It’s not about the perks – it’s about the people.
Finding the right people and keeping them is hard enough for many companies, especially small ones, but it’s also about getting those people to work together in the right ways. Success is found, according to culture data company CultureIQ, by shaping the norms of a company’s operations and strategy.
“You can’t focus on culture too early,” said David Shanklin, CultureIQ’s head of culture strategy. “I would say that focusing on culture at the offset unfortunately is the exception, not the norm. For us, we can help with folks starting to do that. We get clients who come to us because they’re growing and they know it’s going to be differentiator for attracting and retaining the best employees.”
The workforce shift from baby boomers to millennials is creating a sense of urgency for small and large company leaders to focus on culture, as talented, creative employees search for a place where they fit in, feel valued, and enjoy what they are doing.
To figure out how to identify the right interactions to promote, CultureIQ measures 10 different operational and strategic company qualities. Shanklin said that three are most important: support, work environment, and mission and value alignment.
“It’s really about a company’s response to employee input,” he said. “And resources — people feeling that they’re equipped to do their jobs. When it comes to the mission and value, it doesn’t matter so much what those are, just that they exist, are clear, and the leadership models them.”
Shanklin said that the longer a leadership team waits to start focusing on culture, the more difficult it is to shape.
“Culture is all about norms,” he said. “It’s who people interact with and how they behave every day. The longer behaviors are present, the harder they are to change.”
Introducing cultural expectations early helps more people adopt those cultures as companies grow. Every new hire is one more person to integrate, and interaction methods that are already in practice will perpetuate.
“As you get bigger, there are more people you need to reach and more people who need to change their behaviors. Culture boils down to relationships and how people interact. Bigger companies have more relationships, it’s harder to manage and harder to reset those relationships and how people interact,” Shanklin said.
The company is still working on its own culture. Two years ago, CultureIQ was a team of two people. Currently, 13 people work there and that number is projected to double in 2016.
“In 2014, we had 20 beta customers,” Shanklin said. “As of now we have over 400 companies on the platform.”
Like many startups, the company is setting its own benchmarks with high potential employees.
“Greg [Besner, CultureIQ’s founder and CEO,] has invested in each of us and given us really cool opportunities to help build and lead this business,” Shanklin said. “I’m personally very thankful for that. He takes a lot of pride in giving those opportunities. The folks on our management team, we’re not all here with 20 years of work experience. Some of us, we’re earlier on in our careers. It’s not atypical of a startup, but if we were a bigger organization we wouldn’t all necessarily be on a management team.”
CultureIQ has its own set of employee perks, but Shanklin said it’s really not about that.
“It’s about the people,” he said. “We know that about culture too. Perks can be a siren song, kind of throwing money at a problem. But if you talk with people about what they really love about their workplaces, in the best companies it’s always about who they work with, being with people they really enjoy being around and getting to collaborate on cool stuff. For us, our differentiator is our people and how we work together.”
April Nowicki is a contributor to Street Fight.