• January 15, 2016

5 Not-So-Sexy Culture Tips That Will Help Accelerate Your Startup

5 Not-So-Sexy Culture Tips That Will Help Accelerate Your Startup

This post was contributed to VENTUREAPP by Tiffany Durinski, marketing communications manager at AnyPerk, a perks and rewards platform used by over 1,000 companies across the U.S., from startups competing for top talent to Fortune 500 companies strengthening their employer brands. Want to build a strong culture driven by employee happiness? Learn more about AnyPerk’s perks and rewards products or request a demo.

It’s easy to get caught up in the bells and whistles of startup culture.

Free sushi and subsidized higher education are amazing perks, but some of the most powerful culture tips are those that don’t make it onto the Inc. and Fast Company headlines.

Because they’re not sexy.

Corporate culture has more to do with setting standards for how the business is run than just giving employees access to ergonomic chairs. Culture touches everything, from how an AE closes a deal to building the most effective marketing collateral. It has the power to boost employee happiness, collaboration, creativity and ultimately the company’s bottom line.

In short, it’s a highly effective way to accelerate your business. Here are 5 tips to keep in mind:

Understand that Leadership Sets the Culture

The earlier your team leverages leadership to build strong company culture, the easier and faster it will be to steer your culture in the direction you want.

So if transparency is a corporate value, schedule Q&As where employees ask executives about business challenges and updates. Want to build a culture around health and wellness? Leaders should take time to hit the gym during the day. Want a culture of strong mutual accountability? Executives need to firmly and openly hold one another accountable.

Whatever leadership does – how they speak, their outlook, their working hours, their passion for the company’s mission – inevitably has a strong impact on the values of your company. Those values are what get your employees excited about your vision and committed to the company’s bottom line.

Tie Autonomy to Concrete Goals

First, articulate what your goals are for creating strong company culture. Is it to boost recruiting? Retention? Employee engagement? Then, select a few KPIs to measure progress of those goals and have a schedule for regularly checking in on those metrics. (At AnyPerk, we use eNPS to measure internal employee engagement and continually work to improve our eNPS based on feedback we receive from our employees.)

Whether you have a designated “culture advocate” or every team member is responsible for company culture, pairing autonomy with concrete culture goals can promote:

  • Self-motivation, due to a personal commitment to helping the company’s culture succeed
  • Creative problem-solving and ideas
  • Stronger relationships among employees, managers and executives
  • Trackable ROI around investing in culture (which executives are sure to appreciate)

Startups don’t have time to micromanage. The good news is that as long as you give employees goals to hit, they should be able to get there on their own.

Make Employees Accountable to Each Other

…Not managers. The most collaborative teams are made up of employees that aren’t afraid of keeping each other in check.

Encourage employees to ask their colleagues, “Why are our MQL numbers down this month?” or “The meeting began 10 minutes ago, what happened?” Similarly, if  “building trust” is a company value, employees should feel comfortable asking peers, “I think we’re miscommunicating on this topic here. Let’s grab lunch and talk about it.” This will streamline communications and significantly boost efficiency. Plus, managers will spend less time project managing and more time tackling high-level tasks.

When teams are solely held accountable by their bosses, they were deemed “mediocre.” Teams with no peer-to-peer accountability turned out to be the weakest. Which team would you rather be?

Train Managers in Effective Employee Recognition

According to Bersin, organizations that excel at employee recognition are 12 times more likely to generate strong business results. Companies are finally starting to understand the importance of recognition in the workplace. The next step is to train managers in best practices and equip them with the technology solutions that’ll help them recognize effectively.

Here are some basic tips to get started:

  • Make recognition unexpected. 51% of employees say that milestone rewards have no impact on work life. Instead, recognize milestones and achievements.
  • Make it specific. Employees should know exactly what they did to deserve recognition so they know to repeat it.
  • Make it personal. 68% of employees say personalized awards make recognition more meaningful.
  • Make it frequent. 42% of millennial workers want feedback weekly; 80% say they want feedback in real time.
  • (See a full list of recognition tactics here.)

In this competitive talent market, implementing a successful rewards and recognition program is a key tactic for recruiting and retaining employees. Leverage it.

Strengthen Collaboration by Setting Rigid Roles

The more defined responsibilities are, the easier it is for employees to collaborate flexibly. This applies to companies with four employees and 400.

Many believe that rigid roles discourage employees from collaborating; that role ambiguity encourages employees to work toward goals together. A couple things wrong with this. First: without clear responsibilities, it’s nearly impossible to hold employees accountable. Even worse, when no one feels accountable to a project the quality of work suffers. Second: employees inevitably spend more time negotiating and miscommunicating job responsibilities with one another than actually executing a task.

Rigid roles clarify individual priorities from the beginning. Employees can hold one another accountable to their jobs, and understand who to approach for advice on specific expertise. Less time is spent communicating; more is spent on collaboration.

Get the Basics Down First

The all-expenses paid 3-month sabbatical will come later.

Nail down your immediate and long-term goals for culture, and then get executive buy in. Leverage leadership to drive the culture where you want it to go.

Highly efficient teams are good at holding each other accountable. Roles should be set so everyone understands their responsibilities and priorities, and everyone on your team can hit the ground running every time.

Done well, the tips listed above will not only help you build a strong corporate culture: they will enable free communication, trust, productivity and more efficiency that will help accelerate your company.