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How to Create a Best-in-Class Company Culture

By Ben Eubanks | 3-min read

Culture has been a buzzword for years, but it’s not just a meaningless catch-phrase. More and more research shows just how vital company culture is to company success. Data from Lighthouse Research and Advisory shows that culture fundamentally affects the market performance of a firm. For example, companies with collaborative or creative cultures are much more likely to have better performance. Additional research shows that companies with performance-enhancing cultures have four times the revenue growth of those that do not. On both micro (employee) and macro (company) levels, culture is more than a buzzword—it’s a key lever for engaging workers and driving firm performance. 

Culture isn’t just about posting some core values on the lobby wall. Rather, it’s about creating a cohesive set of beliefs that can guide every decision people make within the organization. As culture expert Charlie Judy explains, strong culture depends on alignment between published company values and what is valued within the company in day-to-day practice. If the firm says it values honesty, but punishes whistleblowers and those that highlight problems in the firm, that’s a cultural red flag. If these differences are significant enough, then employers will struggle to get employees on board with the culture.

Components of Best-In-Class Company Culture

Creating an amazing culture is part art and part science. While there isn’t a perfect recipe, some specific elements have indeed risen to the top of the list. A great culture requires the following: 

  • Clear values and expectations: When employees know what is expected of them, they can focus on delivering with excellence, not worrying about what they’re supposed to be doing. 
  • Leadership “walking the talk”: Leaders that live out the values of the company in a public way encourage employees to buy in, too. Lead by example. 
  • Celebrating core behaviors: Employees should be recognized for exhibiting behaviors that align with the company’s values. This reinforces expectations both for the individual and their peers.

Taken alone, any of the above components is a good practice to implement. However, when combined, they create a powerful way to influence culture throughout the organization by connecting culture to core values. In fact, if cultural transformation is the goal, it’s important to be very clear about core values: What are they? How are they identified? How are they recognized? 

An HR executive recently explained that her organization was trying to create a comprehensive list of core values—but she wasn’t sure if it accurately depicted the values of the firm. Rather than create the values in a bubble, she decided to solicit ideas from employees and then narrow the list into a set of key themes and ideas that embody the culture of the business. Why? Because while the CEO and leadership teams influence the culture, they don’t own it. The collective beliefs and actions of the workforce form the cultural backbone of the organization.

Case Study: Creating a World-Class Manufacturing Culture

The manufacturing and mining sectors are on a definitive growth trend. In one of ADP’s 2018 employment reports, those two industries alone added 12,000 new jobs. That said, Gallup research shows that manufacturing engagement levels often lag behind other industries. Organizations in manufacturing (and similar sectors) often struggle with culture because it’s a notably “squishy” topic in a field where quality and productivity metrics are the priority. 

One firm that has been able to successfully deliver a positive, engaging culture through intense growth is MBX Systems. As highlighted on the industry research site, MBX has doubled the size of its workforce in recent years while boasting an impressive 94 percent employee retention rate. The President of the firm, Jill Bellak, attributes this success to a few key factors, including: 

  • Directly engaging employees in process improvement activities by soliciting ideas and pursuing innovative concepts
  • Prioritizing training by rotating workers to different stations, eliminating bottlenecks, and increasing the skills of the workforce
  • Connecting members from disparate teams in social activities designed to break down silos and perceived barriers

Perhaps most importantly, Bellak points out that communication is critical to culture development:

It’s hard for employees to be engaged if management doesn’t engage them back. The cure for that is to utilize every possible communication channel to impart information, raise issues, recognize work effort and facilitate an open dialogue with company leaders.

Any firm can follow these principles to improve their own culture, whether in the manufacturing industry or not. 

Tying Communications to Culture Change

Transforming culture doesn’t happen overnight. It requires steady, consistent communication across a variety of channels to educate and reinforce the direction of the firm. When leaders are trying to push the culture in a new direction, they must be vocal about it:

  • Start every team meeting with a conversation about the culture
  • Send regular updates about the progress to employees
  • Highlight examples of people living out the new culture

Successfully changing your culture hinges on properly communicating the type of culture you’re trying to create, and sharing the journey and reinforcing information each step of the way. By being transparent and using a variety of communication methods, leaders can involve employees and drive long-lasting results. Culture isn’t just a trend—investing time and energy in building a workplace full of engaged and committed employees will reap rewards that are well worth celebrating.