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There’s more and more evidence to the notion that the companies who perform best financially also perform extremely well with regards to their workers and their company culture. The idea of using a measure like positivity to benchmark a company’s performance would have been laughable not too long ago. The culture and performance corollary were confined to a small group of “out-there, wacky” anomalies like Ben & Jerry’s.

Now though, company culture is being given its proper due. Every company recognizes (or should recognize if they do not already) a few absolutely critical things related to their ability to be competitive and increase employee retention.

First, there’s a shortage for talent and particularly the type of talent that companies want. If the world is becoming more technically driven and nearly every company has an element of tech within its foundation, there’s going to be a huge push for these kinds of jobs, and the jobs in marketing, sales and finance that support them. So why should a top engineer or project manager or CTO go to a company with less prestige than a huge employer that can pay well, offer big stock options and the prestige of a name? The difference is going to be in what the culture of that company stands for and how well it is communicated.

Second, employers need to communicate their brand ahead of time. It isn’t enough for employees to get a sense of the company when they step in the offices for an interview. At this point, they’ve already made certain judgments about what the company stands for. Of course, a true understanding of the company’s culture actually happens when employees are working and are part of the action on a day-to-day level. However, conveying your company values, being clear on your mission and finding creative ways to demonstrate your uniqueness and how it relates to your workforce, can create a baseline level of trust.

Third, culture needs to be reinforced. The company culture needs to be driven by the top leadership and reinforced within the norms of the way people behave, communicate and interact. It isn’t enough to say you have a culture (there’s an old adage about “knowing it when you see it”). Employees aren’t stupid, they’ll realize if culture is a window dressing. They’ll know if positive climate is just brightly colored walls, open offices and happy hours.

The key is to make these critical drivers of corporate culture a foundational asset for an organization. The way to make that happen is by focusing on the results that you want and then looking backward on the ways to actually make that happen.

What is it that your organization does that nobody else can do? What is the unique value proposition that you hold over the marketplace? What does your company do that actually makes competition irrelevant? That is your unique value proposition.

That value proposition then gets baked into the goals and objectives that every leader, team and individual is focusing on. We know for example that our company is trying to grow quickly and responsibly in certain key market segments. Everyone in our company—from our CEO to our newest hire in our Singapore office to myself—knows exactly how much we want to grow and what markets we’re focusing on. And we know what we do that makes us unique.

The next key, and this is where culture starts to become real, is in motivating and driving employees to make this happen. Everyone is different, and I’m not just speaking about their roles and responsibilities. I’m talking about the way people work. What makes them tick? What makes one employee perform at the highest levels may not push another employee to those levels. This where a culture and a climate of positivity, productivity, and collaboration can propel individuals, teams, and whole organizations forward.

We work with our clients on discovering what is truly needed for success in a particular need for the company translates into finding the right talent to make that happen. Part of that is job fit, part is raw smarts, part is employee motivation, and part is fit to the culture. Then we help them understand how to put people together in a way that promotes healthy cognitive and behavioral differences. The best teams come at problems from multiple perspectives. Finally, we push leaders, teams, and individual contributors to continually communicate and focus on getting better. That means employees understand who they are, can get a clear sense of who others are and know how to communicate with one another. This breeds trust and openness, which actually reinforces the message of culture for an organization.

This is a journey for organizations and it isn’t easy, but the results can be tremendous. One of our clients completely changed the mission of their US manufacturing operations and their employees became an active, enthusiastic part of that journey. Now, they feel and live for the company culture. We worked with another client on an employee level to understand their individual differences, team norms, and collaboration in order to complete a massive joint venture that built a new company culture that helped drive industry leadership. A company can function without a culture, but having a strong company culture is the core to making an organization thrive.

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