No doubt you’ve heard time and again how important company culture is. And while there are numerous studies about how culture positively impacts everything from team member productivity to revenue, many companies struggle to get everyone on board. We all realize that culture is important, but the reality is that most of us struggle to build a healthy one.
So how do you get your team members to buy into your company culture? It took us years to create one at One Click, a collection of online eyewear brands I co-founded. Whether you’ve been struggling with this issue for a while or you want to instill a new type of culture, here are a few steps I found helpful through the process. And trust me, it is a process.
First, Take a Good, Hard Look at Yourself
We wanted our culture to emanate from who we are at the most simple, understandable level. Sure, you could look at your business and think, “we want to be the most innovative company in our field.” That sounds nice, but that means you actually have to be that.
You will also want to think about creating a framework for your company’s core values, and how you make decisions. From “spread happiness beyond our four walls” to “never settle” and “people matter most,” our core values at One Click set the standard for how team members worked, made decisions and treated one another.
My point? Be honest. Take a hard look at yourself and your company to see what makes you different, and understand what makes you tick. At One Click, we were extremely focused on our people, putting them first, whether team members, our community or our customers.
Your mission statement should be easily understood by all team members. Getting everyone to buy into it becomes a lot easier when they can actually remember what it is! At One Click, ours was “to build the world’s most people-focused eyewear company.” Short, sweet and to the point.
Having a strong mission statement sets expectations for your company, and helps bond team members around a common goal. The mission statement must also be relatable to your team members — something that’s easily digested. Resist the urge to fluff your statement with important-sounding words. It’s better to keep it simple and stick to one clear purpose, vs. a vague statement open to interpretation.
Walk the Walk, Talk the Talk
Once you establish who you are with your mission statement, live up to it. Yes, this means that you’re going to have to spend money and time on culture.
To build the world’s most people-focused eyewear company, as I said above we were committed to putting people first. For new customers, we created handwritten thank you cards and surprised them with a welcome kit including a glasses case and a microfiber cleaning cloth. We also had an incredibly dedicated Customer Happiness Team that was never automated or put in a different building. When a customer called, we made sure they got a live human, not a robot.
Additionally, we focused on our team members and community. Each year everyone in the company got two days of PTO dedicated to community service. On top of numerous other team member benefits (Bagel Wednesday may or may have been a company-wide favorite, even if Stanley from “The Office” loved Pretzel Day!), we had a long-term partnership with Timmy Global Health to help improve lives across Latin America.
You also need to remember it starts from the top. As a leader, you need to be a strong advocate for the culture you want to see. If leadership or management doesn’t buy into the culture, chances are team members won’t either.
Not only did One Click invest in team members through professional development programs, involvement in the Orr Fellowship and comprehensive internships, but as a leader I made sure to volunteer myself, mentoring young professionals or lecturing at local colleges.
Bottom line: If you want your team members to buy into your culture, you have to prove you are who you say you are. This ultimately means budgeting both dollars and time. At One Click, our Culture Team consistently scheduled quarterly company-wide events, and every year we budgeted for team perks, professional development and team happiness.
Constant Attention and Hiring the Right People
I know I’ve already mentioned that all of these points are important. They are. But this might be the most important (I promise).
You have to constantly be working on your company culture to get team members to buy in. When culture starts to slip due to things like a bad quarter, it can get away from you very, very quickly. And many times, as a leader in the company, you might not even realize it’s slipping at first, which is why it’s so critical to hire the right people.
You have to have people on your team that align with your mission statement and your core values. Even if an extremely talented candidate walks through your doors but doesn’t identify with who you are as a company, it’s probably not going to be a good fit. Plus, those who do identify with your values will be culture advocates, even when your company hits a roadblock.
Although company culture is hard, it’s also extremely rewarding! It takes time, effort and investment but in the long run, it’s what helps team members stay motivated and engaged. Be true to your company, implement tangible programs, walk the walk and hire the right people if you want team members who are bought into your company culture.
Angie Stocklin is a lecturer on entrepreneurship and formerly co-founder and COO of One Click