What a good company culture does for human resources

Written by: the Officevibe Content Team
Updated on: Published on: May 25, 2015 |  Reading time: 12m

Every year, we hear of these great companies that do their best to be the best possible employer they can be. They get praise and accolades for treating their employees right.

How come there aren’t guidelines to improve culture within an office?

It’s very easy to be astonished by all those “best workplaces lists” out there. All those companies seem to be the cream of the crop within their industry and do their best to keep employees happy.

So, what exactly goes on during the HR meetings at those companies that allow them to come up with unique concepts to be featured on those lists?

It is quite simple, they evaluate the culture and find out what can work for them and learn from their employees in order to keep coming up with new concepts.

Let’s define what it takes to make a great company culture in any office, and let’s see what HR departments can do to make their workplaces some of the best in their industry.

The definition of company culture?

Simply put, a company culture is the overall personality of the company. How the employees are, what it’s like to work there, the processes, the management, the treatment of the employees.

Culture is the heart of a business and the people are its life source. When there are bad apples that kill the culture, it negatively affects all the people around them.

Examples of a companies with great values

The best companies are usually the one that take their employees’ feedback into consideration and come up with diverse ways to allow them to grow.

Look at any major tech startup and you’ll see that they pull out all the stops to ensure that their employees are happy and engaged.

Aside from that, they will create new perks that employees ask for or think up.

Examples of companies that don’t quite get it

These companies get featured on a lot of “crappy workplaces” lists. What is shocking is that some places that aren’t good places to work at can still be profitable.

However, they have low employee satisfaction and poor employee ambassadorship.

We are not in the business of calling people out, but we have to believe that these companies are the ones that believe in profit over people.

How does culture affect HR

One of my favorite startup stories is about the famous sentence that was said to the (whacky) team behind AirBnb by their investor. It went as pure and as clear as this:

Don’t F*** Up The Culture

Peter Thiel

Mr. Thiel believed that culture was the main ingredient behind the platform’s success and ingenuity.

The more a culture evolves and grows, the less of corporate processes will be to help your company “succeed.”

The stronger the culture, the more trust a company will have towards its employees to do the right thing. People can be given independence and autonomy, they can be entrepreneurial and run wild with ideas and come up with concepts to make companies better.

Create an awesome workplace by giving employees autonomy

Now, a company can only as go as far as their employees will take them. HR plays the important role of making sure that they succeed within the culture.

How does it affect HR?

Culture plays with the nearly every aspect of Human Resources. Here are the best five that it directly correlates with:

  • Recruitment
  • Onboarding
  • Retention
  • Ambassadorship
  • Retirement

From a recruitment standpoint, the culture at an office will drive people to want to work there. The employees being great ambassadors and company stories will spread. That exuberance will be one of the best drivers of recruitment.

When I think of onboarding, I like to reference Valve’s employee handbook, if you give it a quick read, you will feel like if you’re already a part of the company.

They put so much work and detail into it, just to make sure that new employees feel welcome.

Aside from that onboarding will let the employee know right off the bat what it takes to be a part of the company.

Retention is fairly obvious. A low turnover rate is correlated with having great employee engagement. Employees will want to stay where they feel wanted. People in general will stay where they are wanted.

I alluded to ambassadorship earlier, for recruitment purposes, and it truly goes hand-in-hand with maintaining the culture within the office.

If employees are ambassadors, they’ll believe in the products and services, no matter what. More importantly, they will always make it easy for others to understand the mission of the company.

Retirement (or lack of turnover in this case) shows that employees do not mind staying at the company and working the majority of their adult lives there.

If you ever see an employee who is having a hard time retiring because they want to stay longer, that’s how you know that the company is flat out fantastic.

If HR were to optimize its strategy to create an ethically-sound culture and take care of their employees, the company will thrive in many areas.

Good ethics preached in organizational culture

Human resources exists to make sure that a company is not only hiring and retaining its best but to instill good morals and ethics within the organization.

It is important to make sure that the ethics preached within the company’s values can be instilled in every employee’s thought processes when they begin working there.

Andrea Tyler, the HR Manager at inDinero.com, thinks that it’s important to make sure that HR is an ethically-sound part of the organization. She had this to say about HR’s role in hiring:

treating all staff like the wonderful humans they are, not simply hiring transactions." will help with obtaining people that will be a great cultural fit.

Here are a couple of other practices that she believes will help an organization succeed:

  • Direct access and open invitation to engage with CEO & leadership–during all points in the professional relationship.
  • Charge to perform like a mini-CEO from every seat in the organization.
  • Close-knit culture of colleagues committed to collaboration and
    furthering our shared goals.
  • Perks tailored to the group, decided on democratically–not one size fits
    all and evolving as the group does.
  • Typically flexible work-hours: childcare schedule accommodations, ability to leave for mid-day workout, ease of scheduling appointments that operate
    on 9-5 schedule (doctor, dentist, tax, etc.).
  • Co-authoring of professional development goals and targets and resources
    to help achieve those goals.
  • Significant opportunity to make a meaningful impact on the culture,
    operations, and future of the organization.

It is only coincidental that she mentioned the above as we found that the future of HR was heading in that direction. That an employee-centric culture will be the norm, as it will allow companies to grow bigger and faster than ever.

It all starts with the hiring process and making sure that the guidelines that are set within the job description are an accurate depiction of what the company wants.

Make sure to find a good fit

This one is a lot easier said than done, but in order to not dilute the company’s culture a company must do its best to get employees that are innovative and like-minded.

This will allow employees to grow from a personal standpoint, along with the company to be more innovative in the ways they operate. Especially if they have a diverse culture that will inspire a lot of great ideas.

According to Ben Landers, CEO of Blue Corona, “creating a great company culture starts with the recruiting, interviewing, and hiring process.”

Ben then went on to proclaim that “We [Blue Corona] haven’t had many cultural fit or engagement issues, but those we’ve had can be directly traced back to a mistake made during the hiring process.

Our HR team has worked hard to standardize our recruitment, hiring, and onboarding process; collect, monitor, and analyze key metrics related to each step, and continuously work to optimize and improve things.”

They bring a data-driven approach to ensure that they are getting the right candidates to apply for the job. More importantly, that the candidate has a lot to offer for the company.

So, it’s safe to assume that HR has a tough job in getting those people that will be a great fit for the team.

Finding a good cultural fit

Companies all have their methods and there are different types of technologies out there that are helping organizations get the type of employees they want.

Web-based marketing and employer branding is playing an integral role in recruitment and has probably never been as prominent; as potential hires are actively looking for a specific type of company to work with.

Referrals and recruitment events are becoming a lot more unique. There are companies doing “Bring Your Own Developer/New-Hire” events and can even be referred by platforms like Quora or StackOverflow (even niche Facebook Groups!),  but even then it’s still somewhat of a problem.

We spoke to Robert Hoskings of OfficeTeam, a RobertHalf company, and he gave us some interesting data.

Six in 10 (64 percent) HR managers admitted they have misjudged a candidate’s fit with their company’s work environment. Two-thirds (66 percent) also said their organizations have lost an employee because he or she was not suited to the work environment.

This just proves that when we look at things like having a great cultural fit, it’s important to understand what we can do to optimize the hiring process.

Hoskings had some great things to say about human resources’ role in creating a great culture.  “Companies that don’t make it a priority to keep their workers motivated and engaged risk losing them to other opportunities.”

And when it came to providing employees with some well-deserved downtime, he was on the same page as us:

“Give them [employees] a break. Remind workers to take regular breaks to recharge, and set a good example by doing so yourself. If your team seems particularly stressed, organize a collective breather where you can provide snacks or a catered lunch.”

Eliminating a bad cultural fit

On the other end of the spectrum, it is very hard to get rid of or start eliminating, some of the things that can be holding you back.

Disengaged employees are not a lost cause, as some of them are high performers who just don’t like their workplace.  All a company has to do is adapt and find what works for them and their employees.

Start eliminating hires that may be a bad fit from the start.

Try and imagine hiring that person and see how that person would fit in within other members of that department. It’s hard to do, but that’s why utilizing HR platforms that can provide you with engagement data right within a couple of days will help you out.

Leaders that fit your culture

We spoke to Vick Vaishnavi, the President and CEO of Yottaa, and he had valuable insights on making cultivating a workplace that tailors leaders and knowing how to avoid bad hires.

Vaishnavi on “The Importance of having leaders with Focus, Consistency and Discipline”

Focus, consistency, and discipline should equally reflect throughout the leaders in the company.

Leaders with a clear, concise plan for the direction of the team/project instill the same resolve and focus in their teams.

Conversely, a leader who lacks discipline, provides no focus and omits consistency will find the same attitude reflected in the team members who either don’t care about the
quality of their work, don’t take pride in their work or simply take actions into their own hands without consultation.

Basically, Vaishnavi is saying that without a good manager, the drive and engagement of the employees will suffer.

We have pointed out some of the faults that poor leadership can be held accountable for. And it’s the human resources department’s job to ensure that they get who will be good leaders, as well as great mentors, for their department and staff.

When a company has leaders that are aligned with its culture, it makes everyone’s job easier. It makes employee engagement easy to handle.

So find good leaders and keep hiring people that will continue building a great culture around those leaders and employees.

Create a “culture code”

We have mentioned the Hubspot’s Culture Code plenty of times throughout our writings, so we went looking for other companies that had similar concepts.

There are companies that have almost a fraternity like feel around their core values. Whether it’s Zappos, Tapjoy or Wistia, companies know that sticking to their core values is vital to growth and coming up with new ideas.

We asked Vick Vaishnavi to give us quotable material around creating a great culture. He started off by saying one eye-popping sentence:

Get that PHD!

When I first read this, I was a bit confused, but then as I kept going I realized that he was on to something and he had a cool code around his culture: “No, I’m not talking about the importance of a doctorate, but about these three things

  • Passion
  • Heart
  • Desire

—the qualities that should be reflected in both the CEO and the employees they seek. “When the passion for work, the heart to see  projects to fruition and the desire  to become a pivotal piece of a company’s continued growth and success is apparent, you will have established an office culture of productivity and success. These are the “PHD”s I hope to see in interviews.”

Don’t confuse activity with Results

Work is not just work. By which Vick meant: The work your employees perform
should directly—and positively—impact the stated goals of your company.

Emphasizing the importance of an employee’s role and its overall impact on
the success of the company, not only will your employees enjoy seeing their
hard work translated into tangible results, but your company will function
more efficiently because of it.

Attitude vs. Aptitude

His last point was really interesting. He brought up an argument that we always mention when talking to HR practitioners; that tenure should not play a role in promoting an employee.

Attitude should determine “altitude.” Here is what Vick had to say in the subject:

“A lot of the time there is too much emphasis placed on experience. A
less-experienced employee with a strong attitude and desire to share in a
company’s success will be much more beneficial than an experienced
employee who refuses to assimilate into a positive office culture.”

Aptitude can be taught, attitude cannot be coached.

“A good motto to use to drive the right culture is around distinguishing
good teams versus great teams. Good teams do it until they get it right;
Great teams do it until they never get it wrong!

A culture is bound to emerge, make sure it’s a great one.”

Why your office culture must work

Your HR department or leaders have to create some form of culture code that will align your team’s work with your company’s core values.

Coming up with a simple and unique concept will engage employees to play an active role in growing the company. More importantly, it will allow employees to voice their opinions on issues that will affect the company.

Does HR need help getting a better culture?

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