Start a conversation about company culture and most people will point to examples like Google or Facebook—massive tech companies where employees have free food available around the clock, closets full of company swag, and off-the-wall perks like nap rooms. But company culture is every bit as important for small businesses, where everyone knows everyone else. The only difference is that, instead of a dedicated “culture team,” leaders from the CEO to the HR manager set the tone for the rest of the company.
Company culture is essential to creating a great employee experience and attracting the best candidates.— even if you don’t have a Google-size budget to work with. Here are some tips to get started.
Identify Core Values
As you try to determine what kind culture you want to build, there’s a temptation to simply let things evolve naturally. After all, culture is a big deal and there’s no “right” answer. But as a leader, articulating your company’s core values is a valuable exercise. It forces you to really think about what’s important and take a hard look at who you are as a company—and who you want to be.
If you’re struggling to define your company’s values, talk to your team! Include people from a variety of roles, and ask them why they chose your company. Find out what they like about working there, and how they view the organization. These insights should help you to refine your ideas into clear, compelling values that can serve as a touchpoint for your everyday operations, your employees’ experience, and your recruiting.
Hire for Attitude with Room to Grow
Once you have your values in place, you need to apply them across your organization—starting with the hiring process. Candidates are more than just a resumé. Sometimes, we get so caught up in specific skills and qualifications that we ignore the actual people.
Instead of focusing solely on a degree or work experience, consider whether the candidate has the qualities that will help them succeed in the culture you’re building. Do they have the personality, mentality, and attitude that will mesh well with your existing team? Even without the perfect skill set, a good “culture fit” can be a diamond in the rough. And a happy, comfortable employee is more likely to stay and grow within your company rather than moving on to greener pastures.
Remember the Little Things
Assembling a fabulous team is a step in the right direction, but small details can take a working environment from good to great. The little things matter! For example: do you have a good coffee machine and microwave? What does your physical office space look like? Would some wall art or plants help to liven it up? Are you maximizing the natural light in your building? These may seem like minor issues, but they can make a big difference in your employees’ work lives without spending a lot of money.
Keep it Fresh
Great culture is tough when every day is exactly the same, so make a conscious effort to shake things up. You might not have the budget for a corporate retreat, but simple outings like a summer picnic or happy hour can provide a welcome change of scenery. Even if you can’t get out of the office, give your employees an opportunity to bond over non-work activities, whether it’s a book club, potluck lunch, or even a community jigsaw puzzle. Adding a little variety to the workday can help employees feel refreshed and refocused.
Be Transparent and Inclusive
Remember, a good company culture depends on employees buying into a shared vision. Today’s workers want to be part of something bigger than themselves—no matter the size of the company—and they want to feel included. Set clear goals and be open about where you’re steering the company. That doesn’t mean every decision has to be unanimous—or even up for discussion—but bringing people into the conversation builds trust and commitment, from executives to entry-level employees.
Company culture is arguably even more important for a small business, because you’ve got to find a way to stand out among the giants that woo candidates with free dry cleaning and dazzling corporate campuses. By staying true to your values—and knowing what those values are—you can find and hire the people who share those values and want to help you succeed.
Another reason to build a strong company culture is to avoid negative public company reviews which, according to the 2020 Job Seeker Nation Survey, is a reason 38% of respondents say they have preemptively rejected a potential employer.
To get more stats about hiring and retaining quality employees through things like company culture, download the report today!