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5 Signs You Have a Company Culture Problem

January 3, 2019

Company culture can make or break a business, but why?

Employees are the lifeblood of any business. It’s imperative they feel empowered to come to work everyday, sharing a common belief in the values their company promotes. Without this commonality, employees don’t have the enthusiasm and motivation to drive the business forward. You probably wouldn’t work as a butcher if you were vegan, would you?

When companies like Google, Zappos, Patagonia,Warby Parker, REI and Southwest Airlines publicize new jobs, they're inundated with thousands of resumes. But why? It’s because their popularity is fueled by the amazing cultures these companies have fostered.

For example, Tony Hsieh, the founder of Zappos, sought to create an unbelievable company culture where employee creativity and thought leadership could thrive. He started by defining 10 core values every employee could rally around, but Hsieh knew it that takes more than putting it in writing, it takes action. To reinforce his values and ensure all employees shared his vision, he began a rigorous interview process in which 50% of a candidate’s viability as a new hire was based on their company culture fit, but that still wasn’t enough for Hsieh. To guarantee Zappos company culture would never be undermined, he offered $4,000 to all new employees to quit following a 5-week training program. The reason? It forces new hires to think carefully about whether it’s the right company for them, weeding out those that may not be the right fit. The offer stands to this day, and has produced a tight nit corporate environment.

A Good Outlook Fuels Successful Companies

What drives company success? One might think a good product, service or strong market share, but that’s only part of what drives growth. Employee experience is a critical component to a company’s success or demise.

Enthusiasm encourages high productivity. According to Entrepreneur.com, companies with happy employees outperform other companies by 20%. The a Columbia University study also shows the likelihood of job turnover at an organization with rich company culture is 13.9% compared with 48.4% at companies with a poor company culture.

Happy employees work faster, more efficiently and promote innovation.

Living Inside a Hornet's Nest

Uber used to be cited for innovative in-house work practices, yet now the company's name is synonymous with a toxic work environment. Now the U.S. Dept. of Justice is at their front door with a herd of lawyers bearing class action lawsuits. Put it this way, if management doesn't want to work there, why should anyone else?

The ramifications of a sub-par company culture are deep and long-term. A 2017 study found that unengaged employees cost employers $550 million annually. Want more? According to a study by AttaCoin, 47% of U.S. workers do not feel appreciated.

Heed the Warning Signs

Warning signs are based on common sense, so if you believe these are simplistic and merely toss out a few motivational trust exercises to address these signs, you'll meet with limited success. Let's unpack them:

Political environment

Internal politics favor ambition and motivation at the expense of performance. If employees are afraid to talk to a manager about their work because they don't want to end up on someone’s enemies list, their ability to do their best work is stymied.

Identify processes and workflows where politics have or could become present. Where possible, automate or create strict management procedures to eliminates points of conflict, including promotions, raises, and who does the unpopular tasks.

Lack of teamwork

Imagine you're in a shark cage. Now, imagine you're in a shark cage and the shark is in the cage with you. Certain departments and companies thrive on competition among employees, but managers must set a tone that rejects predatory behavior. Competition can swiftly descend into bullying and, even more dangerously, the actual sabotage of coworkers to get ahead.

Lack of employee empowerment

Micromanagement is a far cry from supportive and detailed supervision. Instead it sends the message that the manager does not trust the employee. Supervision of an employee should train, coach and inspire. If an employee is failing, remember that you hired that person for a reason and ask yourself what has changed. What is it about your company culture that is shaping this employee's day-to-day experience? How does this affect the customer experience? The bottom line is that people are salvageable and giving up on someone without trying will also become part of your company's culture.

Gossip and the lack of transparent communication

Set a standard where basic manners are expected. Throw events for your employees and promote constructive communication. One successful tactic is launching a positive "gossip initiative" in the form of internal communications like a newsletter to generate exciting topics to share and chat about internally.

Discrimination or harassment of any kind

Is your company's reputation that of a cesspool? This is the quickest way to lose magnificent employees as well as gain new friends like those herd of lawyers mentioned previously.

Proactively identifying the signs of a floundering company culture and taking immediate corrective action is critical to a business’ long term success. Creating a positive work environment in which your employees want to come to everyday will not only foster great relationships internally, but will translate into improved customer experiences.

Join us June 3-5, 2020 at DWX and discover how the world’s leading organizations are creating thriving company cultures.