Culture isn’t just a buzzword people are using to tackle issues in the workplace — it’s something people can act on, and whether companies want to admit it or not, they produce results. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Having a good culture can lead to savings — large companies with high-quality company culture save an average of $350 million fixing mistakes than companies with low-quality cultures. So even if your company’s been ignoring this whole “culture” thing because it sounded like a fad, be warned: culture is affecting your company, and if you’re not keeping tabs on it, it could mean bad business.
How do you find the right mix between discipline and creativity? Can you really cultivate a company culture of quality, or does it develop as a result of factors outside of your control? Let’s take a look at a few examples of the wrong way to build company culture before we get to working on a solution.
Everyone likes a startup success story. Uber found a way to liberate people from taxis, managed to make a name for itself, and is now one of the most successful car service companies in the world, mostly because it relies on contractors to do most of its work. Drivers are their bosses, and Uber works to cultivate a network of contractors they work with more than it runs a business using employees. This can be good for overhead, but occasionally bad for business. Stories of bad customer experience with Uber Drivers abound, and even some of its higher-ups have been known to engage in some intolerable practices when it comes to covering up bad press.
Without a unified company culture to bring them together (and few too many lax regulations) means a bad rap for Uber. And if, like Uber, your company caters to more technologically-inclined and younger audiences, 26% of them are likely to use social media to spread bad experiences to their friends, which means taking a hit to your branding. And even in the world of B2B products, 75% of buyers use word-of-mouth before making purchases. Companies like Uber may care about their culture, but the result is one that doesn’t exercise enough control over its employees, and it’s a problem many businesses deal with.
Although exercising little control over your workers can be bad for business, so can creating too strict a structure. When company hierarchy is too strict, workers can get too bogged down in regulations, paperwork and other company directives to be creative in their solutions to problems or simply be productive. Gordon Silver (@col_goliver), Business editor for The Columbian captures how this happens in recent editorial:
"Corporate success is a well-known enemy of creativity, turning small companies into giants that require structured rules and rewards systems. Hewlett-Packard is a legendary example. Despite the success of its founders in creating a supportive culture dubbed the HP Way that carried the company to great heights, HP has frequently descended into corporate turmoil with bitter board and management feuds."
Most organizations need some sort of company culture to manage the quality of their workers, but if your hand is wrapped too tightly around your employees, you’re not letting them do their jobs, and it could lead to employees leaving jobs due to their managers.
Getting it Just Right
How do you know if you’re too tight, or too loose? How do you know if your company has an issue with its culture at all? The easiest way to assert control over your culture is to make an active investment in fostering it, and having employees be a part of that is key. For example, 69% of employers have a formal employee referral program, meaning employees are on the lookout to improve their company’s culture by recruiting their friends. The friend then wants to make a good impression to save face with their friend, and the person referring wants to make their workplace fit for their friend.
“...managers must find a new approach to quality—one that moves beyond the traditional “total quality management” tools of the past quarter century. For two years CEB has conducted research exploring how companies can create a culture in which employees “live” quality in all their actions—where they are passionate about quality as a personal value rather than simply obeying an edict from on high.” — Ashwin Srinivasan and Bryan Kurey (@bkurey), managing and senior editors at CEB, respectively.
Cultures can neither be too uncaring and loose, or too strict and negligent in how they treat their workers, regardless of their status. It’s only when a company commits to cultivating their internal culture and focuses in quality at every level that they can truly begin to benefit from culture.