If asked to describe your company culture in five words, what would you say?
Maybe your company culture is so well-defined that you’d be able to rattle them off without hesitation.
More often than not, though, a company’s culture is implied rather than explicitly defined. If that’s the case at your workplace, you’re missing a huge opportunity: a strong company culture can contribute to improved employee communication, collaboration, wellness and performance.
If your company falls into the “implied culture” camp, you’ll probably be able to come up with two or three adjectives immediately before pausing to reach for two appealing–yet accurate!–terms. Among the most common words companies use to describe their culture (and their employees) are talented, driven, dedicated, innovative and ambitious.
Let’s get real.
All of those terms are cliche buzzwords, and two of them–ambitious and driven–are redundant. Of course prospective candidates want to work for an innovative company comprised of talented, dedicated, ambitious individuals. But what else? Those traits are expected. What makes your company culture distinct? That’s the question at least two of your five words should address.
Fun and Weird
Footwear retailer Zappos has a renowned commitment to customer service, and it’s not surprising that this tops its core values. Other expected words that appear on the list include positive, passionate and growth. The words that set Zappos apart are fun and weird. And before you raise an eyebrow, consider this: Fun is good for business. If a company’s employees are having fun, they’re more likely to be engaged. And companies with an engaged workforce are more productive, and more likely to retain their employees.
Everybody’s weird in their own way, and suppressing your personality never feels good. Zappos not only gives their employees permission to express their weirdness, but explicitly encourages it. This type of culture surely helps the company to both retain its workforce and attract the quirky candidates who have helped build it into the retail giant it is today.
A lot of companies talk about transparency, but few have embraced it like social sharing tool Buffer. How many companies publicly release all of their employees’ salaries? How many allow unfettered access to every corporate email? How many broadcast the precise breakdown of what expenses their pricing covers? Buffer does all of the above, and more. As a result of this transparent culture, employees feel a sense of trust. They can express their thoughts. And unpleasant surprises are a non-issue.
Adobe has helped to transform the media landscape, so it’s no surprise that innovative is on its list of core values. The word that we find most intriguing about their culture, though, is involved. It’s a word that operates on several levels, acknowledging employees’ desire to contribute at work as well as their pursuit of personal interests. The tech company offers its workforce a plethora of on-the-job learning opportunities and training programs. It also helps connect employees based on shared interests and supports community involvement. In a world where the lines between work and life are increasingly blurred, Adobe’s holistic perspective is not only welcome – it’s essential.
It just makes sense to tie your culture to your product, and that’s exactly what Airbnb does in listing adventure among its values. To not only travel to a new city in a foreign country but to stay off the beaten path in a residential neighborhood without a concierge at your disposal – which is exactly what millions of Airbnb users do – requires a healthy sense of adventure. By embracing the same sense of uncertainty and curiosity as its users, Airbnb has quickly risen to one of the world’s largest travel sites.
At Trakstar, one of the things we strive for is empathy. Our support team is vital to our business, and they can’t be successful if they’re unable to put themselves in the customers’ shoes. Our developers need to understand how users are interacting with our software in order to evolve and improve the product. Our managers are most effective when they recognize the concerns, challenges and preferences of team members. Empathy is so essential to our business, it’s one of the traits we try to assess for when interviewing candidates.
Ultimately, there no right or wrong words to use when describing your company culture. The most important thing is that they’re authentic and aspirational – that they accurately reflect what you are and where you want to go. It helps to think about words that describe the characteristics you’re looking for in prospective hires. Companies are built on people, not products, and nobody can embody and develop your company like your employees.