A corporate culture is about more than having the right snacks on hand or operating on a different schedule during the summer or winter months. A well-defined and verbalized corporate culture is about how employees describe where they work, how they understand the business, and how they see where they fit as part of an organization.

In the past decade plus, businesses have had to re-examine nearly everything in order to stay alive. In the past, simply growing, hiring well, and having a bigger and bigger earning profile was enough. Like the endless chicken-and-egg debate, entrepreneurs continually question whether the workplace culture should come first or whether the dynamic company changes mixed with new hires and employees will define it organically. Unfortunately, the rapid growth and fast hiring or laying off we’ve all experienced with the latest recession has left many small companies with a staff of employees that are a poor cultural fit and often it’s for a very simple reason: the culture was never truly defined from the top.

When a business owner finds him or herself in a stuck position, where growth seems to have stagnated, the departments seems to be acting wildly at odds with each other, and the message is getting lost … it’s time for a corporate culture audit.

Start by Defining the Corporate Values

If your company – the founders, that is – never really established the company’s core values, you can’t expect those who work for you to adhere to those values. You may have even hired people that don’t respond to the values and are working at odds with what you’d like the values to be. The separate founders may even have different views of the corporate values – a situation that can cause confusion with every business decision you’re making.

Codifying the corporate values is essential because as an entrepreneur, you can see who on the team isn’t matching up with the values and shape your hiring going forward. This step also shows the way to some pretty clear tangible operational improvements almost immediately.

Revive a Stale Culture with Creativity

To turn a stale workplace into a batch of overachieving, creative, and productive teams, by implementing some easily implemented practices, including the following:

  • Celebrate hire date anniversaries – it establishes longevity and embraces sticking around.

  • Embrace a little madness once in a while – allow the games of March Madness to run during the day so people can pop in and catch up while keeping their work going.

  • Involve staff in decision-making – your employees have valuable insight into how a particular product or service will work once designed and implemented, take advantage of that and you’ll also demonstrate that you value them.

  • Schedule time with your employees – set aside time once every six months or so to discuss what is motivating your employees right now – to know how to go forward.

  • Have a defined path for growth – investing in your employees, allowing them to develop new skills while working, feeds their desire to grow and your company earns the side benefits of the new skill on hand.

  • Hand out pieces of the pie – especially within smaller business where the ability to give higher salaries or offer competitive 401(k) matching plans may not be there, hand out other things like shares of stock to give employees a literal sense of ownership and an incentive.

  • Give back – more than ever, people are concerned about giving back and having an employer that helps them do so, encourages that effort, is a big plus. You can accomplish this in several ways – by voting on a cause that relates to your corporate values and/or allowing employees take a few days off to volunteer for a cause that’s personal to them.

  • Design for flexibility – having a work-life balance is important to most employees and offering the flexibility to work from home part of the week, or reduced hours on Fridays in exchange for longer hours the rest of the week, and other options show your employees that you value their having this balance.

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Hire Cultural Matches

Going forward, it’s important to find those employees who have a vested interest and a passion to meet the vision of the organization. Over time, the individual will be more successfully and will encourage other employees around them if the match is right. Hiring well and motivating your employees will help reduce the costs associated with employee turnover and provide an environment in which employees can flourish because they aren’t worried about the revolving door smacking them on the backside.

Growth-oriented company are notorious for finding creative ways to improve the work environment and build their culture. Start by taking a look at your core values and then you can implement some innovations that will help you craft a corporate culture that works and helps you recruit the best talent.

About the author

Matt Faustman

Matt Faustman

Matt is the co-founder and CEO at UpCounsel. Matt believes in the power of online platforms to change antiquated ways of life and founded UpCounsel to make legal services efficiently accessible. He is responsible for our overall vision and growth of the UpCounsel platform. Before founding UpCounsel, Matt practiced as a startup and business attorney.

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