I received a lot of great feedback on my blog post from last week, Winning with Culture: 3 Tips on Company Culture, and I thought I would expand on the topic further.
Over the years I have learned to be even bolder on company culture. As I have met great leaders and studied successful organizations of all types, I have observed patterns that have encouraged me in my journey to develop the Benefitfocus culture. Here are a few more tips I have picked up along the way:
- Develop Symbols. Strong cultures have images and symbols that create a repeatable identity. The United States bald eagle, American flag and the Liberty Bell. The Greek column. The University of Florida gator. The Red Cross', well, red cross. You do not need to hire a marketing company to come up with a logo. Actually, you will find ample examples if you just look for patterns in your culture. We like to celebrate, so early on we got some cowbells to ring when we had something great happen. The cowbell is now a key symbol of the Benefitfocus culture.
- Develop Slogans. Like symbols, these slogans are all around you. Your job is to recognize the importance of these slogans and take time to use them, reuse them and promote them. Here again, you are not looking for a marketing tagline. You are listening for the words and phrases that are natural to your organization. When they line up with your values, then you can grab them and ensure they are taught and promoted. We like to develop relationships with our customers and we know that is best done in person. We found that tracking the visits to customers was helpful in this regard and we somehow stumbled onto an acronym that we still use every day: F.I.B. It stands for Feet in Buildings and is a key indicator to us on the health of a relationship.
- Let it Breathe. One common misconception about culture that I hear is that culture is a strong, never-changing fixture. It should be strong, but it surely is changing. As your organization grows, it will attract people from all types of backgrounds. Welcome the uniqueness each individual brings. It adds to the culture. You do not need to defend your culture from change. You actually need to be brave enough to believe your culture can grow, adapt and thrive. This is why your symbols and slogans need to be developed and your stories need to be told and retold. They will run through the ever-growing culture and keep it aligned with your core values.