Company culture is as important to the long-term success of your business as the product you sell and the service you provide. With the right philosophy and approach, you can create a workplace that helps your team perform to their maximum potential, which in turn helps give your business the tools it needs to succeed.
The most common mistake you’re likely to make when planning out your business’s ethos is emphasizing performance. Tony Schwartz, CEO of The Energy Project and author of “The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working,” writes in Harvard Business Review that a performance-based culture might not return the desired results, instead creating strife in the workplace and not allowing your team the opportunity to grow both together and individually. As a counter to performance culture, you can instead focus on building up your strengths with a growth culture.
Why growth cultures work
According to Schwartz, an effective growth culture borrows from what MIT Sloan School of Management Senior Lecturer Peter Senge calls a learning organization. A learning organization and a growth culture both share an interest in focusing on “intellectually oriented issues such as knowledge and expertise.” Growth culture expands on this idea is by delving deeper into the individual, placing as much emphasis on the feelings of each team member.
“In a growth culture, people build their capacity to see through blind spots; acknowledge insecurities and shortcomings rather than unconsciously acting them out; and spend less energy defending their personal value so they have more energy available to create external value,” Schwartz writes.
As such, RolePoint Co-Founder and Head of Product Kes Thygesen writes for Entrepreneur that your business’s mission statement, vision and values should reflect this focus. An example of this would be making transparency a core value. This encourages openness within the company, empowers employees to speak up and outwardly projects to potential partners and investors that yours is a business focused on continual improvement.
As Schwartz points out, this also staves off creating the kind of destructive internal conflict that a performance culture might breed. By valuing the growth of each employee, failure becomes an opportunity for individual and shared improvement instead of a means of creating a pecking order.
How to make growth culture work
As is the case with implementing any change, building a growth culture requires time and effort on all fronts. Schwartz writes that there are four key components around which a growth culture should be built: creating a safe environment, focusing on continual learning, conducting experiments with new behaviors and processes to confirm their effectiveness and constantly providing constructive feedback.
Because your values reflect a focus on growth at a company-wide level, the process of creating the culture must involve your employees. Thygesen suggests engaging your employees by involving them in strategy creation, seeking out their feedback wherever possible and necessary and ensuring that they feel that they are being heard. This not only ensures that you are practicing what you preach, but it also keeps your team happy and involved, which has a transitive impact on your customers.
It is also important that you begin hiring with growth in mind. Prospective employees should know what kind of culture they are being brought into, which is why Thygesen recommends creating specific job descriptions that explain your values and ask for candidates to be open to taking on new responsibilities and duties.
Thygesen also suggests implementing a behavioral interview that gauges and interviewee’s level of comfort with learning new skills or being put in a situation that might be otherwise uncomfortable (e.g., putting an introvert in front of a packed room for a presentation). You can also find more attractive candidates by creating a referral program and encouraging existing employees to reach out to anyone that they feel would be a good fit. If your cultural shift has been successful, your happy employees will be the best stewards of your vision.
Changing your company’s culture to focus on growth can provide greater benefits than emphasizing performance, particularly if you are seeking a fully cooperative workplace environment. Consider this approach if you feel that yours is too results driven, and you may find that an energized and empowered workforce was the answer you needed all along.