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A Culture Of Culturelessness – 5 Things Helping (or Hurting?) Your Company Culture – By Joe Thurman

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Author: Joe Thurman, Founder of JobberTechTalk

In today’s world, the topic of Company Culture is all the craze. Every week I read an article about how companies are struggling to attract and retain Millenials. I sit in meetings with top level executives who have sincere concerns about their company’s potential to attract and retain the talent they need to succeed.

Culture has become a form of currency in the world of technology recruiting. Competitive salaries are the norm and the future (and current state) of health benefits – while still being defined – is becoming more and more standardized. But here is the thing: good technology professionals don’t need your job. Simply put, they have a lot of options and if they don’t like what you’re selling (in regard to the employee experience and culture) they won’t and don’t come on board.

As so many companies scurry to find that sense of long lost culture why are so many of them getting it wrong? Here are 5 things that I see many companies doing on their path to a Cultureless Culture:

1) Inanimate objects

In most circles, it is a general understanding that possessions don’t bring happiness. Companies don’t seem to believe that this applies. Standing desks? Move on. Ergonomic workstations? You should have been providing these already. Bean bag chairs? Everyone has those. A slide like YouTube’s? It’s cool, but it isn’t going to be the reason anyone works for you. Same goes for ping pong tables and kegerators. These are nice to have, but employees aren’t going to stay just for things.

2) Free Food

People love free food, this is a fact. But savvy employees are wary of this as a perk – since it can also mean “you work so many hours here you have to eat all your meals at the office.” You might very well just want to provide employees with healthy food options during the day, but not everyone wants to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at the office.

If you are offering free food, make sure it is understood that employees aren’t required to partake in the food nor work longer hours. Encourage those that do partake in company-provided food to eat away from their desk by having a nice café with ample sitting room.

3) 360 Reviews to Nowhere

In an older Forbes article that still holds true, author Eric Jackson remarks that “360 Review data is only helpful to the extent that it gets acted upon and used.” Trying to provide your employees with a comprehensive feedback process is great, as long as the feedback is helpful and actually goes somewhere. If not – it can just complicate matters and lead to lower morale.

To ensure you provide 360 reviews that are done correctly, your leadership team has to get involved and believe in the process. There also needs to be a plan to deal with the feedback that is openly communicated with the employees. And by providing surveys that are clear and concise, you might be able to avoid useless and/or damaging feedback such as “I hate that person’s hair.”

4) Diversity

Another hot topic these days is Diversity. Companies know they can’t post jobs that say “Sr. Female .NET Developer” or “African American Data Scientist” because yes, that would just be weird and wrong on so many levels. So how do they fix it? Diversity is not an initiative. It is either part of your culture or it is not. Diversity in your workforce means having a Culture of Inclusion.

Rather than accepting your team’s response that “I’m not sure if they are someone that we would like to hang out with on the weekend”, challenge that thought process. As Netflix put out in their Culture slide deck to employees, “we are a team, not a family”. You are not building a fraternity, you are building a team that 99% of the time is servicing a very diverse internal or external customer. Cultural Diversity is a conscious effort to collaborate with and work outside of our normal comfort zone. A mindset of inclusion breeds diversity which creates meaningful corporate culture.

5) Socialized Workspaces (AKA The Open Office Concept)

According to Harvard Business Review, the open office “can foster collaboration, promote learning, and nurture a strong culture. It’s the right idea; unfortunately, it’s often poorly executed—even as a way to support collaboration.”

Collaboration is important, but so is individual time to reflect and actually get work done. Also, not everyone works well in an open office. You are probably tired of hearing about it, but in this world, there are introverts and extroverts. And introverts really struggle with a socialized workplace. The key is to balance the open office space with private workspaces that allow for all employees to have time to themselves.

A recent survey done by Glassdoor found that the most important benefits are better health insurance, vacation, performance bonus, 401K plans, and flexible schedules to allow employees to work from home and/or what hours work with their lives. All of these benefits above are nice to have, and when combined with a healthy, open culture and transparent leadership team, you will have a much easier time recruiting the best of the best. But the real key is, perks don’t make a culture. Your culture is about who you are, what you stand for, and how you treat employees and customers.

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Joe Thurman

About Joe Thurman

Joe is the Founder of JobberTechTalk. As an entrepreneur & founder of multiple companies, he loves discussing technology, company culture, and how to drive the change companies are looking for.