What’s invisible, everywhere and influences the most important parts of your business? What makes one company offer $2,000 to get new employees to quit and makes another company hire only people with autism?
It’s your culture: the collection of shared beliefs, values, and practices that define how work gets done at your company.
Every company has a culture. In most companies it stays invisible and unexplored. That’s really a shame, because the potential upside is huge: The 2007 book Firms of Endearment found that companies with strong, positive, coordinated cultures gave investors a return eight times that of the S&P 500.
Is your company culture supporting your growth or getting in the way?
To use a physics analogy, are you a laser or a light bulb? The light that comes from a lightbulb and a laser is made up of the same particles—called photons. There is no difference in these individual photons. But the resulting beams are vastly different. Lightbulbs put a warm glow in your table lamp and power your daughter’s Easy-Bake Oven. Lasers cut steel and do surgery.
An effective company culture creates alignment just like the amplifier in a laser. It’s a coherent force that sets a direction for the entire company and helps each individual understand how his or her work supports the greater mission of the company.
Here are some great examples of how leading companies have made their coherent cultures visible and integral to their success.
Netflix spells out their company culture in a 126-page Powerpoint slide deck. It’s a particularly good example of sharing how their values support and create their success in a competitive market:
Valve is a software company that creates games and platforms for games. They have developed a creative approach to the company handbook. You can download a copy here.
Whole Foods has a section called “Our Mission in Action” that gives tangible examples of how their values play out in the real world. You can read their Values, Mission and see their Mission in Action here.