Culture is EVERYTHING or How to Create Culture by Design

The picture above is a recent ‘career development day’ at our company Michael Management Corporation – we took a trip to Disneyland…just for fun. No agenda, no awkward games or assessments. Just for fun. It’s part of our culture.

If you think your company has no culture, you’re wrong. You either have one by default (bad) or by design (good). And remember this:

Culture is EVERYTHING. Yes, I said everything.

A company culture by default will always be rife with the same old issues. But a culture by design allows you to build the company you always dreamed of, your team will never leave and your competitors envy.

Learn from the best.
Netflix and Zappos both have purposeful approaches to creating company culture—and the last time I checked, they’re both doing quite well.

Netflix implemented seemingly novel ideas into their Human Resources policies, but when you read them, they actually sound like common sense (for example, their vacation policy states: if you need a vacation, take a vacation). Maybe that’s why when they shared their policies publicly, they went viral.

Zappos has new employees spend three months in the call center to understand the core of their business—and at the end of three months, offers them $3,000 to quit. Zappos understands something key, that if someone takes the $3,000 at that time, they’re not a fit for the Zappos culture and that’s okay. The next hire will be a great fit, turn down the money, and thrive in the culture that Zappos has so carefully nurtured.

Don’t be afraid.
These changes often seem like common sense, but the key is to let go of traditional HR practices. They hail from the days of industrial firms and assembly lines, but we need to think like the creative firms that we are. Employees are starting to expect (and deserve!) a better way. Here are some ways to break out of old habits:

  • Hire with culture in mind.
    Maybe you have a candidate who fits perfectly with the skills you’re missing, along with a great resume and a strong referral from someone you know. But when you meet with them, you don’t see the personality fit for your company culture. Don’t be afraid to keep looking. A weak cultural fit will cost you more in the long run.
  • Pay well.
    In the past, one pair of hands was worth about the same as another pair of hands. Today, that logic is worthless. One creative person who is happy and fits culturally can produce 10x that of someone who is unhappy and unmotivated. And it has nothing to do with the amount of time spent working. You get what you pay for, so you might want to rethink your pay scale.
  • Let people go if you need to.
    Not that long ago, people often worked for one company their whole lives. Today is different. People move around and it’s okay to let someone go even if their position is still needed and they’re performing their duties. If they don’t fit with the culture, they will do better somewhere else.
  • Recognize and reward employees.
    Recognize employees with your intended cultural values in mind. If schmoozing the boss and working 60-hour weeks doesn’t match your intended culture, then make sure your recognition policy doesn’t take that into account. We don’t forget each others’ birthdays and anniversaries and give weekly shout-outs for jobs well done.
  • Offer creative benefits.
    Create benefits that attract and retain the type of people that agree with your intended culture. We offer flexible work hours and location. No dress code and unlimited snacks. We even have free beer in the office.

Your turn. How do you build a culture by design? Stories about good or bad cultures? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

And, as always, if you liked this article please share it.


Thomas Michael

Thomas Michael is the CEO of the Michael Management Corporation, the leading provider of award-winning online SAP training. He enjoys living in Manhattan, just finished the and can’t wait for spring.

3 Comments on “Culture is EVERYTHING or How to Create Culture by Design

  1. Great article Thomas! I have been working as an independent for 20 years because I don’t come across many corporate cultures that I would fit into comfortably. As an outsider, the corporate hierarchies for a lot of mature companies look to me like a new kind of caste system. Regardless of what these guys say, the incentives in most mature companies are geared to moving up to the next rung on the hierarchy ladder, but I don’t believe that the behaviours which this practice encourages is consistent with maximizing corporate value. We have seen recent incredible market values of companies with very few people and narrow hierarchical organizations which proves that creativity and talent is the real driver for wealth creation. Regards, Dana

  2. Pingback: 5 Practical Steps to Better Hiring | Richard French's Weblog

  3. Pingback: 10 Best Practices for Virtual Teams | Thomas Michael Live

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