Importance of Defining Company Culture in Startups
Although Julianna Davies writes for the online MBA education and career resource http://www.mbaonline.com, here she argues that creating and perpetuating a successful company culture doesn’t require an advanced degree. Rather, company leaders need only to involve their employees, from the lowest rung to the highest, to help create a culture that equally values employee contentment and company productivity. Julianna expands on a theme recently explored in a PhaseWare blog about creating a working environment that supports all employees, including customer service representatives.
Avoiding Pitfalls in Company Culture Creation Doesn't Require an MBA
Designing a company culture is one of the most important steps in founding a startup that survives, and in time, thrives. While several new startups are implementing innovative respective company cultures, there are some that are still promoting antiquated and ineffective cultures that are only hindering the potential for future growth. With multiple studies linking employee satisfaction to productivity and loyalty, belief in the importance of a healthy corporate culture continues to grow. Unfortunately, some companies are still learning the hard way that a company culture that promotes healthy, open communication among employees can mean the difference between a startup that has legs and one that quickly fizzles.
One of the fastest growing internet start-ups in recent years has been Zynga, a company that creates a sprawling network of virtual farms, cities and poker tables. At Zynga, employees work long hours, their progress carefully tracked and weak links quickly demoted or fired. While there are employees at Zynga who thrive in the rigorous and uncompromising culture, others feel overwhelmed by aggressive deadlines and constant success measurements. Furthermore, research consistently shows a correlation between workplace stress and lower productivity, absenteeism and staff turnover. In building a healthy corporate culture, inundating one's employees with a heavy workload and a threat of termination can be a costly setback. Zynga has already alienated other online startups as well as many of their own employees, possibly limiting their potential for long-term growth substantially.
Zikria Syed, the CEO and co-founder of NextDocs offers several ideas on how to set a positive and productive corporate culture that differ dramatically from those promoted at Zynga. Syed suggests involving employees in defining the culture of a company. Even employees who would agree to the importance of tight deadlines in a high stress work environment, have the opportunity to have a say in whether or not, and how to implement these decisions can make a big difference in how an employee views their role in the company.
Employees who feel they are active participants are far more likely to exhibit a sense of loyalty for the company and pride in their work. While the young Zynga is already looking at ways to improve its public image and soothe its agitated employees, NextDocs was recently lauded with the Emerging Technology Company of the Year award at the annual PACT Awards for its strong management, strategic growth and innovation.
Avoiding the pitfalls that lead to a toxic company culture doesn't have to be difficult, but it does require regular monitoring of one's own behavior and referencing back to the principles and often lofty ideals on which a startup company is founded. Harwell Thrasher, author and former IT executive offers several suggests the importance of listening to employee issues with a sympathetic mindset is important, as well as referring employees to the appropriate resources. When starting up a business, mistakes will certainly be made and often employees will need to be let go. Maintaining open communication with employees in times of crisis and organizational upheaval, however, can reduce anxiety and assure employees that their work is appreciated and their jobs secure.