Tips for Building the Best Startup Culture

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Which comes first—an amazing team or enviable company culture?

Company culture has become a popular topic of conversation among business owners in recent years, and for good reason. A strong culture can inspire teams to give a company their all and achieve great things. But a stack of shiny new MacBook Pros does not make a culture. Rather, it’s a collection of all the things you do within the office that’s geared toward keeping your employees engaged and excited. It’s what makes your team love coming into work in the morning.

That said, you can build an incredible company culture and hire a whole bunch of employees that won’t get anything out of it. That’s because not all employees are driven by the same things. Your culture is meant for youremployees, which is why hiring and culture go hand-in-hand.

The ultimate goal is to hire a dedicated team, give them what they need to work together, and thank them for their hard work.

Hire the Best Team

Commit to Diversity

Your staff shouldn’t be made up of only one type of employee. Teams that feature diversity will benefit from sharing their points of view as well as knowledge. These different viewpoints will only help better understand customers from multiple perspectives. There’s so much we can learn from one another and by championing that on all levels, you open the door for more creative, collaborative teams.

Look for That Fire

Just because someone has an impressive resume doesn’t mean they’ll be a fit. If you’ve got someone you really like, invite them to meet the team. Ask meaningful questions, make evaluations based on the environmental factors, and don’t forget to have the team ask a few questions, too. By compiling honest feedback, it paints a picture if that person would be good for the chemistry of the team.

Another factor to consider is their excitement level, especially if their resume is somewhat lacking. There are people out there dying to make an impact, and that fire is contagious. People gravitate toward folks who are passionate. Sometimes, an eager employee who’ll go the extra mile is far more valuable than the veteran set in their ways.

Encourage Collaboration

Tear Down Silos

The best companies aren’t siloed; instead of building walls, they build bridges. If someone’s got an awesome idea or helped a team that they may not sit on, champion that. Establish a culture that cherishes and rewards collaboration. If people work together and achieve big things, make sure everyone knows that the work was appreciated. Go one step further and throw a monthly happy hour when a team does something incredible. But, also allow for respectful disagreements.

People aren’t always going to get along and some people aren’t ever going to agree on an idea, but the trick is civil discourse. Just because two people don’t see eye to eye on a project, what they need to learn is that everything should be a conversation, not always a direct order. It’s possible to have a working relationship with someone, even though they may not always agree.

This doesn’t mean shouting matches or cold communications. Instead, it means hashing things out collaboratively so that, whatever the solution, it integrates everyone’s expertise and everyone feels heard.

Foster Value

All teammates should feel like their work matters. If someone’s working hard on a project and there’s no communication or feedback, there’s a good chance they’ll feel like they’re shouting into the void. Employees want to feel valued, that their work is respected, their presence is noticed, and that they are listened to.

When there’s a sense of purpose, the team will feel connected and work harder because they feel like what they do will make a difference—that what they do will impact the company for the better. Employees who feel heard work harder.

Build Rapport

Offsites and extracurricular after work activities are important. Take the time to get out for company retreats, philanthropic activities, and team lunches. Get people who usually wouldn’t work together to partner up on projects and team-building exercises. These activities bring people together and build trust.

Be Transparent

The truth is powerful. If a project is tanking, the team needs to know. At the same time, if someone is killing it and doing great work, they should be praised, as well.

Management should be able to answer the hard questions, let their team know what their future holds, and make sure all feedback is constructive for the team.

The same logic applies to how the company is doing overall. Share the metrics you can with your team and make your goals readily available to anyone interested. Open up lines of communication so that employees can ask questions about the health of the company. Transparency is one of the fastest routes to cutting off gossip and fear throughout the office.  

Create an Experience

The Environment Matters

When you walk into a “cool” office, you notice it immediately. The office space and environment quickly convey a lot of information about the company. How the people around the office communicate, the music playing (if any), how everyone moves with ease or unease. People notice these things and immediately want to join that party or stay far from it.

Create an environment that fosters the kind of work your employees are doing. Give them the resources around the office to do great work, take breaks, and feel heard.

Test New Ideas Regularly

Test everything, try things, and fail often. The best companies know that culture requires constant movement. If you keep the same happy hour on the calendar every month, fewer and fewer people will show up over time. They’re not ungrateful. They’re just humans, who will get bored if you continue to repeat the same things.

Test new ideas to keep employees engaged regularly. Try to infuse a new element to your company culture every 60-90 days and monitor how things go. Your team won’t like everything you do. (Maybe you’ll discover they reallyhate bowling.) Listen to that feedback, stop spending money on things that don’t keep them engaged, and try something new.  

Stay Dedicated to Wellness

Wellness is connected to job performance. The better we feel, the more we accomplish at work. To help your employees embrace wellness, you could provide things like yoga or meditation or encourage daily walks to help people break away from their desks.

Understand the need for work-life balance, and empower employees to do what they need to get their work done and to feel like they have spent enough time recharging or with their families.

Wellness also extends to learning new things. Encourage your employees to become lifelong learners, paying for classes when able, keeping books and resources around the office, and holding learning-focused meetings regularly.

Establishing a strong culture is the most important thing your company can do. When you have a dedicated, engaged team, there’s no limit to what they can accomplish. So don’t wait till next week. Start building a stronger culture in your organization today.

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