When you think of company culture, many think of massive companies like Google or Facebook, where employees have their pick of fun gadgets, free food, and guest speakers. But culture is every bit as essential for small businesses, if not more so. At a small company, everyone knows everyone: whether you’re the owner or an HR manager, your employees will look to you to set the tone. Here’s how you do it:
Identify Key Values
There’s a temptation to simply be yourself or say “I know it when I see it” about the type of company culture you want to build. But articulating your company’s core values is an important exercise as a leader, requiring you to take a hard look in the mirror, question your assumptions, and dig deep. And if you’re not sure what those values should be, hold interviews with your team. Ask them why they chose to work at your company, and make notes of the common themes. Clear, compelling values act as the guiding message for your business, your employees’ everyday work, and your hiring.
Hire for Attitude with Room to Grow
Once you have those values, you need to apply them to the hiring process. Candidates are more than just a resumé—and sometimes, we get so caught up in particular qualifications or specific skills that we ignore the people underneath. Instead of focusing just on a degree or work experience, focus on the skills, drive and mentality that makes people successful in those roles. If you do that, then you’ll identify diamonds in the rough, who will grow and become central to your organization.
The Little Things Matter
Even once you assemble a fabulous team, it takes some care and attention to details to make a great working environment. The little things matter! For example: do you have a good coffee machine? What does the office look like—could you add pictures or decorations to liven it up? Is there natural light in the building? These may same like small questions, but can make a huge difference in your employees’ lives, without spending a ton of money.
Mix it Up
Monotony is the enemy of a good culture, so make a conscious effort to shake things up and get out of the office. You might not have the money for a corporate retreat, so simple changes of scenery like arranging a summer picnic or a happy hour can help employees feel refreshed and refocused. And if you can’t get out of the office, bring something new in: make time for your employees to bond over non-work matters, whether it’s a book club, a movie, or a sports game.
Be Transparent and Inclusive
Most importantly, a good company culture depends on employees buying into a vision. Workers today want to feel part of a mission—no matter the size of the company—and they want to feel included. Set clear goals and be open on where you’re steering the company. You don’t have to make every decision a democracy, but by bringing people into the conversation you build trust and commitment, from managers to entry-level employees.
Company culture is arguably more important for a small business—because among the big giants that woo candidates with their free dry cleaning and open offices, you’ve got to find a way to garner that attention. But make sure you stay true to your values first and foremost. Everyone can spot a phony, and hiring the right people depends on showing them who you are first. Especially if you’re sharing a tiny office—choose wisely.
To learn more about what candidates really value, download our 2016 Job Seeker Nation Study.