A robust company culture keeps your team engaged and happy. If you're losing talent or your culture doesn't reflect your values, it's time to rethink your culture.
When you’re crafting a great culture strategy in your startup, you need to pay attention to how you do it. Based on our work with hundreds of startups, we’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. We’re sharing our top strategies with you so you don’t make obvious mistakes.
What Does Culture Do for Your Startup?
Your startup's culture sets the tone for how your business operates on a personal level. It helps team members discern what's acceptable behavior and what's not.
"Culture is born from your company's core values."
To make it work, you need to be upfront and crystal clear about those values. For example, if your office vibe is all about bare feet and hushed tones, that's awesome – but let everyone know. If radical candor is your thing, that's cool too. Your company's culture is all about what you and team members believe in. The key is to be transparent about it. This way, you can attract people who align with your values and help propagate the culture you desire.
It's essential to articulate these values early on because, let's face it, people tend to take shortcuts. If they start veering into behaviors that don't align with your startup's vision, it can escalate quickly. Reining it back to the culture you want becomes challenging when people are being rewarded for off-brand behaviors. Staying true to your values requires discipline. That goes for the founder/CEO too ;)
Repetition is Key to Culture
Ever wondered why "cult" and "culture" share the same root word? It's all about repetition. Remember that hit song you couldn't get out of your head? It didn't become a chart-topper after just one play. Nope, it was repeated non-stop. Values work the same way.
Introduce your values during the interview process by adding to your job description and website. Then, double down on them during the onboarding process and keep discussing them regularly within your company. Reiterate them during meetings, incorporate them into your communication, and apply them to real workplace situations.
As a leader, don't just hope they'll magically trickle down – actively ensure everyone in the company knows what's what. Encourage employees to talk about the values and share how they influence their daily work. Keep reinforcing those values. It might feel unnatural at first, but over time, you will start to see how they become part of the company’s DNA.
How to Craft a Culture Strategy for Your Startup
Some folks think culture just magically appears. It can, to some extent, but you need a game plan. Here are our top tips:
Operationalize your values. Ensure everyone knows them and understands how they shape decisions and relationships in your startup, both internally and with clients. As a leader, set the example. This last one is crucial.
Consider how hybrid and remote workers fit into your strategy. Will you organize virtual team-building or retreats? Can you get different team members to collaborate, even from different time zones? Find ways to recreate that in-person magic without it feeling forced. Ask people what they care about, how they wish to connect, and build from there.
Don't forget to check in regularly. Do a gut check at least every year through pulse or engagement surveys. Look at your startup's activities, actions, policies, and programs. Do they still align with your values? Are they serving the purpose you intended?
Revisit your values every year to ensure that the values you created still match the direction of the vision because we all know– sometimes, things change, and that’s ok too.
Pass On Your Values to Keep Your Startup's Culture Going
Here's the catch: Values aren't doing their job if no one knows what they are.
We've all known of a founder who had fantastic values but didn't make the effort to pass them on as the company grew. Surprise, surprise – the startup's culture didn't match his vision because employees didn't even know the values! They just made their own up along the way which can sometimes work out but most of the time, it’s an opportunity for a bigger problem.
How to Measure Your Startup's Culture
Let’s face it, measuring culture is really hard. There are many tools out there that can help like engagement surveys but the reality is you’ll know a good culture when you see it. You’re going to see it in the behaviors and actions that people take; the way colleagues interact with each other, with your clients, etc Even if they’re written down, people may still act in the opposite way and that shows they didn’t really connect with the values.
Looking for help creating your company's culture?
Talent to Team can step in. We're your fresh pair of eyes. We'll listen to you and your employees, assess the situation, and give you an honest, unbiased take. Together, we can shape the future you're dreaming of for your early-stage tech startup. 🚀