Building A Company Culture That Stretches Beyond Beer Friday!

So… you’ve read all the books, talked to your peers at the tech group, and stayed up late at night reading about how cool Google and Apple are to work for. The switch over has happened, and you’re there! You’re considered the ‘cool’ company to work for. But what now?

The modern trends of relaxing the dress code, offering an untracked vacation schedule, in-house daycare, a fridge full of goodies and beer on a Friday are all part of a ‘modern’ software business. But, none of these perks can mask a workplace that demands employees work any and all hours—with no definition—alongside combative co-workers on projects with no milestones, goals or direction.

The buzz words of ‘fun’, ‘cool’ and ‘friends’ are all words you want to associate with your business to attract the best talent. But remember, other things—such as results, teamwork and being detail oriented—are also motivators if used correctly.

Set Achievable Expectations

Let’s be clear: the 40 hour work week is dead… technology has taken care of that. The ‘always on’ society we have become is quite at home in the ‘customer is king’ businesses we all work in. But let’s be careful; this balance of 8 hours a day, 5 days a week vs. around the clock, nights, weekends (even scheduled time away) can be a dangerous knife edge if not exercised correctly.

It all starts with hiring. You hired the right people to get the job done… right? You set the exception out of the gate that sometimes we have to go above and beyond. You weighed the ‘modern day perks’ against the realization that we are ‘always on’. You have open and honest conversations about measurable workloads and check in often to confirm they are achievable. But most importantly, you make those ‘always on’ rally cries only when they are truly needed. If more work is getting done in ‘the crunch’ than it is day to day, you need to revisit one of the aforementioned exceptions and make adjustments.

Set Expectations with an ‘Eye to Detail’

It is a well-researched fact that a high percentage of your employees DO NOT know what is expected of them! If you look around your office a dozen times a day and over 50% of the time the team is wandering around aimlessly, then it is likely they are either poor performers, or they are hoping they are fulfilling their responsibilities, but have no real metrics to help them understand if this is the case or not.

You are not challenging someone’s ability to work independently or with autonomy by setting few ground rules. Just like the first day of a job an employee benefits from a little direction and some ground rules. No one wants to feel like they are in the Wild West so as a leader in the company, step up and be the sheriff… make sure they know you have their back!

Each employee (new or established) should have a detailed list of the expectations both short term (week-to-week) and long term (year-over-year) bestowed upon them. Recapping these details is the responsibility of their direct manager. Think about it, you wouldn’t run a company without regular shareholder/executive meetings to refocus and plan… so why not afford your team these same ‘eye to detail’ focus points?

Working with People You Like… and Collaborate!

40 hours a week equates to around 37% of your waking week (and let’s remember, many people work more than that). Imagine spending 40 percent of your life miserable…. that is what it is like if your employees don’t get along! Having teammates become friends (i.e., working together and socializing together) has been widely documented to be a healthy approach to growing a business.

There are numerous benefits to an employee, including increased emotional well-being, higher job satisfaction, a close knit support system and an increased sense of contribution.

The benefits to an employer are just as compelling, such things as decreased stress among employees, increased trust, higher loyalty, more effective teams and increased productivity. A study out of the UK even found that most modern career paths (i.e., technology driven career paths) value working with friends over increases in salary!

All of this leads to groups that are willing to collaborate. Imagine If your company met a new customer, talked to them briefly and then told the customer to come back in a month. The next time you met with the customer you presented to them what you thought they wanted… with zero collaboration whatsoever. The chances of you getting it right is likely along the same odds as hitting the lottery!

Companies who don’t value the time needed to collaborate are going to struggle to move forward. It’s that simple.

Conclusion

This ‘close relation’ driven environment—paired with a collaborative culture—can be a great engine to promote ‘healthy’ competition. Healthy competition along with well-defined and achievable milestones can be a mechanism for maximizing the throughput of your team. Pair all of this with the modern ‘cool’ company mantra you’ve achieved, and now you are going to be the talk of the town! You never know; you might even attract some of those Google and Apple employees some day!

Dave Ginbey
Chief Evangelist