Create A "Small Company" Culture Anywhere

What is it about small companies? Like a good restaurant or an undiscovered band, they often tend to attract a devoted following that can’t imagine going anywhere else.

Is it the quality of work? The people? The hours? The pay? What is that magical difference that makes small companies so attractive to top talent?

Does Size Matter?

The secret is culture. A strong company culture unites employees and gives them a larger purpose beyond their individual responsibilities. That’s why employees — especially Millennials — gravitate toward start-ups. They crave that “small-company” feel and want the chance to make an impact on culture.

That’s great news if your company is one of the little guys. But what if you’re at a large corporation? How can you offer employees the chance to make an impact if a reputation for process and procedure precedes you? Rules aren’t all bad, of course; structure helps turn chaos into order. But all too often when companies grow, they sacrifice cultural strengths along the way. What to do?

In today’s tough business environment, as large companies struggle to recruit, retain, and inspire top talent, you can’t afford to miss the cultural mark. Instead, why not approach culture as an ace up your sleeve?

Sustainable Advantage

A strong corporate culture can create a huge competitive edge. Driven by organizational values, business objectives, and employee engagement, it aligns your employees, creates fluid communication, and helps build resiliency that adapts to change. If you develop a unique, authentic culture, your employees can reap the benefits of a “small-company” feel, while driving “big-company” results that advance your business goals.

Want the best of both worlds? Here are 5 tips to create a unique culture:

1) Develop corporate values to align employees with business objectives and the bigger picture. Employees need to be inspired by something greater than themselves, so help them understand how their contributions affect the overall strategy.

2) Create a recognition program to reinforce behaviors that drive results. By consolidating recognition efforts with an online program, geographically dispersed employees feel more connected with your company. Recognition helps reinforce company culture — not the other way around.

3) Abolish the top-down hierarchy that’s typical at most corporations, and encourage leaders to be more approachable. When it’s clear that leaders are listening, it facilitates communication and creates an environment where employees feel free to voice their opinions. Host “lunch-and-learn” sessions or fireside chats where leaders and employees can discuss topics in an open, informal environment. Soliciting employee feedback often yields insights that help organizations operate more efficiently and effectively.

4) Let employees know their contributions matter. In “10 Reasons Your Top Talent Will Leave You,” leadership consultant Mike Myatt noted that more than 70% of employees don’t feel valued by their employers. You can turn this around in your company by introducing public recognition into your culture. Create monthly luncheons to recognize top performers. Encourage leaders to recognize employees during team meetings. These are simple steps that can make a big difference.

5) Reconsider “years of service” programs that aren’t tied to business objectives or employee engagement. Annual feedback doesn’t cut it anymore. Ideally, employees should receive recognition or feedback at least once a week, yet almost 60% of employees say that doesn’t happen. Create a positive culture of reinforced behaviors by introducing frequent feedback to complement the annual review.

Beyond The Basics

Don’t stop with only 5 steps! While these tips will put you on the right path, you won’t gain that “small-company” feel without also recognizing that culture happens organically, over time. Ultimately, your people will create your culture. Give them the freedom to express themselves. Commit to an evolving process, and see how your culture takes shape.

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