Marilyn Sinclair GETTING STARTED

The ups and downs of getting going in business

Happiness in the workplace

Why your culture might be worth more than the best business plan

CULTURE HAS BEEN long celebrated, but is a misunderstood term in business. In recent years, what was previously considered ?job perks? have become expectations in emerging companies. While every company should have its unique expression of culture, there?s a lot more to it than open concept office spaces, flex work, corporate yoga, nap pods, standing desks, catered lunches, self-care allowances, office pets, foosball tournaments, innovation, or ?20%? time. Culture begins at the top. Whether intentional or not, it?s often a founder?s entrepreneurial values that trickle down and directly influence a company?s culture, setting what can be a longstanding, though possibly less strategic, standard within the organization. Whether collaborative, competitive, conservative, risk-averse or riskembracing, every business has its unique mix of drivers and values, that defines the people they hire. It will also prescribe the goals they set and how they manage to them. When an employee loves what they do and wants to go to work every morning, it will show in their results. This common piece of wisdom is deceivingly simple. American research and consulting leader, Gallup, has found that a staggering 87 per cent of employees worldwide are not engaged in their workplace environment. This is because culture is not merely about what feels right, but what is needed to grow. When employees understand why you exist and buy-in to your mission, vision, and values, they will be more satisfied, more motivated, and better able to deliver on your brand promise. Intentional cultural development is what allows some companies to easily outperform their peers, at a rate of 147 per cent in earnings per share according to Gallup. Online retailer Zappos is one example of a company that understands this. With a first interview dedicated entirely to cultural fit, and carrying half the weight in an actual job offer, it?s safe to say the company takes its culture seriously. All new hires, no matter what their job description is, spend their first couple weeks in the call centre learning about the Zappos customer and the essence of the brand. After they?ve logged their call centre hours, Zappos offers each trainee $2,000 to leave the company if they don?t feel that Zappos is the right fit for them. Zappos recognizes that their employees are their greatest ambassadors and want a team that is committed to the goals, culture, and values of the organization, right from the beginning. This approach has paid off. With annual revenues more than $2 billion and 75 per cent of sales from repeat customers, it appears that Zappos employees work, live, and breathe the company?s core values. Satisfied employees, who are brought in and coached to attain the knowledge, goals and tools to create an exceptional customer experience, are worth as much as the best business plan. To achieve these goals an intentional focus on culture has to begin at the beginning and not you?re your company has matured. This includes a direct link from your strategy to your culture to your hiring practices, and to your performance management systems. Marilyn Sinclair is president & CEO of TechAlliance, the regional innovation centre for London and Southwestern Ontario. 8 | | SEPTEMBER 2017

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