Good company culture is the backbone of success and that’s because companies that create an environment that fosters active engagement more consistently retain talent and produce higher quality work.
So, what produces good company culture? What aspects of a company’s environment create the ideal workplace and foster both individual and organizational success? This answer is going to be slightly different for every company.
Gil Allouche, Co-Founder and CEO of Metadata.io, wrote in Forbes that a good company culture is “genuine, valued and meaningful.” While this may differ in other organizations, what should remain the same is that healthy company culture that is continually cultivated and maintained.
In the world of advertising, workplace culture has a direct impact on the quality of work and the success of campaigns. Poor company culture is felt, not only by employees, but by clients and sometimes target audiences, who notice the lower quality work often produced in toxic environments.
What is company culture
Ben Horowitz, author of The Hard Thing about Hard Things, defines company culture as “how people react when you’re not in the room.” This means looking at the decisions that are made by an organization or its employees instinctively. The decisions made without conscious consideration.
These out of room decisions impact equity, involvement, and balance – all critical aspects of good company culture. When one of these three pillars fail, it is a sure sign of weak company culture.
For instance, many organizations fail to create equity within their workplaces. This is often subtly felt by team members through the words and actions they hear and see on a daily basis.
Women are one group that frequently experiences these inequities, often facing double standards in the workplace. These double standards create a rift that makes it difficult, if not impossible, for these employees to reach their full potential or to contribute as impactfully to their workplace.
The other pillars mentioned, balance and involvement, can be harder to quantify. But, at their core, they relate to the ability of an organization to create an energizing atmosphere that gives all of its team members the freedom to express their ideas.
This balanced environment is essential for making team members feel at ease and to feel confident giving their work their all without fear of failure.
Why company culture matters
Culture matters for several reasons. First and foremost, because people matter. The people that make up an organization feel the impact of good culture and this undercurrent leads to higher productivity, better quality work, and lower turnover. Likewise, bad company culture has the opposite effect.
According to Holly Corbett, a Forbes contributor covering bias and workplace equity, “37% of women leaders have had a coworker receive credit for their idea, compared to 27% of men leaders, and women leaders are two times as likely as men leaders to be mistaken for someone more junior.” This is an example of the micro-aggressions that women continue to experience in the workplace.
These gender discrepancies are a problem and cause many talented women to leave workplaces in what Corbett dubbed the “Great Breakup.” There was also a “heightened awareness about the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace during the pandemic,” according to Corbett, and this awareness hasn’t gone away.
Another reason to push for better company culture is to avoid burnout. Burnout kills productivity – and it can also cost a company valued team members.
Burnout is described as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job, and reduced professional efficacy” by The World Health Organization and can be avoided with good work-life balance. In doing so, companies will retain talent and produce stronger work – finding greater success without all the stress.
What can be done?
Women already do more unpaid labor at home when compared to their male peers. While on the surface this isn’t a workplace issue, it is an issue that is seeping into the workplace. Women are now also found to more frequently conduct unpaid DEI labor in the workplace. Women aren’t the only demographic to have their personal stake in DEI taken advantage of, with similar patterns also being felt by racialized and disabled communities.
Failure to compensate affected groups for this work, or to create balance in assigning this work, only amplifies inequities and as a result worse company culture, rather than bettering it.
This is also just one example of inequity experienced in the workplace. Racialized groups, those with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQ+ community face additional issues that need to be appropriately addressed in order to create an environment where all can thrive.
Transparency is crucial for healthy company culture. Communication creates trust and with the trust of your team you can build success and encourage enthusiastic participation.
Kristen Oliver, Chief Empowerment Officer at illumin, says that “an important component of communication is psychological safety, the implied permission to be yourself, offer feedback and have challenging conversations without feeling one is risking their job or level of acceptance within the team or company.”
By sharing updates, addressing company-wide issues openly, and celebrating the wins (small and large) organizations can make employees feel more like a team member and less like a number. Additionally, employees are more likely to stay at a company they feel prioritizes honesty.
Kristen has also found that “focusing on a psychological safety KPI at illumin this year has opened many conversations around the benefits of having a safe culture in which to work. Through training designed from survey feedback, we have been able to consistently grow this effort, making a positive impact on team and company culture.”
Invest in talent
Personal growth and development are valuable benefits and strong leaders provide so much more than a salary. Employees bring so much to their organizations and by cultivating an environment that encourages growth, leaders can build a devoted team.
Leaders can do this by spending one-on-one time with employees and working to understand their goals and motivations. It is also important to collaborate in order to create a plan for achieving personal and team-wide goals. Work to empower talent to bring their best selves to work with support, prioritizing the best interests of employees.
Encourage work-life balance
Work-life balance is essential for long-term success of individual team members and organizations as a whole. Companies that fail to create balance risk losing valued talent to burnout.
The highest producers can often be secretly struggling – sacrificing too much of their life. These workers cannot sustain this workload forever, and instead feeling the minor loss of a more balanced work schedule, companies risk feeling the major loss of a resignation.
Work-life balance also allows team members to come to work with the best mindset and the highest energy, resulting in the best possible quality of work.
In the realm of advertising, workplace culture plays a significant role in shaping the quality of work and the success of campaigns. A negative company culture affects not just employees, but also clients and sometimes target audiences, who can observe the subpar work often generated in toxic environments. By creating a healthy culture, organizations build an environment that supports the best quality of work and the greatest possible growth.