Reading stories about other companies' cultures and the things they do that are "cool" or "fun" can make one think that there is some kind of secret to getting culture right. To the contrary, getting it right is all about relaxing and being yourself.
There is a wonderful saying about becoming comfortable with your own identity and being the best you that you can be. The same goes for your company. Remove the artificial slogans commonly placed over organizations. Reveal the true "you" of your organization and just be authentic.
Don't we love real southern food or an authentic Chicago style pizza or the wonderful emotion of Latin dance? We buy vacation magazines and watch travel shows to see and hear what is unique about the world's places and people. We want to experience the local food, the traditional dress and the authentic culture of each destination. We want to see through that window into who the people really are.
In a similar way, prospective employees and customers want a window into who you are as a company. What do your people value? What do you stand for? What are your hopes and aspirations for the future?
One recent study by HR technology reviewer Software Advice, and articulated very well by Erin Osterhaus, found that the number one factor in employees coming to a company and staying is what they referred to as "honest culture." Hooray! I applaud the study itself for even making that phrase an option. Who knew it would come in first? We all probably did when we took time to think about it. We love authentic. We love real. We are hungry for a group of people to stand for what they believe and be consistent in who they are over time.
Think of your favorite restaurants, travel destinations, sports teams and family members. My guess is that they are all authentic in your mind. Now think of the great companies that you admire. My guess is that you value their products and even more so, respect the people for being authentic. Not perfect. Not trendy. Not all things to all people. But rather they are honest about who they are and comfortable in their own skin.
The Software Advice study contains some very valuable insights for leaders seeking to better understand the concept of company culture. For example, people have many varying terms for describing culture, such as "fun or relaxed." One person even used the word "loopy." The variety in which we all experience culture is to be embraced.
At Benefitfocus, we have built our company on our core values and then fanned the flame of our associates' unique personalities to create a sort of mosaic, a collective company culture. It has been fun to watch that culture grow, adapt and thrive as our company has grown so rapidly. This is showcased in our most recent Culture Book. You can request it here.
Be encouraged to be the best you and the best company you can be. It starts with letting go of who others want you to be and going deeper into your true values and mission. Articulating that mission is a sense of honesty. It helps your people and your customers know who you are, what you are about and where you are going. As you develop your field and your mission, you will be amazed at the growth that will blossom over time.
We print our core values on the back of our badge so that they are a constant source of conversation.