A company culture can be developed with a variety of factors – from the decor to working hours to the dynamic of the team, and that’s just scratching the surface.
Silicon Valley has a lot to answer for, of course, with its huge tech firms dishing out perks such as free food and gym access, which workers worldwide have caught wind of.
A company culture isn’t just the preserve of “cool” billion-dollar firms though, as staff members still expect SMEs and startups to keep up with their expectations. Even long-standing corporates like Samsung are attempting to forge a new culture.
As part of our Corporate Insights series, which sees us speak with the firms that have been their done it and got the T-shirt, we’ve heard about the LinkedIn company culture and pressed the company on lessons that growing businesses can embrace.
On the theme of why the company culture discussion has grown in recent years, Dan Dackombe, director of LinkedIn Talent Solutions at LinkedIn EMEA, said: “Culture has always been at the heart of what makes a business successful in the long term. The only thing that’s changed in recent years is that, with the rise of social media, people now have access to much more information in terms of what companies are like as places to work. As such, the balance of power has shifted in the employee-employer relationship.”
He detailed findings from a study of UK professionals and said that, in terms happiness at work, relationships with colleagues are ranked alongside salary. This was followed by doing work that can make a positive impact, having a healthy work-life balance and feeling challenged.
“A huge 58 per cent of UK professionals would happily take a pay cut to be happier at work,” Dackombe said. “These findings go a long way in explaining why culture is such an important topic for employers. People are more likely to feel satisfied – and loyal – if they’re being offered something more than just a way to pay the bills. A strong, positive and supporting culture can play a huge role in this and, when communicated effectively, is also a key differentiator for attracting new hires to a business, no matter its size.”
He highlighted a common problem many firms are guilty of, in that company culture is little more than a token gesture and not used as a genuine part of a strategy. “For a lot of companies, culture is limited to motivational phrases shared on posters and notice boards throughout the office,” Dackombe explained. “However, it must come across in actions as well as words in order to be effective.”
He went on to reveal what makes things tick at the recently-aquired business and said LinkedIn company culture and values are communicated in a clear way that shapes the firm’s personality.
“The different facets of our culture inform the experience that we want employees to have while they’re at LinkedIn,” he said. “This includes ‘transformation’, or how we invest in people so that, when it comes for them to leave the company, they’re a better professional than when they arrived. Another one is ‘humour’. We expect a lot of our employees, so we want to make sure they can have fun along the way. Our values are the guiding principles that help shape our decision making, such as ‘act like an owner’ and ‘our members come first’. Together with our culture, these values provide a framework within which each individual can be their most authentic self at work.”
It could be perceived as daunting for a company without a culture to try and create one, but Dackombe insisted that it needn’t be complicated. He said: “It can be as simple as deciding on a small number of aspects of how they do business that differentiates them from other companies, and then seeking opportunities to articulate them and put them into practice. What’s most important is consistency, and leaders being seen to uphold these values when making decisions.”
Seemingly ahead of the game, Dackombe revealed culture has been part of LinkedIn from the outset. That can be attributed to the purpose of the company itself which, as a network for professionals, revolves around collaboration, connections and self-improvement. He added that those driving forces shaped LinkedIn company culture during growth.
“The same applies for a lot of small companies, especially where the founder is a senior figure in the business. Great cultures are authentic, so tapping into the driving forces that created the business in the first place is a great place to start,” said Dackombe.
On the back of that, he was keen to express his thoughts that all businesses have a culture, even if the bosses are unaware of it. “Every company has a culture whether its leadership realises it or not,” he opined. “The question is whether they’re participating to shape it in the way that will help the business succeed in the future. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an organisation of two or 2,000; building and maintaining a positive culture should be high on the list of priorities for every employer.”
Dackombe said that SME owners can use the nimble structure of the business to their advantage and take three small steps to put everything in place in order to develop a company culture.
“Know what you stand for. It is important that you have a clear company purpose and set of values that everyone in your organisation is aware of, and understands. These should form the basis for how you decide on company policy and talk about yourself as an employer to new recruits,” he said. “Communicate your values. A great culture and values mean nothing if no one knows about them. Once established, make sure your values are communicated through job adverts, mentioned in interviews and included front and centre of your LinkedIn Company Page and website.”
Providing the final step for SMEs to take in order to build a company culture, Dackombe recommended leaders look to the staff. He said: “Call on your employees. As a small business, your existing employees are your biggest asset when it comes to building and boosting a workplace culture. Speak to them to find out what it is about your company that they love and encourage them to share those views and selling points with their own networks.”