Laura Iñiguez, Content Manager at Hirebook
Laura is a content and social media strategist with deep experience in Employee Engagement, People Management, and Culture. She works with Hirebook to bring their innovative best practices to life through content, videos, and webinars seen by thousands around the globe.
Pub: November 17 2020
. Upd: October 21 2021
Startups have gained a lot of attention because of their unique way of building their companies. They are showing corporations around the world that there’s no specific recipe to follow in order to found and create a new company.
Some people might think that Startup culture is based on fun perks like foosball tables, artisanal coffee, hammocks instead of chairs and pets around the office, but that’s not what constitutes a culture; but so doesn’t a good benefits package and overall normal environment. Perks are a good bait to attract talented people but it’s definitely not what keeps employees around for long and they won’t make the company grow on their own.
What really differentiates startup culture vs corporate culture is their people-first mindset and their willingness to have an honest communication with their employees and clients. They usually prioritize their employees’ wellbeing and focus on developing their skills, they foster a flexible environment regarding schedule and place of work, and they also invite every employee to weigh in different subjects, regardless of their position in the company.
Startups sometimes can find it difficult to create a warm startup environment and a good culture from the start, since they have so many things to focus on, and, according to Medium, about 70% of startups experience what they call “cultural chasm” around their third or fourth year, which basically means that those long-term employees that were so happy and excited, start noticing negative aspects of the organization, or start missing those things that made the company exciting at the beginning, and this has a negative impact not only on your culture but on your productivity and engagement as well. “Cultural Chasm” is almost unavoidable, and it can be worse if your startup grows in a quite fast way; basically the faster you grow, the deeper your cultural chasm is.
The only way to avoid Cultural Chasm is by meticulously creating your own culture from the start, we know there’s so much to handle at the beginning, but this will help you prevent chaos and a lot of stress. Focusing on your culture and paying extra attention to transparency, tracking of your employees’ progress and employee recognition will help you bounce back quickly when experiencing Cultural Chasm and you won’t have to do it alone, your team will help you with that.
Even if start up culture is quite different from corporate culture, it’s something you and your team need to create in a thorough way, so keep on reading to learn what you need to build your startup culture without jeopardizing your other priorities.
Core Values and Mission
Defining what your company is all about is not something to take lightly, as this will be the statement your company will live by every day for years to come. You want to inspire confidence and have a clear vision of why you and your business matter.
Without a clear mission statement, your company is basically asking for customers to blindly trust you and give you their money.
To create your mission, think about what differentiates you from your competitors, what do you aim for? What can you offer potential customers that’ll make a difference in their lives or businesses? How can you make an impact on your field?
Your values are also a big part of what your organization is all about, they constitute the elements of your company’s personality and they’re something your employees will live by while working. Your company values should be confectioned to your company’s mission, you cannot say you’re an empathetic or open company if your mission expresses a close mindset or if your employees are not encouraged to comment on company matters.
If you’re not quite sure what your company values are, think back on past work experiences, both positive and negative, and create a list of those values that stand out for you and that you think match your company. Try to find 4 or 5 very important terms for you, like “communication” or “ethics”, and work your way down from each of them, this way you’ll make sure you cover your most important aspects. Keep in mind that your company values should also be aligned with the organization’s goals and strategies, expecting that by living these values your employees will help you achieve your objectives by achieving theirs.
You can also take a look at our “30 Powerful Words to Describe a Company: Define your Culture and Build your Brand” article to check which words resonate with you. Defining your values will propel your company in the right direction.
Now that you have established your mission statement and values, it’s time to make sure your employees, present and future, know this information and act upon it everyday. If your employees don’t know why they get out of bed every morning, they won’t give their best effort on the job and their efficiency will definitely be low.
Take time to train your employees and ensure that they know what you value, make sure they understand why they’re important and how these core values will pave the way for success. Explaining the importance of your mission and values will promote positive behaviors and cultivate a healthy and happy workplace culture.
Communicating this information once is not enough, employees have a lot on their plate every day and it’s only natural that they forget statements that were said to them at the very beginning. A way to constantly remind them of your values is to have them placed somewhere noticeable, a lot of companies have theirs on walls, computer wallpapers, etc. But there are also other ways to remind them of your values and even make that reminder fun.
Some companies like to host annual “awards” and reward those employees who exemplify each value. This dynamic doesn’t have to be a one day thing; the nominations could be held through a few weeks, and you can have your employees send little tokens to those colleagues they consider represent a different value. By doing so, you’ll be encouraging camaraderie and generating positive thoughts among your employees so that, in the end, everyone shares victory.
But our best advice to communicate your mission and values, is to lead by example.
Setting your core values and mission is only half the battle, and it’s the easier half; the difficult part is to generate and model the behaviors you expect from your employees. The even trickier part is to inspire these behaviors as the company grows and the team expands.
The steps you take to demonstrate the things you value for the company are crucial to inspire those who work around you and encourage those behaviors. While you demonstrate how you live your company values, you will also build trust within your team and employees, no matter their hierarchy.
Remember that being the head of the company means having all eyes on you, so every misguided step or action could be a significant fall, and unfortunately our bad actions tend to linger more than our good ones. Every action you do will shape the direction your company will take, so be careful in order to avoid disrupting and damaging your start up culture.
Find Room for Improvement
As you and your company grow you’ll probably realize your culture needs some reevaluation. But don’t panic, you don’t have to start over! Just like Mark Wardell said: “The strength of a company lies in its ability to continuously evolve”. No one was made to stay still, everyone evolves as they grow, and if employees expect to advance in their careers, your company should expect to advance as well.
Don’t be afraid to make the proper adjustments, usually startups stand out for being flexible and not afraid of change, so embrace that and think that every tweak will help you strengthen your culture. Now that your team has grown so much, make a survey with your employees to ask them what they still consider fundamental and what they think is outdated regarding your mission and values. You can’t just make changes for the sake of changing, listen to your team, they’re the ones helping you get your company where you want it to be.
The culture of a company is the backbone of every process and department, it defines the personality of your organization and represents your values, and it also shows the importance you give to your employees and people surrounding your company. Since startup culture is more focused on their people’s welfare and has a more horizontal leadership table, it’s common to see a more passionate output and a more flexible work-life balance, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easier to determine. We hope these guidelines help you out whether you’re starting to develop your startup company culture or need a little help with your existing one.
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