As you think about all the things on your “to do” list to make your ISV company successful, where does “build a great corporate culture” rank? While this topic isn’t as straightforward as many others on the list, it’s far more critical than many business owners think. A 2015 survey of 1,400 North American CEOs and CFOs conducted by professors at Columbia Business School and Duke’s Fuqua School of Business uncovered some eye-opening results. Among the findings:
- 92% of executives believe that improving their firm’s corporate culture would enhance the value of the company.
- 50%-plus said corporate culture influences productivity, creativity, profitability, firm value, and growth rates.
- 70% agreed leadership needs to spend more time to develop their culture.
Despite the difficulty creating a universal definition of “positive corporate culture,” most of us would agree that a tell-tale sign of a “negative corporate culture” would include things such as disengaged workers, which research shows is tremendously costly. For example, according to a 2017 Gallup study, disengaged workers had:
- 37% higher absenteeism
- 49% more accidents
- 60% more errors and defects, and
- 18% lower productivity, which led to
- 16% lower profitability
- 37% lower job growth and
- 65% lower share price over time.
I recently spoke with Luis Artiz, group product manager at Epson America, who has more than 17 years of leadership experience working in manufacturing and high-tech companies – ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion-dollar corporations. We discussed the topic of corporate culture, and here are his top six tips for ISV business owners who want to create a positive corporate culture.
1. Don’t Shelter Workers from Simple Responsibilities.
“Small businesses have limited resources, and everyone has to perform tasks that are not in their job description,” he says. “Let people be responsible for cleaning, sweeping, and taking out the trash. It helps create the feeling that it’s their company, and it gives them a stronger desire to succeed.”
2. Respect Employees’ Families.
“Grinding employees 12-15 hours a day, expecting them to always take calls after hours and on weekends comes at the expense of employees’ families. Expect hard work, but also respect workers’ time away from the workplace. Employees who have a more balanced work/life schedule are happier employees. Employers might want to consider offering flexible work arrangements, which can lead to an enhanced work/life balance, improve morale, and prevent loss of valuable employees.”
3. Have a Weekly 30-Minute Meeting with All Employees.
“This is an excellent opportunity to celebrate sales wins and allow people to ask questions and voice their concerns. It also reminds employees that everyone’s in the same boat. One suggestion for optimizing the effectiveness of your meetings; I’d recommend following a process that the Boy Scouts use to debrief after an event: ‘Start, Stop, and Continue.’ Ask, ‘What should we start doing at our company? What should we never do again? And what should we continue doing well?’”
4. Encourage Charity Work.
“Ferris Bueller summed up today’s work environment when he said, ‘Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.’ Corporate-led charity activities are an excellent way to remind workers of the importance of thinking beyond the microcosm of the company. It helps provide perspective, and it gives the community much-needed assistance.”
5. Be Available.
“When a manager’s door is closed too often, or the manager infrequently visits the work area, it can create a barrier between the manager and subordinates. Employees may feel afraid to speak freely, or they may feel that the manager is disengaged from the business or just not interested in hearing their concerns. A better approach is an open door policy, especially one where the manager engages subordinates and initiates feedback.”
6. Reconsider ‘Cubicle-Ville.‘
“The work environment structure is another important consideration in the corporate culture discussion. At the heart of the debate is high-walled cubicles, which promote privacy, vs. open office environments that promote collaboration. Depending on the nature of the work, some workers may thrive in one kind of environment and other workers in another one. One important point to keep in mind, however, is where managers’ workstations are placed in proximity to subordinates’ workstations. Instead of requiring workers to schedule formal meetings just to get a quick answer or sign-off, it can be much more effective to stop by the manager’s work area. Unless the nature of the work necessitates a high degree of privacy, having managers’ workstations nearby fosters a more dynamic work environment and contributes to a more positive corporate culture.”