“Culture is simply a shared way of doing something with a passion.”

– Brian Chesky, Co-Founder, CEO, Airbnb

Being a recruiter I hear a lot about company culture; a topic that garners the good, the bad and sometimes the ugly. Many companies brag about their “culture” yet I find a strong dissonance between what many companies “offer” and what an employee is given. What’s even worse is when a company doesn’t know what they’re offering is scaring people away!

Have you ever heard an interviewer say “We’re like a family here?”. I know I’ve heard that phrase more times than I can count, more so now in my current professional life. I can tell you that I get the same vision every time someone says that, me working with a bunch of kids. Not something I want to do in the 8 hours I’m away from MY kids.

It would be much better for the company to verbalize what that family culture means to them. Does it mean that we do group trips and you’ll call me after work to see how things are going? Do we eat lunch together, or could I be put in time out for saying the wrong thing? Or, does it mean that you give people courtesy you would extend to your loved ones and offer strong healthcare, time off, and flexibility as needed.

We also need to be sure that our culture matches what we are truly offering:

Let’s take the eCommerce giant; Amazon, for example. Their official slogan of 2022 is…

“Work Hard. Have Fun. Make History”

If you were looking for a job, and you saw that hanging on the wall in your interview, it would be pretty motivating! Who doesn’t want to work hard, have fun and above all, make history? The problem is, how does a company take those words on a wall and make them true. Furthermore, the problem is compounded when you have to ensure that your company culture is felt at ALL levels. How do you allow your SVP to work hard and make history as well as your warehouse manager? 

Imagine you’ve just hired your first 15 employees, keeping culture rock solid is no problem. Those first employees are the core of your workforce, you most likely work closely with them and can positive influence. As you scale, if there aren’t strong practices in place that maintain your companies culture, it’s easy for it to become rapidly diluted. 

What we often see is a serious dissension between the corporate level employees and those out in the field and in the warehouses. The culture seems to divide once you leave the glass walls of white-collar work and that is NOT how companies should operate. Companies tend to put a higher value on their white-collar workers as they’re the ones seen on a day to day basis in office, and out at company retreats enjoying the full benefits. Yet those in the warehouse truly make the company function, and still they get the least benefits and the toughest work environment. 

Not to pick on Amazon, but hey let’s be real – they can take it. Going back to that example; they have developed strong training and education programs which are eligible to long term full time employees. Unfortunately, many of their lower level jobs are seasonal or part time and don’t qualify for those benefits. Along with the downside of not having benefits, healthcare etc. these part time employees are also often left out when it comes to team building and encouragement that you would get at the corporate level.

I admit, it is much easier for us to do regular events than it is for a company the size of Amazon BUT that leads me to the bigger point. If you run a small to midsize business (for this example, let’s say under 150 employees) then culture should be top of your mind. If you create that strong environment where everyone on board subscribes to your mantra then it’s easy to pass along as you grow. I challenge business owners to value team building and money spent on keeping employees happy. The more you know your team, the easier it is to know what things you could do to improve the quality of their lives. 

“Being a great place to work is the difference between being a good company and a great company.”

– Brian Kristofek, President and CEO, Upshot

Last week our team did a team building exercise at an escape room in Portland and it was a blast. We choose the prison escape which tasked us with getting the loot and getting out of a cell in under an hour. Let me tell you, that was an activity I never thought I would be participating in with my team but man I am glad we did! We created a custom bingo sheet that the team played as we were on the road and wrapped our day up with a group lunch. We talked very little about work and a lot about our lives and how the job impacts us. Simply put, we bonded.

In this modern day and age everything moves so fast we miss the beauty around us. We take for granted the things that matter and with the ever-increasing cost of living it feels like the almighty dollar drives so many decisions. The crazy thing is, when we stop worrying about making money and start focusing on supporting people it just happens on its own.

“Corporate culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage that is completely within the control of the entrepreneur.”

– David Cummings, Co-Founder, Pardot