How are you Maintaining Your Culture?

 

As I’ve been going through the book, “Benefitfocus: Winning With Culture”, I’ve thought about what made their culture so successful compared to other companies. After thoroughly considering this question, I realized that some of the issues companies have in regard to creating and maintaining their cultures are because they don’t follow through. So many times I have witnessed companies state that they had a certain mission, culture, and vision and yet, some of their branches/locations or maybe even the company as a whole did not practice what they preached. So how can companies expect their employees to maintain the culture they specified if seasoned employees are teaching them something entirely different?

The reason why Benefitfocus can have bragging rights about their culture is because they actually practice what they preach. They defined their culture, they put it into play, and then they ensured that they kept up with the culture so it didn’t die throughout the years. Maintaining culture is all about consistency. If you want to be sure that your culture will live on and have more glory days, you need to be sure that every current and new employee who works for you knows what your culture is and what their duty is to play the part in making your company’s the best. Benefitfocus found a way and this allowed them to have endless employee testimonials raving about how the work environment is great, the reasons why it’s amazing, and the reasons why they are proud to work for the company.

Do you honestly believe majority of your workforce would feel that way? If not, then you need to consider some options on how to create and maintain the culture you originally wanted:

  • Get feedback from your employees: they’re the ones who are going to keep this culture going. The easiest way to ensure they’ll happily do so is to create a culture that not only has the company’s best interest at heart, but also one that takes in account the employees’ values. It is a lot easier to promote a culture if it involves things that relates to your employees’ personal values.
  • Create your backbone: based off of your company’s needs and the feedback you received, you should be able to define a clear list of what the culture should be. This will be the foundation of your culture and also will define your employer brand.
  • Create a plan of action: decide on what course of action you will need to take to make this list into a reality. After all, the issue that companies deal with is the fact that they say they’re one thing but never really do anything to prove it. Thoroughly determine what steps the company and employees will need to take to build the culture.
  • Set up a maintenance plan: maintaining your culture will take continuous effort. Be sure to appoint people in the organization (even a rotation of people) to gather feedback, encourage, and troubleshoot. To maintain the culture, it must always be in the front of every employee’s mind. It must always be practiced.
  • Celebrate: give your employees reasons to want to maintain this culture- don’t just tell them to do it and then forget about it. Culture should always mean a reason to celebrate and promote a good-feeling, overall. Get your employees into the habit of correlating their efforts to maintain the culture into something positive.

The culture of the company is the core of the company. It defines who they are to customers and to employees. It determines if the company will attract quality talent to lead the company to success or not. Benefitfocus has endless pages of positive employee endorsements – maybe if your company follows these steps, it could, too.

Benefitfocus Culture

Benefitfocus:Winning with Culture

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How Benefitfocus is Winning with Their Culture

For those of you that know me by now, you probably can tell that I really enjoy researching and writing about company/workplace culture. For whatever reason, learning about a company’s culture is a passion of mine. I find it fascinating that each company has a unique “personality” which allows their employees to either embrace or reject it, thus determining the level of success or failure a company has. I strongly believe that company culture can make or break a business. It is quite a mix: it’s delicate and needs to be handled with care, and yet it holds a certain level of power that can control the fate of a company.

First, I would like to say a big heart-felt “thank you” to a company headquartered here in Charleston, SC. Benefitfocus took notice of my love for company culture and was so kind to send me their book, “Benefitfocus: Winning with Culture”. I just received it the other day so I haven’t finished reading it yet, but it’s been inspiring so far. Their culture is very impressive and could easily give some of Silicon Valley’s top-dogs a run for their money. Companies that are struggling to find that “good cultural balance” might want to pick up a copy and take some notes. It seems to be working very well for them.

Something that did stick out at me so far was actually located in the beginning of the book. The author discussed some of the challenges that Benefitfocus faced when trying to create and maintain the culture that they have today. The company admitted that it wasn’t easy: there were days when employees were stressed out and irritated because of heavy workloads and tight deadlines; there were external factors that tried to get the company to conform to what was “normal”; and they had to find the right balance to try to make all employees as happy  and engaged as they possibly could.

Although there are many challenges, the company has managed to maintain it the best they could. I could tell they were successful in their efforts because the book had an endless amount of employee accounts in which they talk about the specific reasons of why they love the company and what qualities make them excited to come to work every day. Normally, I’d be skeptical of that many employees promoting a company brand in such a positive light. However, while going through my job hunt, I’ve had plenty of friends that work there (or have worked there) that gushed about the company. I’d have to say, you know a company is good when the employees speak highly of it even in private conversations. Reading and hearing about their stories made me smile, laugh, and actually feel a bit jealous (Yeah, so, maybe I’m a brat). Simply stated: It made an impact.

It’s situations like this that show me how important culture is. This company is notorious for celebrating, especially celebrating the individual. Because these employees feel like they’re appreciated just for being themselves, they’ve become more invested in the company. They’re committed. They’re willing to work as hard as possible. All this dedication and hard work has aided the business to grow at rapid rates. Their name and their software are becoming more well-known throughout the world. At this point, I don’t see them slowing down anytime soon. Not only is this good for business, but this PR is actually helping the company attract quality talent, as well.

I don’t normally read detailed books about specific companies, but I can easily say that I’m enjoying this so far and look forward to reading all of it. Yes, it does interest me because it deals with culture but it’s more than just that. I find it refreshing to see a company so committed to the happiness of its employees. Benefitfocus knows and understands that its employees are its greatest asset, and the company treats them as such. It’s also nice to see the conviction in the employees’ statements when they say they honestly love working there. I hope more companies consider the benefits of having a solid company culture and work on creating and/or improving theirs.

Links:

Click here to read more about their culture and watch some of their videos.

Click here to request a copy of their book.

What Gen Y Wants from an Employer

Today’s topic will be about Gen Y and the workplace. I felt that this subject was important to bring up mainly because Gen Y will dominate majority of the workforce by 2025. With that being said, employers need to focus in on the characteristics of Gen Y and develop a plan to attract and retain talent. I also particularly like this topic because I am a Gen Yer and majority of my peers are Gen Yers in the workforce. Needless to say, I am surrounded by discussions regarding this generation and what they want from an employer. Here are some facts, in no particular order:

Gen Y values company culture: I’m sure if you’ve read any of my previous blog postings you can see how much I stress the importance of company culture. I’ve been placed in all kinds of work environments over the last few years, so I’ve had the pleasure of seeing good, bad, or non-existent cultures. My work ethic was affected by these environments. If I loved a company and was proud to work there, it would be evident. My performance would definitely show it and I would not hesitate to broadcast everywhere that my employer was better than your employer (:-P).

I didn’t really realize the importance of company culture until I worked at CreateSpace (an Amazon.com company). They seemed to really know how to celebrate individualism, embrace diversity, and encourage people to be openly innovative. The managers I had were great in the sense that they knew that everyone was different and, therefore, had to be managed differently in order to get the best results. I distinctly remember my Team Lead asking me, “How do you like to receive feedback?” I think my mouth hung open as I processed the fact that my supervisor actually cared enough to find the best way to manage me effectively. The leaders there also celebrated people for a job well done and knew how to make the workers feel like their contributions mattered.

Also, as I mentioned yesterday, Benefitfocus seems to hone in on the fact that culture is valued by this generation. They were passionate enough about it that they actually published a book on the subject. I’ll be receiving that soon, so there look out for future posts regarding it!

Gen Y strives to grow professionally and wants feedback: This generation relies heavy on feedback and mentoring. It’s not because they’re needy and require praise all of the time, but simply because they want to know what they do well and what they can improve on. They want to work hard, grow, and move forward in the working world. They’ll value an employer that gives them suggestions and opportunities to do so. Some of the better employers recognize this and make an effort to give regular feedback, discuss career paths, and present opportunities for employees to gain experience. For example, Apple and Google have classes so employees can continually learn and increase their knowledge. It was nice to see an employer invest so much in their employees’ educations.

Also, feedback is important for reasons other than helping employees grow. I distinctly remember a friend telling me that her company is big on the “no news is good news” philosophy. I was actually appalled by that. How could a company only give negative feedback? Needless to say, the employees of that company were extremely uneasy because they never knew if they were doing things right. Anxiety caused productivity to waver, employees to be less invested/committed in the company, and turn-over. Those who left the company told me that they’d rather be with a company that didn’t keep them in the dark than stick with a company that may unexpectedly fire them for mysterious reasons.

Feedback can help an employee see a future with the company. If no one shows them that a future is there, they’ll move on to greener pastures.

Gen Y wants workplace options: We are a technically savvy bunch which means we hope our employer can find other workplace options for us than just the typical 9-to-5-sit-at-a-desk-workplace. Although having a routine is nice, it can sometimes kill creativity, innovation, and feel like a cage. Technology and portable devices make it easy for employees to be mobile and stay connected. We hope that employers realize this so it allows more freedom: flexible work schedules; work-from-home; flexible workspaces around the workplace; and results-only-work-environments are some options that come to mind.

Although some employers are reluctant to do this for fear that employees will take advantage of these alternative work options, I think they will be pleasantly surprised to find out that Gen Y wants more responsibility. They want to be accountable for their work/contributions to the company. Additionally, they want recognition for their work. So instead of making your company feel like “Big Brother is watching”, consider other ways to measure productivity besides a punch clock. Perhaps adopt a work option that focuses more on end results.

Gen Y wants an employer that has integrity and makes a social impact: We just want you to be like our favorite superheroes. You know; the ones that do things for the greater good. Nothing is more of a turn-off than seeing a company go all “Machiavellian” and only do things that help their personal gain. If your company does good for others, your employees will feel good about working for you. I mean, who wouldn’t be proud to work for a company that somehow makes the world a better place?

Your company will seem trustworthy, which is a big thing that attracts talent. For example, candidates decided to take job offers with Salesforce.com because the company was involved in donating to a foundation and encouraged employees to volunteer and participate in community service. Who would have thought that you can attract candidates because of your social impact strategy?

It’s time to start training your leadership to change some of their practices. There are companies out there that will help you re-structure and develop your leadership efforts to help cater to the changes in the workforce. I’ve actually had the pleasure of networking with Martina Mangelsdorf via LinkedIn over the last few months. Over a course of a few e-mails and Skype conversations, I was able to learn that her company did just that. I was delighted to see that there are people out there that really understood what Gen Y needs out of an employer. So, employers, it is in your best interest to get prepared because Gen Y is coming for you!

Links to read (I apologize that my hyperlinking function isn’t working!):

Martina Mangelsdorf LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/martina-mangelsdorf/1/611/740

Leadership training for Gen Y: http://www.gaia-insights.com/

What Gen Y Wants- Time: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1640395,00.html?goback=%2Egmp_4358820

Harnessing the Power of the Loyalty Generation: http://socialmediatoday.com/davidjohnson4/563490/gen-y-harnessing-power-loyalty-generation?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Social+Media+Today+%28all+posts%29&goback=%2Egmp_4358820%2Egde_4358820_member_127717648

Benefitfocus: Winning with Culture book: http://www.benefitfocus.com/culture/

Google Classes: http://www.businessinsider.com/google-11-amazing-classes-that-google-employees-can-take-2012-3?op=1

Apple University: http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/11/10/06/apple_university_revealed_as_plan_to_teach_executives_to_think_like_steve_jobs.html

Companies mentioned:
http://www.createspace.com
http://www.amazon.com
http://www.apple.com
http://www.benefitfocus.com
http://www.google.com
http://www.salesforce.com

Company Branding to Attract Talent

Today’s little blog is going to talk about the importance of company branding and marketing. Although any company would give a big huge “duh” about that fact, I’m going to focus more about branding your company to attract talent. I do believe that more companies need to focus on this type of a branding for a few reasons.

1. Savvy job seekers will spend time researching a company before applying– A good portion of job seekers are getting a little crafty in their job searches. Instead of simply going on job boards and submitting an application/resume, job seekers are taking time to do their homework. A good portion of job seekers in this economy probably have dealt with unstable work environments, bad company cultures, or lay-offs. Therefore, to avoid being in a bad situation again, job seekers will take the time to find any and all information on a company to help them get a clear idea of what the company is about.

Some companies, such as GlassDoor, make it easy for employees or candidates to post information, salary, and reviews about their past, current, or future employers. Additionally, companies have taken the extra step to post on highly visible social media sites, write blogs, or even create videos posted on YouTube. For example, some local businesses by me have posted some great videos about their culture: Benefitfocus and PeopleMatter. These two companies give great examples on how to attract future employees. Their videos are engaging, entertaining, and get you really pumped up about working for them.

2. If you brand your company well, your employees will be sure to brag about how great it is– With social media today, it’s easy for people to post about how great or awful their employer is. It’s also extremely easy for people to read these posts. For example, I saw multiple employees of the following tech companies blow up my news feed about how they’re proud to be an employee of one of the 25 best tech companies to work for in 2012. Also, LinkedIn had a video of their HQ that made people completely awestruck over how amazing it is. How did I learn about this video? LinkedIn employees started posting it stating things like, “Reasons why I love working at LinkedIn.” Soon afterwards, I saw non-LinkedIn employees posting the same video with statements like, “Why I want to work at LinkedIn.” (Totally guilty of being one of those people).

Not only will employees talk about the company, but they’re also free advertisements. How many times have you heard of Apple employees talking about how excited they were for the new i(insert product name here) coming out? Not only are they talking about it, but some may even buy the product and show others. Simply put: get your employees engaged in your company/product/service; get free marketing. Not to mention, they’d be the ultimate marketing tool because they can respond to inquiries from their friends, social media acquaintances, and family in detail and in real time.

3. You’ll attract talent and create a workforce that dominates the world– Not sure how much detail I can go into this one: if you brand it, they will come. Eventually, you’ll attract a ton of talent and have a pool of candidates ready to give their left arm to be in your company. Before you know it, you’ll be like Google and be rated a top employer for a bunch of years in a row. You could even get cool enough like them and make your company have a “verb” of itself. How would you like it if your company name became part of everyday vocabulary? I’m sure Google is loving it.

Seasoned companies and start-ups should take note of this. It would be smart for any company to invest time and resources to create a company culture that they would be happy to boast about in their branding. Employees that feel like they are working for a great company will be happy to work hard for them to ensure they stay employed there. Great candidates with exceptional talent will flock to you. The business world will be yours, at last!

Links to look at:

Employee engagement: http://www.business2community.com/strategy/the-importance-of-employee-engagement-for-high-performance-results-0144924

Benefitfocus culture: http://www.benefitfocus.com/culture/

PeopleMatter culture: http://peoplematter.com/company#article-604

25 Best Tech Companies: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-25-best-tech-companies-to-work-at-in-2012-2012-6?op=1

LinkedIn HQ video: http://www.businessinsider.com/linkedin-office-tour-2012-7?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=linkedin

Companies mentioned:

http://www.glassdoor.com
http://www.benefitfocus.com
http://www.peoplematter.com
http://www.linkedin.com
http://www.apple.com
http://www.google.com
http://www.youtube.com