As we discussed in a recent article on the importance of the corporate playbook, articulating and living out a distinct corporate culture is the key to ensuring that a company not only attracts like-minded people, but that it retains them by providing them with a purpose that goes far beyond the paycheck.
While it may sound elementary, this really begins with the corporate playbook, which transcends the company handbook to articulate core values, company goals and, ultimately, the culture that an employee would be joining.
In order to accomplish this, it’s important that management take a long hard look at the qualities they want to see in their employees, articulate those qualities and spell out what it takes for employees to succeed based on those qualities.
Uncovering And Defining The Qualities You’re Seeking
The key to creating a high-performance culture is outstanding hires. Management needs to determine what inherent qualities and skill sets employees should bring and what they need to attract those employees. Keep in mind that not only might a biotech company need different skill sets than a retailer, but one biotech company may need different qualities than another. It’s not just the industry driving the requirements but also the “something special” about each company. You need to define the qualities that matter most to your own organization, and seek employees who are:
• Resolutely accountable for their actions.
• Well-organized and prepared for a wide range of potential situations.
• Committed to investing personal time to hone skills.
• Critical thinkers who always believe more can be accomplished.
• Passionate people whose energy is contagious.
As senior management, when you understand what you want to see in employees and what those employees want in an employer, you can put in place things that can attract and retain like-minded teams — teams that can also be comprised of diverse individuals.
Yet, the individual qualities described above are only part of the equation. With the right team on board, management needs to actively instill a corporate culture that demonstrably values — through the use of benefits and incentives — key factors needed to succeed. Putting these in place is critical, but it’s also important to keep in mind that while people work to earn a paycheck, they will leave a well-paying job if their emotional needs are not met. The playbook sets up an environment that can help them get (and stay) on a path to grow emotionally and intellectually, as well as financially.
Articulating The Expectations
While communicating the intangible elements that become corporate culture is best served by actions instead of words, it’s still important to clearly articulate core company values, vision and beliefs for two reasons. The first is to weed out those who don’t belong. As an extreme example, Zappos famously pays new employees to quit if, after a week or so, they realize it’s a bad fit.
The second reason is to make sure every employee understands what’s expected of them and how those expectations relate to the bigger picture. In fact, it’s more important than ever to help employees feel a sense of connectivity to something bigger so that they feel they matter. Because the truth is, for startups especially, every hire truly matters.
So, how can companies turn a basic handbook into a playbook?
It starts by thoughtfully outlining the company’s vision, core values and objectives so every employee, from intern to CEO, understands what the company is all about and how they fit in. The playbook should also describe what the company isn’t. This may include being process-driven, ordinary, hierarchical or exclusionary. (Sometimes management assumes everyone is on the same page; however, when it comes to corporate objectives, that’s not always the case.)
The playbook drives a set of behaviors for the organization. It drives corporate values that work in tandem with the corporate goals and objectives and can then be used to set personal objectives for every individual employee and further define measurements for every team member’s success.
By also understanding what traits are frowned upon, employees get a good grasp of what is acceptable. And by defining the company’s vision, values, beliefs and expectations (as opposed to simply listing HR policies), the playbook not only helps new team members know what type of company they’re joining; it also helps current employees stay motivated and on track.
Coupled with corporate goals and objectives, which set forth where the company is going, the playbook provides a road map of how to get there and fuels capabilities to achieve results. It should not be an afterthought or considered a nice-to-do. The well-constructed and thoughtful playbook ensures a high probability for alignment. It is a must-have, especially in the early stages, when competition against much bigger companies for talent is a force with which to be reckoned.
There’s no question that the competition for talented, good individuals is fierce, regardless of the industry. Companies compete on salary, benefits, lifestyle and a myriad of other factors. But defining and sharing a corporate playbook that paints a picture of everything the company stands for can go a long way in eliminating any surprises and fostering a culture of success.
Stay tuned for the next and final article in the series, which will share ideas about how to promote and grow your culture once it’s been defined and articulated through the corporate playbook.