The Secret to Winning at Company Culture? There Are No Shortcuts
Building a high performing company culture that attracts and retains amazing talent requires time, attention, and humility from organizations and their leaders.
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People often ask me for HubSpot's secret to a strong company culture. While there's certainly some tactical advice I can share, the truth is that there's no hack to building a high performing company culture. However, there are some critical ingredients: empathy, dedication, iteration, and a team that understands there are no shortcuts in getting the employee experience right.
In HubSpot's case, that's our global People Operations team who puts time, passion, and attention into making the candidate and employee experience a remarkable one. And, it's no coincidence that many employees on our team come from a hospitality background. They recognize that every detail matters -- from creating a system to receive and act on feedback, or sending an encouraging and personal note to a parent returning to work after parental leave.
Organizations are at risk if they think company culture is a box they need to check. Creating a great place to work is never 'done.' If that sounds intimidating, consider this: the return is worth every bit of the investment. High-performing cultures attract leading talent, they keep employees engaged and excited to come to work, and they're a competitive advantage to your business over time. In fact, companies with strong cultures saw a four times increase in revenue growth. Instead of asking what the secret is to building that kind of company culture, ask how you should get started.
Here are three ways:
Build a Strong Foundation with Values Everyone Knows and Lives
Just like you can't cover up a faulty product with brilliant marketing, you can't cheat or buy your way into a company culture strategy. You have an obligation to get it right.
Part of getting it right is establishing a strong foundation. I recommended starting by writing down specific core values you believe in as a company (note, core values should be kept to 3-5 so that people can actually remember them). For example, at HubSpot our core values make up the acronym HEART: humble, empathetic, adaptable, remarkable, transparent, and we bring these values to life through events and programing globally.
You can then take it a step further and codify your culture so your employees, candidates, and customers know what you stand for. If your newest and most junior employees don't know your values, you still have work to do to make them real.
Don't Assume You Know What's Working (and What Isn't)
When company culture becomes a red flag, leaders oftentimes resort to implementing quick, drastic changes from the top-down. But those changes are rarely driven by company-wide feedback. The truth is, the second you assume you have it all figured out is the second you'll miss big things that impact your employees and candidates. Not only do you have to make the time to ask for feedback, you then have to create a system for responding, and a commitment to act upon it.
At many companies, employee surveys are where feedback goes to die. In order to create a company that employees truly love, you have to give them a voice in creating that culture, and a tool to speak up if the company is falling short on their promise. To that end, we survey employees every quarter at HubSpot using a Net Promoter Scale that mirrors how many consumer brands quantify their brand loyalty and impact. It's also important to note that you shouldn't survey employees more frequently than you can act on their feedback.
Culture's a Business Issue, Not an HR Issue
Culture's not an HR issue. It's a business issue that's measured and improved to drive strategy. It's not a recruiting tool to get people in the door, but rather a business tool used to inform employees, candidates and even customers on how you operate.
A high-performing culture is three things: strong enough to attract talent that raises the bar on what's possible in your company, remarkable enough to keep employees engaged and excited to come to work every day, and transparent enough to identify and iterate on feedback. Done right, culture should have a seat at the executive table. But, equally as important, culture should have a place in every employee and manager's mindset as part of their core role at the company. It should be a living, breathing thing that you iterate on based on feedback, and should serve as a promise to your employees and your customers on how you approach your business.