Who snagged the No. 1 spot on the Forbes list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2015? Google. Surprised? I didn’t think so. After all, they are the information technology company of our time, and the example from which many businesses model their own culture. But what many people don’t know is that a consulting group took second. A financial services and insurance company took third. And within the top 10, you’ll also find construction, real estate, pharmaceuticals and retail represented.
The stigma today is that only information technology organizations like Google, or Apple are capable of providing employees with remarkably unique work environments that score high on the coveted “best place to work” lists. We envision state-of-the art facilities, avant-garde decor and employees zipping down halls on scooters.
It’s enough to make any business owner feel destined for bad Glassdoor reviews. But being seen as an incredible place to work isn’t actually about all the fancy trimmings. Sure, they help. But top talent is looking for something far more simple and universal: an infectious culture.
Why Culture Matters
You may not be able to provide cushy benefits, adult playgrounds and nap pods. But what you can provide is a culture worth joining.
Millennials make up the largest generation currently in the workforce, and Generation Z is nipping at their heals. Unlike older generations that value stability and tenure, Millennials and Generation Z employees seek community, purpose and ethics that align with their own.
That’s what companies like Google, The Boston Consulting Group and Acuity are getting right—and you can, too. Here are eight things that may be holding you back from creating a great culture for your employees:
1. Non-Cohesive Company Identity
Step one to creating a great company culture is defining its identity. A strong culture will reflect your organization’s mission statement. This helps guide values and practices, and gives purpose to the culture. Purpose is what drives people. If your organization’s cultural identity is inconsistent or unclear, employees won’t recognize that any culture exists at all and the values and practices you wish to inspire will simply fall short.
2. Lackluster Leadership
Culture isn’t a forced endeavor. It must be cultivated and the leaders within your organization are an integral part of that process. Knowingly or not, founders and executive teams set the social and ethical tone of a company’s culture.
Ask yourself: How do leaders within your company interact with employees? What messages are they sending through conversations, body language and actions? If the answers don’t align with the type of company culture you envision—you’ve got a foundational problem.
3. Poor Communication
Email and instant messaging is great for making quick points, and most employees prefer having access to various channels for conversation. But if these text-based modes of contact largely replace more personal communications—your culture will lack soul.
Creating a culture requires bonding between employees and managers that cannot take place only online. Email and instant message neglects body language, facial expressions and the feeling of presence, which are critical components to building relationships.
4. Outdated Traditional Thinking
Cultures don’t exist without people. And people aren’t interested in a community that does not align with their general disposition. Traditional thinking still has a place at the table, but organizations that are stuck in their ways are clearly not working to develop a culture around their employees—and it’s evident. Furthermore, if your organization refuses to budge on its way of thinking, there’s no room for new ideas and this creates an environment that stifles community and creativity.
5. Drab Environment
Let’s be honest: There’s nothing appealing about a sea of cubicles clad in beige, plastic office plants, beaming fluorescent lights and institutional, blank walls. If the work environment doesn't reflect your unique cultural, not only does this confuse cultural identity, but your employees won’t appreciate being there.
Revitalize your workspace to promote socialization, collaboration and team mentality. Upgrade equipment, consider transitioning to an open office floor plan and do away with cubicles altogether. Add color and vibrance, and create communal areas where employees can gather to socialize, brainstorm and solve problems.
6. Old Technology
Millennials and the up-and-coming Generation Zers grew up alongside technology. They’re digitally fluent and depend on their devices to perform daily responsibilities. Likewise, older generations have adapted well to the current technological era, and increasingly depend on tech tools.
No, technology isn’t everything. But it is something. Today’s top talents aren’t looking to integrate into a prehistoric culture. At the very least, they expect baseline office features like cloud connectivity, BYOD and various softwares and applications that automate and simplify routine responsibilities. Video conferencing, whiteboarding, IoT applications and advanced phone systems will round out your organization’s appeal.
7. Limited Work-Life Balance
Where older generations put their nose to the grindstone and embraced a “live to work” ethic, newer generations are inspired by life outside their careers and follow more of a “work to live” philosophy. Organizations need to develop a culture that supports greater work-life balance if they want to attract today’s top talents and tomorrow’s leaders.
8. Little Compassion for Family
Family plays a large role in socio-cultural development. Of course, this doesn’t exactly parallel the development of organizational culture—but it still matters. One of the many reasons Google is ranked No. 1 is its maternity policy. Not only is it available to all new parents (male, female, adoptive or surrogate), but it also features up to 12 weeks of fully paid time off and a $500 gift the company calls “Baby Bonding Bucks.” Furthermore, the company offers unlimited sick days and flexible scheduling, making it entirely possible to raise a family and work full-time.
As you can see, great company culture is about more than technology and appearances. It’s about creating a mission around your brand and connecting individuals with this mission. It’s about building respectful, thoughtful work relationships that lead to trust and company loyalty. Great company culture can’t necessarily be bought, but it can be an investment.
Know what you stand for, lead by example and communicate in all ways with your employees. Be progressive in your approach, provide employees with the essentials they need to perform and acknowledge that work is only part of their life equation. Who knows—you may just find yourself on next year’s Best Companies to Work For list.
Ready to bring your workplace into the next decade? Check out our infographic to discover what work will look like in 2025.