When it comes to culture, what are the best companies and organisations doing? I started to ask myself this question in 2009, when necessity pushed me to learn all that I could about what makes great companies tick in order to save my employment screening service – PeopleG2. This kicked off a process of conversations, reading and interviews which deepened my understanding of how culture affects business performance – and who had gained the most by it.
Initially, I thought that trends would be fairly equally split. If we looked at ten top companies, I expected three to do it one way, three another way and, maybe, the last four still another way. What I found surprised me.
Through painstaking research and illuminating discovery I developed what I call the seven pillars of cultural success.
Although the approach seems to be unique from company to company, in the end, the greats all do the same things well. We can look at Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Southwest Airlines, or General Motors for inspiration. Yes, we will find unique variances in what they do and how they do it but, as I learned, these seven elements exist at the core of how they operate and succeed.
Transparent organisations encourage the company-wide flow of communication and information, which can range from simple employee feedback to sharing profit-and-loss statements.
Much is made of problem-solving but positive, new approaches to facing stark realities, challenges and projected outcomes build on company strengths rather than weaknesses.
There is no better way to gauge business performance than through the process of gathering information, measuring it and analysing it.
The ways in which a company recognises and rewards outstanding work are visible links in the cultural chain that binds a workforce together.
The singular aspects that distinguish a company’s brand must be communicated and leveraged across product or service selling points. For instance, Google is known for its ground-up innovation, while Southwest Airlines is synonymous with more relaxed air travel than its competitors.
In successful business transactions, listening is an active, not a passive, skill. Creating a culture that fosters active, results-based listening sets many companies above the competition.
How companies deal with failure, not success, is the better marker of great culture. Can they learn from it? Can they leverage it and forge ahead?
As you review this list, you may find that you are strong in most of these areas and missing only one or two crucial elements. While good cultures have some of these pillars imbedded into their daily processes, great cultures have all seven.
Try to hit them all. This is a proven strategy for enhancing performance and retaining talented employees. It will also stoke morale. Staff who feel both personally satisfied and professionally challenged will stay, thrive and add to great culture.