Is there a formula for it?
There are, however, certain best practices that I've learned along the way as an entrepreneur, and also by consulting two fellow business owners: Jacqueline Marrano, owner of accounting firm Marrano Solutions, and Reuben Yonatan, founder and CEO of customer relationship software company GetCRM.
1. Focus on recruitment and onboarding.
Driving culture starts with your people. And if you are clear about your mission, vision and values, you can attract potential employees with similar sensibilities.
Scheduling one-on-one meetings with people around the organization can directly address needs and initiate change.
- Jacqueline Marrano, owner, Marrano Solutions
“We position our culture at the forefront within all our hiring materials and spend lots of time searching for the most motivated and driven individuals to join our company, because the quality of our employees has a direct impact on customer satisfaction, product output and brand reputation," says Yonatan.
“And, when new hires come aboard," he continues, "we make very clear what's expected of them and how their role is meaningful not just in the office, but meaningful in the real world, so they can be proud of where they work and what they do."
2. Foster a meaningful employee experience.
Employees now expect an experience at work that is comparable to the experience they have at home via services like Netflix and Amazon. You choose what you want to do when you want to do it, and interactions are easy and convenient.
Your unique employee experience should cover all facets of the employment lifecycle, including recruitment, onboarding, learning, performance and transition. This involves understanding and promoting the activities employees undertake at each stage that can help immerse them in the culture while also reaching maximum productivity and potential.
Yonatan believes he has created a culture for his employees to thrive, be themselves, have fun and do their best on every project.
“Our team members stay with us because we offer a flexible experience that develops and captivates them," he says. "We provide an exciting in-house culture with a lot of perks, but we also share how employees' roles are meaningful in the real world, and how they can do them from home, for example."
It's important to realize, however, that customized experiences are key: a one-size-fits-all approach may not be effective in driving culture, even for employees in the same location and role.
3. Communicate with your team transparently.
The era of command and control, or unquestioned hierarchical leadership, has come to an end. Whether that news is good or bad, companies that make driving culture a priority regularly share what's happening in their organizations—from top to bottom.
Consider using technology and social media as mechanisms for soliciting and integrating employee feedback. Show that you care by taking a personal interest in employees' lives and standing up for their best interests.
Ensure that you have a free-flowing, two-way dialogue occurring at all times. You can, for example, use a real-time communication app to engage in continuous conversation on given topics with specific groups of team members.
“Transparent communication is critical, because employees need to know what you want them to do, but you also need to know what they want out of it," says Marrano.
4. Promote experimentation across your teams.
Leaders engaged in a healthy process of driving culture encourage employees to practice entrepreneurial strategies within the context of the organization's larger goals. They facilitate the easy exchange of ideas, ensuring that employees feel secure enough to speak up and try new things—even if they fail.
Business owners may want to consider tapping current employees to brainstorm innovative solutions to vexing organizational problems.
“Scheduling one-on-one meetings with people around the organization can directly address needs and initiate change," Marrano says.
5. Measure and adapt your culture.
Many owners driving culture look to NPS, or Net Promoter Score, to assess their effectiveness in doing so. The eNPS focuses on employees rather than customers and asks one main question to determine employee engagement: “On a scale of zero to 10, how likely is it [that] you would recommend this company as a place to work?"
Based on what you find in your analysis, you should adapt your strategy so that your culture is truly meeting employee needs. Agile organizations understand that no approach, even if it has made sense for a while, has an unlimited shelf life. True agility involves a careful consideration of potential actions to remedy uncovered weaknesses or processes that don't work as well as they once did.
“Before making any changes, leaders should plot exactly where they intend to go, and then create a specific roadmap for how to get there," says Yonatan.