Building a Conscious Culture is a purposeful act that organizations take to create a good company culture for their employees. But the question of what is a good company culture is a little more complex.
The answer to that question is one of the most studied, discussed, thought-about, debated-over, and dissected parts of modern business. Every business wants to have a good company culture, but knowing how to start building one, or how to fix a company culture that has gone bad, is often an overwhelming task.
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What is a good company culture?
A good company culture is one that best serves the organization and its employees. A good company culture looks different within every business, and good culture is an always evolving relationship, not a set list of rules to adhere to.
In a way, asking the question “what is a good company culture” itself is part of the answer. That can sound a bit abstract, but here’s what it means: any given company, especially a small, time-strapped start-up, can justify putting company culture on the back burner for months or even years. The reason we created and launched conscious.org is because we don’t think they should. We think that a company’s success is intimately tied to its culture, much more than many of us can appreciate as we go about the day-to-day grind.
We created conscious.org because we don’t think all that research and time we put into building our culture should become some kind of proprietary technology. A good company culture should be achievable for organizations. Every company should have access to the resources and tools that allow them to bridge execution with humanity.
How do you build a good company culture?
Your company culture is made up of several separate elements. Each part of a good company culture has to align and work together in sync.
The steps to building a good company culture are:
- Set company operating values
- Build your team with culture in mind
- Work together successfully
- Set goals and track performance
- Manage your team fairly
Set company operating values
The best organizations on the planet have values. Those values can go by different names: a mission statement, a goal sheet, a statement of principles. At conscious.org we talk about our operating values because we believe that your culture transcends just the interpersonal relationships of employees and touches every aspect of how you operate.
It’s important, even in your organization’s infancy, to define what it is you care about and want to make part of the atmosphere. It might sound like a funny, almost uncomfortable exercise but there’s power in stating what you want to be. The idea is to lay down a target and an aspiration. It doesn’t always mean you’ll get 100% of the way there, but it’s important to be intentional about what your company operating values are. Starting from somewhere is better than starting from nothing.
Operating values form the foundation of good company culture. The operating values we live by at Conscious are:
- Writing > Talking
- Live Curiously
- Be 20% Wrong, Chase 10X
- Founder Mentality
- Win-win partnerships
- United & Unique
A good company culture may choose to embed these values into every aspect of business. A good company culture may also develop its own operating values that are better suited for the organization. The most important thing is that you have operating values, and you adhere to them.
Build your team with culture in mind
It almost goes without saying: your people become your company. If you hire and retain top talent, you thrive; if you don’t, the teams that do will surpass you. Because there’s been so much written and said on this subject, we borrowed from the best playbooks in the world, all of which can be seen on the Building Your Team section of conscious.org.
One way you can build a good and Conscious Culture within the hiring process is not asking new hires to start work until work starts. This is important for three reasons:
- You avoid exposing confidential information. Always a plus.
- You don’t create edge cases in which the hire starts work early, has a poor experience, then changes their mind—which sacrifices both their and our time and energy.
- You get to bring them onto the team in the right way. People are properly introduced to the organization and can build build camaraderie with others.
The last point is particularly useful when trying to build a good company culture. Making sure each new team member gets a proper welcome and introduction can lead to a more inclusive, communicative, and dynamic team.
A good company culture is one that prioritizes employees, and by following the above tips you are showing your Conscious Culture intentions from day one.
When building your team with culture in mind it’s also important to consider if each person you hire will be a “culture add.” A culture add is somebody who will enhance your company culture with their experience, knowledge, and attitude. A “culture add” is not somebody who will just fit into an existing culture, rather they are somebody who will bring something new to your organization.
Thinking about new hires in terms of “culture add” and not “culture fit” is one of the best ways to practice conscious hiring and create a more diverse workforce.
Work together successfully
If a company culture is how employees relate to and interact with each other, a good company culture is one where employees work together well.
This can only be achieved by working together to collate and share the right information in the right way. In large companies departments often work in silos, and don’t share their successful working habits with the wider organization. By placing a Conscious Culture front and center, teams are encouraged to share what works and what doesn’t on a wider basis.
In creating conscious.org we took time to document all the little actions that build up to a culture. Here’s something we saw along the way: there’s a DNA to organizations that you can only appreciate once you’re in it. But that means, if you’re new or new to a piece of the organization, you might feel adrift. How does this team communicate? How do they run meetings? How do they provide feedback? Instead of learning-on-the-job, we put all those techniques down, so that each and every person at Bolt knows how to work together.
It sounds simple, right? Except that each of these habits accrued over time and built a culture. The point of choosing and writing elements down is to give you a chance to reflect on it, make refinements, and provide new hires with resources so they can sing from the same song sheet on day one.
Distilling the learnings from across the business into an actionable playbook means that everybody in the organization has access to the same resources, and that everybody can work together to create and maintain a great company culture.
Set goals and track performance
It’s vital for growing organizations to track performance metrics. We borrowed heavily from literature on OKRs, which has made a massive difference in how our company runs. People know what they are running toward which can become a little vague once a company grows past its earliest founders and employees.
Goals and performance can be measured in lots of ways, and it’s important to acknowledge the “side work” people do within an organization. In the hospitality industry, “side work” refers to tasks such as rolling silverware, restocking fridges, and prepping for service. Without this sidework, the main service would be a mess; nobody would have cutlery, the bar would run out of key ingredients, and there would be no clean plates ready to go. Side work is as important in business as it is in hospitality. Managing and maintaining systems, improving knowledge, and mentoring team members are vital to an organization’s success and should be accounted for when setting goals and tracking performance.
A good company culture also relies on fair compensation for performance. This extends not just to company goals, but personal goals as well. Having a performance review process that operates at an exacting level of detail and takes place twice a year, that gives employees feedback on how they’re doing, where they need to improve, and how to get there is the best way to show you’re consciously committed to fair compensation.
In everything from the review process, to giving feedback, to promotions and titles, it helps to be deliberate and choose how the company will operate, even if you make adjustments later. That kind of conscious choice helps to build a healthy culture in which top performers are recognized for their exceptional work.
Manage your team fairly
Particularly in tech start-ups, managers often graduate into their roles without a real appreciation for what it means to manage humans—and not code. When we talk about Conscious Culture being the bridge between humanity and execution, we mean managing teams fairly. That’s why culture puts a real emphasis on what it means to be a manager and to have to oversee people doing work, often under tight timetables.
Managers have the most direct influence on a team culture out of everybody in an organization. They are responsible for setting a team standard, holding others accountable, building their team, and bonding their team. A bad manager is somebody who doesn’t make any attempt to build a good company culture within their organization.
Part of managing a team fairly means setting standards for the rest of your team to follow. It is a manager’s responsibility to actively encourage diversity and inclusion, and to ensure that each individual feels seen and supported.
How to manage the team, get results, develop your people, and develop yourself—these are all hallmarks of a wider definition of “management.” It isn’t just about timely and honest communication with your team (though that’s important.) It’s also about paying attention to the long-term: What are you doing so that this person leaves your organization better than when they arrived?
Building a sustainable, good company culture
We didn’t figure any of this out all at once. conscious.org is a culture scrapbook, the best of what worked for us, distilled so that new arrivals can make sense of it. Building a good company culture means becoming conscious about how the company works, not just what the company works on.
At the end of all this, you might ask yourself: Why? What’s the point? There are, as we see it, two key reasons to be conscious about culture: 1) Work shouldn’t be an experience you grind through and 2) culture compounds.
An organization that burns people out will burn itself out. More so than ever employees value culture and have options to explore different organizations that more closely with their culture values and needs.
A good company culture grows on itself. That’s why it’s so important to be conscious, because each of these little choices can add up to a big difference in the company’s future and your team’s lives.