Everyone is talking about company culture these days.
The idea of company culture can be hard to pin down. Different sources vary widely on exactly what it is and means. And as more organizations pivot toward hiring for culture fit, a lack of culture fit can feel like a fancy (and legally protected) way of saying “we’re not hiring you because we just don’t like you.”
Nebulous as it can sometimes be, however, company culture is real.
And getting company culture right can make a profound difference.
What Is Company Culture, Really, and Why Does It Matter?
More than 80% of hiring managers say that a candidate is more likely to stay in a job where they can see they have good culture fit. About 73% of professionals surveyed said they left at least one role mainly as a result of culture fit. Whatever culture is, people feel and respond to it at all levels of the organization.
Let’s put it this way: Culture arises wherever a group of people work together to achieve any aim. In a community, the principal goal everyone strives for is survival. In an organization, it all depends on the organization’s core values. But that presents a unique and vexing challenge for businesses.
Legally, a company’s main (and often only) goal is “make more money.”
But that isn’t enough to sustain a vibrant, healthy culture.
And without good culture, even the smallest goals can remain out of reach.
In the simplest sense, culture is “the way we do things around here.” It isn’t something you’ll find in the policies and procedures manual. It impacts how people interact with each other, how they work with a customer, how they evaluate their performance, and how they feel about being part of the group.
Here are just a few things determined by company culture:
- Whether someone (at any level of the organization) feels comfortable giving genuine feedback
- Whether people on the same team, and across departments, feel like partners or competitors
- Whether problems are addressed through transparent dialogue or hidden behind closed doors
- Whether there are clear, rational ways to get things done or tons of hidden “unspoken rules.”
Culture just happens, inevitably. But good culture takes forethought and effort. Culture is never done, and it’s never static – it is always either getting better or worse, healthier or unhealthier. That could be an intimidating prospect, but it also means it’s never too late to make a positive change.
Celebrating small wins is one of those changes. And it works in any industry.
Celebrating Wins Is the “Positive Reinforcement” Everyone Needs
People may seem complicated, but many things about us are simple. With every task we complete, we look for feedback – from the environment and from those affected – to understand if we did well. Sure, confidence can come from within. But external validation is the icing on the cake.
At work and in life, there are many things that don’t offer much in the way of immediate feedback. We can’t be quite sure when we’re on the right track. But when we do get positive feedback, many regions of the brain light up. We feel clarity that helps us perform at our best in similar situations later.
A recent study showed 69% of employees surveyed would work harder if they felt their efforts were more appreciated. Some 87% of all employee recognition programs focus on tenure (years worked); the leading form of recognition comes when you’ve worked ten, twenty, or forty years at a company.
We ask you: Who wants to wait that long?
Millennials are challenging established wisdom that employee recognition has to be the gold watch just before retirement. When they’re doing well, they respond best to hearing about it right away – not in a year, and not even next week. Embracing this can help everyone on your team share appreciation more.
Making Shared Celebration Work as Part of Your Company Culture
When everyone genuinely recognizes others’ contributions, it opens a wellspring of positive feelings for the entire group. That’s a form of “team building” that’s just as powerful as a fancy company retreat or team survival course (and you won’t have to get paintball stains out of your jacket afterward.)
Appreciation is fundamental. Celebration is a core human drive that binds us all together.
Here’s how to introduce it into your business:
1. Make Recognition Part of Your Orientation
A structured approach to recognition helps the newcomer and the rest of the team. Research suggests it can take as long as one full year for a new employee to be totally caught up with the duties of their role, but orientation accelerates that process. It also sets the stage for a better culture experience.
During orientation, you can get a head start on helping others feel welcomed and valued. It’s a wise time to ask directly how someone likes to be recognized. For instance, some prefer private recognition from a supervisor, while others are comfortable having their wins shared with the whole group.
2. Encourage All Team Members to Recognize Others
Recognition is great, but it shouldn’t always come from a supervisor. After all, team leaders focus their attention in many different directions, and things can be overlooked. Team members should enjoy the same chance to give their peers a shout-out and have that entered into the record.
Some companies have adopted special apps that enable team members to nominate each other for cash bonuses and other awards. This can be fruitful, but it also makes recognition feel very structured, which takes some of the magic out of it. It may be better to gently encourage others and see where that goes.
3. Recognize Anniversaries (Not Just Retirements)
In most organizations, the annual employee evaluation feels more like hazing than a celebration. Since it falls right around the 365-day mark in most cases, it’s also a wonderful chance to celebrate. Why not flip the script and proactively recognize some of the many times your employee went to bat this year?
This deepens the relationship in powerful ways. It demonstrates that you pay attention to the ways an employee excels, even if quietly. It relieves them of feeling they need to struggle to “make their case,” since you’ve already given them some pointers. The next step? Actionable feedback for the coming year.
4. Be Careful Not to Cheapen Recognition
Company culture is essential, but at the end of the day, employment is an exchange of value for value. Nobody on your team would work for free, so don’t shortchange them when it comes to recognition. If you include a gift with recognition, skip the $5 gift card. A handwritten note is more meaningful.
When all is said and done, sharing moments of celebration is easier than it looks: Just think about what you might do for your customers, and extend that same grace and enthusiasm to your team.