Culture is your brand graphic

Written By: Laura Tiffany

Employees who feel appreciated, listened to, and supported are naturally going to do a better job and stick around longer. And the way to build a business that provides this type of employee experience is through the company culture you cultivate. But what does “company culture” really mean and how does it apply to smaller businesses?

On the surface, it brings to mind the perks of big tech firms: gourmet cafeterias, on-site laundry services, video game consoles and foosball tables.  But this definition no longer works anymore for two reasons: 1. Employees have wised up and realized that those perks are meant to appease them when asked to work 60+-hour weeks, and 2. They really don’t apply to typical smaller businesses.

A better definition is one by Don Mastro, found in an article from Security Sales and Integration: “In the simplest terms, culture is how an employee feels on Sunday night. Do they look forward to Monday morning and the week ahead? Or, conversely, do they dread it?”

 The Real Reasons Employees Leave — and Stick Around

Employee experience technology firm Medallia recently asked workers why they left their job or are considering leaving. The top five answers for hourly employees were their jobs in general, workload, pay equity, limited opportunity for career advancement, and not feeling appreciated. For salaried employees, the top five answers were workload, jobs in general, not feeling appreciated, company leadership, and pay equity.

Behind all of these reasons lurks a big question: Were employers aware of the issues and did they listen to and act upon employee feedback to address the problems?

A company culture that attracts and retains talented employees doesn’t revolve around perks that can be bought — in fact, these models are out of reach for many smaller businesses that simply do not have the capital to buy high-end amenities. What really brings workers satisfaction is being able to provide feedback and ideas for how to improve their work and the business — and knowing that those ideas are being taken seriously and acted upon.

Another Medallia survey found that only one of four employees felt heard by their bosses and even fewer felt their workplaces took any meaningful action based on their feedback. MIT Sloan analyzed 1.4 million Glassdoor reviews and found that a toxic corporate culture is 10.4X more powerful than compensation when predicting a company’s attrition rate in comparison with the average attrition rate of its industry.

Now, we can take the latter data point with a small grain of salt as compensation may be less of a concern at the large firms that MIT Sloan was analyzing. But it’s still illustrative of a point that is relevant for any small business: Toxic workplaces make people leave their jobs.

What makes a company culture not toxic, then? A great company culture starts with leaders who listen to the people who are there on the frontlines day after day. They handle customer complaints, hear customer compliments, and know what is working and what is not when it comes to their jobs.

As Mastro notes: “Provide employees with big, meaningful opportunities to share what’s on their minds, and then back them up with your day-to-day behaviors. You’ll make a difference.”

Every day is a new opportunity to build a company culture at your business that helps employees flourish in their jobs, engenders positive feelings about work, and demonstrates how much you value and appreciate your staff and customers.