At my company, turnstone, which provides furniture for small and emerging businesses, my colleagues and I spend a lot of time talking among ourselves and with customers about culture. We all know it’s important, but what about culture can really be quantified?
Certainly small businesses are concerned about developing and maintaining a vibrant culture. We also try to figure out how to have most impact on improving a corporate culture once it’s been set. In April and May, my company conducted a short survey of 515 small-business owners and managers to answer these questions and examine the role that culture plays at organizations with 100 or fewer employees.
While 90 percent of the survey respondents said that culture was important, the consensus of respondents was that culture really becomes a big deal after the 10th employee is hired. This explains the urgency for getting things right early on.
Furthermore, more than 70 percent of the respondents said they were unsatisfied with their company’s culture. Among areas needing work were employee motivation and collaboration, office amenities and perks, as well as updates to the physical workspace.
The physical environment matters.
Walk into most any company and it's possible to immediately sense what the company is about, who might work there and how they may see themselves. Eight out of 10 respondents said they considered the physical environment of their workplace to be a part of the company culture.
This doesn't just refer to personal working space but also common areas like conference rooms, the kitchen and the reception area. More than a quarter of the respondents said their office's physical environment could use improvement. Less than one-third of the small business owners surveyed provide a variety of workspace options for employees to choose from (sit-to-stand desks, collaborative spaces, lounge areas and private areas). Research by Steelcase, the parent company of my firm, has shown that giving workers choice and control is key to job satisfaction.
Well-being is more than a buzzword and many companies have taken notice. Twenty-two percent of the respondents reported that their employees feel supported to pursue healthy behaviors throughout the day. This involves physical and emotional well-being (feeling comfortable and welcomed in the work environment).
Forty-seven percent of the respondents said they encourage employees to be authentic by letting them bring in a part of their personal lives to the office -- displaying personal items and sharing passions outside of work. Often overlooked, these seemingly small freedoms can pay dividends when it comes to employees' emotional well-being.
Business owners need to take the lead in projecting the type of culture they want for their company and provide employees tools and resources to help them perform at the highest level.
When provided a variety of workspace options, employees can choose stations that best fit their personal work style, which will ultimately make them more comfortable and productive. Letting employees customize their space and share parts of their personal life with co-workers can help them feel connected to the team and increase trust among co-workers. Business owners can send the message that it’s OK for employees to unchain themselves from their desks and break up their routines when they are allowed to do walking meetings or step outside for lunch,
Remember, great culture isn’t something that's monopolized by small or large companies. Culture needs to be nurtured, invested in and be generally consistent with the ethos of the company to be effective. So what’s the best bet for having an impact on a company culture? Be authentic in articulating the vision for the business, and the team will follow this lead.
View turnstone's infographic below: