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3 Most Important Lessons on Company Culture

POSTED ON 
August 3, 2021

Joining a new company can be nerve-wracking for a variety of reasons. When I joined Brilliant Ink earlier this year, I had one big question: “Will my expectations match reality?”  

From the outside looking in, the culture seemed like a fit. The company values—Be Human, Lead the Way and Stay Curious—aligned with my vision for a great place to work. Plus, the emphasis on trust with a flexible, completely work-from-home environment was new for me. And quite frankly, sounded too good to be true!

With a few months under my belt, I can say with confidence that my experience has exceeded my expectations. So, I sat down (virtually) with our CEO, Ann Melinger, to understand the mind behind the Brilliant Ink experience and uncover her lessons learned on crafting cultures that make employees proud.  

Here are three lessons on culture that you can use at your organization!

1. DESCRIBE YOUR CULTURE CLEARLY AND ACCURATELY

When employees are looking to join a company, above all else, they want to understand your culture. It’s up to you to communicate it both clearly and accurately.  

Focus on describing the reality of life at your organization. Whether your culture is “positive” or “negative” is often a value-judgement—subject to change based on who you ask. But at Brilliant Ink, we’ve surveyed and interviewed thousands of employees and find that when you gather feedback from a good mix of the population, consistent themes and perceived company values emerge.  

But there are no one-size-fits-all companies. Those who want the environment you offer will decide to join, but that’s only if they understand it going in. Our advice? Put your time and resources behind understanding how current employees at all levels and in various departments describe your culture. Then, strategically market what you learn internally and externally.  

2. EXAMINE THE SYSTEMS, PROCESSES AND BEHAVIORS

Culture doesn’t appear out of thin air—it’s the dark matter present in and around the systems, processes, and behaviors in place. Take a step back and examine…

  • How you hire and recruit
  • How you communicate information
  • When (and why) you recognize and praise employees
  • How you measure success
  • How you compensate

Culture stems from institutional and interpersonal habits at your company. It’s cemented and sustained through what the structures in place encourage and allow.

Employees can sense the hidden pressures and unwritten rules. So, if you say…

  • “We value teamwork,” recognize and praise high-performing teams—not just lone-wolf top performers.
  • “We care about work/life balance,” encourage employees to use their PTO and ensure departments are fully staffed to handle the workload.
  • “We trust our employees,” allow for flexible work schedules wherever possible. Surveys show that nine out of 10 organizations will be combining remote and on-site working to increase employee satisfaction.  

That said, culture is no accident, it’s a byproduct.  

3. LEAVE ROOM FOR NUANCE—FOR CULTURE TO GROW

By now you’ve probably heard the buzz phrase, “Hire for a culture add, not a culture fit.” But it’s not so simple in practice. You must strike a balance between hiring someone that aligns with your values, while leaving space for individuals to enhance your culture. It’s the difference between contributing to, rather than changing your culture.

For example, Company A might say, “Our culture values progress over perfection, we don’t let fear hold us back from making tough decisions.” Should it only hire risk takers? Absolutely not! There’s value in adding slow-decision makers to the mix who can consider all the options from multiple angles and perspectives.

 Sure, it’s common—even understandable—for companies (startups and small businesses, especially!) to hire people that think the way current employees do. But companies who hire like-minded thinkers risk creating an echo chamber. Ask yourself if you want “yes men and women” or a culture of healthy disagreement.

Ready to grow?

With these tips in mind, you’re well on your way to nurturing a company culture that exceeds expectations for your new hires and employees alike. Want more help creating and assessing your culture? Check out our white paper on defining, scaling and sustaining company culture!

For more bite-sized brilliance, subscribe to our monthly newsletter,  the Inkwell, and follow us on  LinkedIn  and  Twitter!

Danni Thaw
BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST

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