This guest blog has been provided by Kevin Sheridan, best-selling author and innovator in the field of Employee Engagement.
The benefits of a strong company culture are innumerable. Some are hard to define — like employee engagement or esprit de corps (group cohesion) — while others present clear, measurable value. From a business standpoint, one of the biggest benefits is a competitive advantage.
How does company culture impact competitive advantage?
It’s simple, really. If your culture reinforces the right work ethic and values (ambition, integrity, innovation, etc.), you’ll be more likely to outperform competitors.
Typically, this change is visible in a few specific areas:
- Increases in performance and productivity (happier workers are 12 percent more productive)
- Accelerated innovation (employees take initiative and invest deeply in their roles)
- Higher talent retention (employee turnover is 35 percent lower for organizations with rich culture)
How to Make it Happen
Like a strong report card in high school, a strong culture will make your company more “likely to succeed,” but that success isn’t a guarantee. Neither will culture build itself. Culture thrives or dies based on the values you instill, the examples set by your leadership, and the way your company makes decisions.
Before you leverage culture for competitive advantage, you need to define your culture. What is it now? What do you want it to be?
Here are some key points to consider:
- Mission statement
- Core values
- Priorities for success
- Communication and interaction styles
- Work-life balance
Once you’ve clearly defined your culture, build a strategy to perpetuate your most important beliefs and values through all areas of the business, both operationally and ideologically. You can start as early as the hiring process.
Screen New Hires for Cultural Fit
Skills and qualifications are typically the most important factors in a hiring decision, but they shouldn’t be the only factors. It’s also important to consider how a candidate’s work ethic, priorities, and communication style will mesh with your current culture. Your team will have an easier time working toward common goals if they all share the same values.
Set Clear Performance Goals
Make sure every employee knows what’s expected and is constantly aware of opportunities to grow. One of the best ways to accomplish this is through a regular performance review process. Track your employees’ progress against predetermined goals (using performance management software, for example) and schedule a quarterly or bi-annual meeting to discuss. It also helps to solicit feedback from immediate peers and supervisors.
Keep Employees Engaged
Employee engagement isn’t just about making things fun. It’s about providing a work environment that helps your employees thrive. With the right intrinsic motivation, they’re much more likely to make a personal investment in their role. An employee engagement initiative can be as simple as providing incentives for above-average work, or as sophisticated as a custom-built gamification program.
Another way to leverage culture for competitive advantage is to encourage ongoing collaboration between coworkers, teams, departments, and executives. Host regular company events to help your employees get to know each other and give them the proper tools to communicate and share information. Beyond the obvious email option, examples might include internal messaging, project management, or cloud-based file sharing.
The competitive advantage of a strong company culture rests not in its Taco Tuesdays, its Zen office architecture, or its elaborate team outings. Competitive advantage comes from moving faster toward growth and success by uniting people and process under the same vision.
This guest blog has been provided by Aleksandr Peterson, a technology analyst at TechnologyAdvice. He covers marketing automation, CRMs, project management, human resources, and other emerging business technology. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.