Lessons from Google: The importance of company culture
5 min read
08 September 2017
Whatever your opinion, the controversy the recent Google sacking has caused is a fact. This story is an example of a company that has failed an employee. And how clashing opinions and a misunderstood code of conduct can cause backlash.
But don’t worry, this article isn’t going to delve into a lecture of how everyone in the same organisation should have the same opinions – as difference in opinions is no bad thing. It’s more about lessons from Google and its firing of the staff memo creator.
In fact, it encourages thinking and sparks new ideas. However, in some cases, when two individuals from the same organisation are singing from entirely different hymn sheets, messages can get tangled.
The memo that “perpetuated gender stereotypes” opened an almighty can of worms. Worms that are crawling into the holes of sexism, science, and even human rights. One worm that has wiggled into the forefront is culture. Something Google clearly hasn’t got quite right.
Company culture may seem menial for a startup or an SME, however if it is not right from the get go, it could detrimentally effect your business. Both now and in the long run.
Indeed, company culture cannot just be picked up two years down the line. It cannot be developed out of thin air, and it is a lot harder to change once it’s been established.
If established from the start, there’s the opportunity to forge a strong culture, ensuring you maintain the vision of your company. The first 20 employees form your company culture, so you need to make those hires count. By knowing your values and purpose from the beginning, it will also help contribute to selecting the correct talent.
The culture you’ve built also needs to adapt as your business grows. Sadly, it’s often the case that as a company grows, the culture is left behind. After all, you don’t grow and wear the same shoes – you invest in a new pair that fits. So why wouldn’t you do the same with your business?
For many startups scaling up happens pretty quickly. During this process mistakes can often slip through the net. For example, you might hire someone you are not 100 per cent certain on. This could be because they are in the right place at the right time and, due to the increasing work demands, you select them, rather than because you believe they are the best for the job.
However, if the individual doesn’t fit, you will either find yourself needing to invest time and energy in recruiting again, or, considering lessons from Google, you could find your business making headlines for all the wrong reasons.
It’s not just the hiring process you need to get down to a T, but the office environment and creating a positive experience for employees is also crucial. All employees, whether in startups or multi-nationals, want to have a positive work experience.
And this experience is often led by the entrenched company culture that a business has and can include things like “lifestyle benefits” or making time for social events.
In a working environment, a little can go a long way, such as offering flexi-time working or working from home options to aid a healthier work-life balance and give employees a greater sense of freedom and trust.
Social events are also valuable for morale and instigate inter-team bonding, creating an upbeat atmosphere and forging relationships outside of the workplace. Small gestures are always greatly appreciated by employees such as dress down days or early finishes on a Friday, these are easy ways to keep employees motivated. And, as research suggests, happy employees really are productive employees.
Although it might seem like common sense, company culture is easy to get wrong as lessons from Google and Uber have demonstrated so well. It might not seem like the most important thing to invest your time in when your company is just starting out and you are trying to juggle other things, but it does need to be prioritised as the lessons from Google have shown.
If not, you may find yourself the talk of the town, and not for a good reason.
Jonathan Richards is CEO at breatheHR[rb_inline_related]