September 8, 2016

Creating Company Culture

Companies with a strong corporate culture are more successful than those with a boring culture – to the tune of 20-30%. Many tech companies offer free food, massages and other benefits, but that alone does not make a remarkable company culture. A successful company culture is rooted deep within the organization. Everything a successful company does is tied around its core beliefs.

Harvard Business Review summarized six common components present in companies with great culture:

  1. Vision – A vision or mission statement for the company that provides it with purpose.
  2. Values – Guidelines on the behaviors and mindsets needed to achieve the vision.
  3. Practices – What the company actually does to enact its vision and values.
  4. People – Hiring and investing in the right people who fit within the company culture.
  5. Narrative – A unique history or story about the company that can be easily retold.
  6. Place – Geographic, architecture or aesthetic design put in place to shape culture and impact the values and behaviors of people at work.

Google is probably the best known company for offering generous employee benefits and perks. However, it clearly follows the items listed above. They have a clear vision: Organize all the data in the world and make it accessible for everyone in a useful way. Their values are “Ten things we know to be true” which include focus on the user, do one thing really, really well and fast is better than slow. Their practices are well-known: free meals, employee trips and parties, financial bonuses, gyms, etc.

When it comes to hiring, Google receives over 2 million job applications each year. Hiring only several thousand makes getting a job at Google 25 times more selective than getting into Harvard University. However, with all that data and over 60,000 employees, Google has found what attributes successful employee possess and now how to screen for those characteristics. Once hired, they are expected to perform at peak levels, but are compensated appropriately.

Finally, although Google is headquartered in Silicon Valley’s Googleplex (known for the sprawling campus with bike trails, pools, volleyball courts, etc), the scope of Google reaches worldwide. In order to achieve their vision, Google tries to cover the entire globe. They bring their signature “start-up feel” to their offices wherever they go, as it all plays into their culture.

Of course, Google is not alone. Many internet companies like Facebook, Twitter, Zappos and Adobe have award-winning cultures weaved into their DNA. In 2015, REI, an outdoor retailer, made national news when they announced they would be closed on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year. They wanted to allow their employees to spend time with their families and enjoy the outdoors. Their mission is to equip both customers and employees for the outdoors, not just to have fun but also in promoting stewardship of the environment. When a company closes on the busiest day of the year to focus on its employees, it is a sign of how engrained the outdoor culture is to that organization.