3 Ways to Do Something About Your Culture (Instead of Just Talking About It)- Valutrics

Every company founder I meet with cites the well-known Peter Drucker quote that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” But at most organizations, culture is barely a snack–people talk a lot about culture, but often the energy they expend talking about culture far exceed the calories they spend actually doing anything about it.

Regardless of whether your company sells pizza or platforms, is a start-up or a scale-up, or has ten employees or 10,000 employees, here are three ways to make company culture a true business priority for your organization and for your team:

1. Measure it.

When I ask companies how they measure their people function, most leaders respond with time to hire metrics for recruiting and attrition measures for employees. Both of those things can be helpful with the right people strategy in place. More often than not, however, they’re lagging indicators of what’s happening inside your organization versus leading indicators of what’s working and what isn’t.

At my company, we do a quarterly anonymous feedback survey using a “net promoter score” as a metric, and share the results (good, bad, and ugly) with the entire organization globally. We find that measurement aligns with one of our core values–transparency–and ensures that we identify teams, leaders, or issues that require extra attention early and often directly from our front lines.

You don’t have to measure things our way, but you do need to develop a systemic approach for measuring what’s working and what isn’t. If you don’t, other key business metrics end up overshadowing your culture and you end up focusing more on short-term goals (like revenue and customer adds) versus building a culture that will help your organization grow for decades.

2. Market it.

If I asked ten random employees in your company what traits you hire for, I’d likely get ten different answers. As your company scales and grows, it’s impossible for individuals to carry the load of telling people what your organization stands for and why you hire and fire people.

So instead of wishing and hoping that your engineer, sales manager, and customer support engineer define what your company cares about in the same manner, take the time and energy to outline what matters most to your company and your team.

Spoiler alert: most founders and leaders want the “most important things” list to be pages long, and that simply won’t work. You need the core things you care about to fit on a single page and be memorable and relevant to employees on every team in every office.

But the most important test of whether you’ve gotten your company values right is the extent to which it would inform your employees’ behavior. For example, would your one pager help a hiring manager make a tough call on a borderline candidate? Are your values truly different, meaning they would help someone actively choose between your organization and another company selling the same exact thing?

If not, go back to the drawing board–your culture needs to be memorable, shareable, and differentiated. If you try to be all things to all people, you’ll fail to attract the remarkable people your organization really needs.

3. Live it.

If done right, your culture should be a living, breathing entity, not static posters that live only on the wall. Consistently re-factor both how you talk about your culture and how it gets conveyed to candidates, managers, and employees.

Whether you host a company meeting devoted specifically talking about values and vision or empower employees to talk about failure to incentivize risk, it’s not enough to talk about culture. You have to empower your employees to live it.

This final element sounds like a platitude, but it can’t be for your culture to grow. For example, you have a top performing sales rep who doesn’t live your value of inclusion, or a top engineer who doesn’t live your value of teamwork.

You can’t just use culture as a recruiting tool. You have to make it a business tool, informing how you collaborate, how you promote people, and yes, even how you fire folks.

What you say about your culture will help you get candidates in the door, but what you do about culture is what defines whether you’re building an organization your team, leaders, and customers will be proud of for years to come. If you don’t measure, market, and empower culture daily, it will remain something everyone talks about but no one ever owns.

Instead, make your culture a core part of your business strategy. Your candidates, employees, and investors will thank you for it.