One of the worst experiences of my early work life has been working for an agency where the company culture was so toxic that its attrition rate skyrocketed – the micromanaged employees were leaving the company at the slightest opportunity.
I was even ready to swallow a pay cut to get a job at just about any other company. Luckily, life had other plans for me as I was able to find my next job at a popular eCommerce company and eventually launch my own startup agency in London. My co-founder, who had also been a victim of a negative culture, and I decided that we will do everything possible to build and inculcate a healthy culture in our agency from the very beginning.
It gives me immense pride to look back and admire the company culture that we have built at NOVOS – the sudden shift to remote work has, in fact, strengthened it! It has allowed us to grow our team by over 50% during the pandemic and made the remote onboarding smooth. As I continue to see the benefits in my company, it seems prudent to share our approach here with the hope that it will help other agencies.
Why Is Company Culture So Important?
Company culture is crucial to the day-to-day effective functioning of the company as it guides the team on how to behave and what to expect from their co-workers while working together. It is essential if you want your staff to function as a team and its role becomes stronger when the team is working remotely.
Building your company culture is one of the most important missions you will take as a founder — you should take utmost care to make the process conscious. Otherwise, you will find yourself a part of a culture that you didn’t create and once established, it is difficult to change.
First, the company shapes the culture, then the culture shapes the company.
4 Components of a Positive Company Culture
1. Emphasis on Cooperation, Not Only Competition
While a certain degree of healthy competition can spark creativity, intense competition may lead to stress and distrust among employees. While we do offer individual bonuses for achieving ambitious goals, teamwork lies at the core of all tasks. A culture that promotes cooperative competition or coopetition, will certainly be advantageous as the team members would help each other to achieve common goals.
2. Mental Wellbeing at the Forefront
According to a recent report by Glint, employee burnout has reached a record high due to the disruption in work-life balance. Having a system to find out how your employees feel and taking the appropriate steps to help them is now pivotal to your company culture.
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We use anonymous surveys to gauge the ‘team happiness levels’ weekly and offer free Yoga/meditation and personal training sessions to support the team.
3. Company Growth in Sync with Individual Growth
Findings of a recent survey not so surprisingly place lack of growth opportunities as the number one reason why talented people quit. As founders design strategies to grow their startup, they should also have a policy for employees’ professional development.
We have set out monthly budgets for each employee that they can use to attend events and courses for skill development.
4. Trust and Transparency
Nobody wants to be in a low-trust workplace characterised by disengaged employees. And yet, a survey of over 30k respondents finds that one in three people don’t trust their employer! Building trust among employees can be extremely challenging as it has to be earned but a consistent display of actions and workplace policies can help make it part of the culture.
We treat our employees as shareholders and routinely share the company’s financial position during team meetings. We also have an unlimited leave policy that rests on the bond of trust and respect that we share with each other. So far, I have never seen it being exploited. In fact, there are times when we have to ask the team to take leave as they are working too much!
Finally, as agency founders, we need to realize that a collaborative company culture based on trust is vital in driving change-management initiatives.
Khalid Raza Khan, CEO of an Asian fashion brand says:
If employees mistrust the organization, they would focus on their individual goals and act as deterrents and passive resistors to change. Any organization that treads this path is doomed. Leaders should drive top-down change empowering their team and lead by example. Collaboration is the basic essence of a healthy thriving organization
And I couldn’t agree more.