How to Create a Company Culture As Enticing As Google

by Daniel Threlfall

Last updated on July 24th, 2017

It’s not just a word that applies to different countries and ethnicities. Yet, this is how we commonly think about culture, as some sort of invisible style of thinking that permeates a specific group of people.

While a company may not speak a different language or have different styles of dress and food to exhibit its own specific culture, it is nonetheless always incubating a style of thinking that can help it achieve its goals easily.

If ignored, however, it may cause major problems down the road.

Culture is that invisible guiding force that influences behavior, even when the supervisor or CEO is not present to witness events.

Happiness as a Key Factor in Google’s Corporate Culture

Why is Google consistently praised for its outstanding culture?

Ultimately, a healthy corporate culture is one that promotes happiness in the workplace and gets employees excited about coming to work there.

That’s why Google has its own happiness officer, a position formerly held by Chade Meng-Tan. His official title was Jolly Good Fellow.

chade meng-tan

He was responsible for making sure the company culture contributes to employees’ happiness. Google correctly believes that happy employees perform better and stay longer with the company.

Why are they investing so much in happiness? The infographic from Snacknation below shows that there are ample reasons. For instance, companies that have happier employees tend to outperform their competitors by at least 20 percent. Happier employees have 10x fewer sick leaves than unhappy ones. Even sales people who report being happy generate 37 percent greater sales.

employee happiness infographic

What Happens When You Don’t Pay Attention to Company Culture?

When a company doesn’t pay attention to the culture that it is incubating, things can go awry on a mass scale. Just think of the Wells Fargo debacle where millions of bank accounts were opened, without consent, to meet demands for account sign-ups. In the end, the bank had to fire 5300 of its employees who had taken part in this breakdown in the company culture.

The bank suffered losses of nearly $185 million in fines. Forbes called it “Culture Gone Wrong.” The monetary incentives that provided the bonuses for opening accounts coupled with an aggressive often punishing environment, eventually backfired by tempting people to bypass their ethical values to achieve the goal. It’s not all about the money, though, as the above infographic shows, since 36 percent of people polled would give up $5,000 in salary simply to be happier at work.

Why and When Company Culture Matters

While the odds are your company culture is not going to be anywhere as off as Wells Fargo was, you could still be suffering higher attrition rates and poor productivity because you haven’t fine-tuned your work culture.

Only 42 percent of employees are currently happy with the rewards and recognition programs in their companies. Plus, your employees may be fearful about speaking up with new ideas or are resistant to change.

They are not innovative, and their productivity lags as they are just punching a time clock. This will inevitably affect the company’s profitability.

Company culture matters a lot, especially during these crucial moments:

When Hiring

The people you hire will represent the company values to the public, so they need to align with your company culture from the get go. That’s why places like Google, throw out oddball questions during an interview like: “How weird are you on a scale of 1 to 10?” and “What do you think of Dilbert?”

cartoon

Image Source

These are not necessarily questions that provide any insight into a person’s technical skills, but rather it gives them great insight into a person’s character and the degree of creativity used to answer such questions. For Google, creativity is high on their list of characteristics they value in their company culture.

When Merging

If you are going to merge departments or companies, the cultures had better match up well or you may be looking at a lot of conflict in the near future.

For Teamwork

When everyone is on board with the company’s mission, they make better team players. Individual employees that are recognized for behaviors that encourage the type of culture you want to create in your company also help to promote the message within a team structure. This helps them to work as a group better, by understanding the common vision they all hope to create.

For Public Image

Your corporate culture is also very important when you are in public, in the news, giving speeches, seminars, or even if you’re just writing a newsletter for customers.

By conveying the type of culture you want in your company, it can give people a good idea of who you are and what you’re trying to achieve. It can even increase the value of your stock.

It also creates an aura of transparency and authenticity, which is crucial within a public arena that extends into social networking circles online. In other words, it gives you a good reputation that can help you withstand false accusations and scandals.

How To Create a Profitable and Happy Company Culture

Much of the emphasis on profits can strip a company of its happiness factor. The key is to leverage both employee happiness with tangible goals, like earnings figures.

Millennials (the new generation driving the workforce), in particular, require more than just money waved under their noses to commit to a job full-time. They require a sense of belonging and a company that aligns with their own internal values.

If your company is paying attention to their values, then it’s not hard to get a match. To do that, do the following steps to make sure everyone understands the company culture and how to operate within it for everyone’s maximum benefit and joy.

6 Steps for Making People Love Your Company Culture

1. Make a List of What’s Important in Your Company Culture

For some companies, like Tata, innovation is important. Thus, they offer a “Dare to Try” award that recognizes ideas, even if they don’t pan out. For Google, creativity is important. For you, it may be different.

Take a good look at the types of business attributes you want to foster in your company culture and make a list with all of them. You can even include things like behaviors, such as recycling, if you’re a green company that wants to promote a cleaner environment.

2. Publish Your Mission Statement

Once you’ve clearly established your core values, develop your mission statement around those core values. For Facebook, it’s about making the world a more open and connected place. Google boils down their mission as collecting all the world’s information and making it easy to access and use.

Whatever your goal is for your company, it should have a mission statement that helps all your employees know what the grand vision is for them and the world.

3. Communicate Core Corporate Values

By nailing down your important characteristics and mission statement, you’ll begin to get a good handle on your core values. If you’re not sure what makes for the best corporate values, don’t be afraid to survey your employees and get their buy-in ahead of time.

There’s always room to add a few more. Google’s core values include: empowerment, fun and freedom, and avoiding micromanagement.

4. Give Employees Some Freedom

More conservative companies may not opt to give their employees freedom, but those that value that attribute would be more inclined to do so.

Without freedom, employees fear contributing anything new, like ideas, new suggestions, or even behave outside protocol. This makes it hard for them to meet new situations with some ingenuity.

If a customer makes a demand for something outside the scope of their training, they’re likely to be inflexible and not provide resolution on that issue. Google encourages freedom and it is rewarded with innovative new solutions that aren’t created from the top-down, but rather from the bottom up, like the creation of Google News, which was thought up by Krishna Bharat, a Google research scientist, in response to the 9-11 attacks. It allows people to see news from various different channels at once.

5. Provide Incentives for Proper Behavior

The old approach is to give incentives either indiscriminately like handing out swag at a company picnic, or to make it based on sales performance and tie it to monetary bonuses, like Wells Fargo did. Obviously, both these approaches have problems. Company perks are more than just money.

eatery

The cafeteria at Dropbox headquarters.

Simple perks like free food, significantly impacts an employee’s perceived happiness levels. Mentoring programs can provide people with closer work friendships too, another thing valued by happy employees. Also, opportunities to use skills and be recognized for them is also highly valued.

6. Recognize Length of Service

The end result of all this nurturing of company culture is that your best employees, hopefully, love their job and want to stay there as long as possible, contributing more and more every year.

Be kind. Recognize someone’s length of service at a company because it shows other employees how much you value their input and service. Provide gifts for their years of service so that they have something tangible to remind them of why they work there.

Whose responsibility is it to create culture?

Does creating a company culture mean you have to hire your own CHO, like Google? No. However, you do have to have executives, including the CEO, exemplifying the kind of culture they want to see inside the company.

Ultimately, all your leadership should be on board with the idea of promoting certain cultural values throughout their staff, especially if there is no one officer, like the CFO, tasked with getting people to adapt the internal culture of happiness or whatever you’ve deemed important.

For instance, if one of your culture’s value is cooperation, then an executive or business owner might create an award to be given to someone by any other member of their team for some exemplary service done in cooperation to achieve a project’s goal. Then, give it out in a weekly or a monthly team meeting.

This way, the value of a previous cooperative act does not just get recognized and rewarded, but team member’s get to hop on board the happiness wagon too. This involves everyone in the company in the promotion of corporate values.

* Featured Image Source

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Daniel Threlfall

Daniel Threlfall is a content marketing strategist who has helped to engineer the growth of blogs such as NeilPatel.com, increase the international expansion of Fiji Water, and improve the brand reach of Shopify. Daniel is the co-founder of Launch Your Copy, a resource to help copywriters triple their writing speed and blow up their income.

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  1. Jackson says:
    December 2, 2016 at 6:59 am

    This article is inspiring. People make companies great. The 8 good behaviors to be a better manager applies everywhere. I recognize each one and will put them up in my office today. Thank you, Google

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