. While it might be automatically expected of senior or legacy employees to lead, everyone has a responsibility to take the charge.
We get this rolling at Social Garden through a strong mentorship ethos, where everyone is a student and a teacher. The best way to lead is by example, ensuring that everyone contributes in order to grow. This collective approach makes it all the more fulfilling.
I’ve been fortunate enough at Social Garden to see everyone contribute to continually evolve our daily practice regardless of their position in the company; these are some of the fondest memories over the years.
If you believe in your values that much, you’ll be more likely to reflect them without a second thought.
Don’t Accept the Unacceptable
Talk freely about the current state of your culture; honesty and quality go hand in hand. This builds the kind of transparency and trust that will see you through your hardest days, standing side by side in the storm to clear the way together.
You’re bound to have days when the mood is different or conflicts arise that run against the grain of the culture you’ve created. To expect perfection when building workplace culture is unrealistic, but that doesn’t mean you should accept the unacceptable.
Be honest about what is right or wrong, know when and how to correct behaviour that is indifferent and hold moral integrity to ensure consistency is met more often than not. This way, the company as a whole can provide a support network to nurture your culture as you grow.
We start each day at Social Garden with a morning huddle, and recently took the time to speak about what we were grateful for. The honesty and passion from my team is a great reminder that above all, we must treasure the culture we create.
Have Each Other’s Backs
This one would have to be my favourite pillar of all.
No one will achieve their true potential until you provide the people who bring it all together with the ingredients to achieve the unthinkable. People make it happen – creating something special when the positive juices flow and harmony fills the room.
Treat other people right from the get go. Appreciate the small things and reward positive cultural expression in all forms. Culture feeds off the energy it creates, fuelling your team with the good vibes they need to naturally progress day by day.
If you start here, the rest will follow. Staying loyal to each other and your customers will help to keep your eye trained on the desirable outcomes. And what comes next will amaze you beyond your wildest dreams.
I wish you all the best in defining your company culture (you’re in for a treat).