What’s your organizational culture?
Organizational culture is the backbone of the products and services a company offers. It is the core belief system of a business and its employees, covering how they interact with each other, with their product and with the clientele.
You’ve heard the phrase “Culture is king,” but what does it really mean? Your company produces an excellent product or service; that should be enough, shouldn’t it?
It’s not. Not by far. You might have a product that can revolutionize society as we know it, but without the right people behind it, that product will not go far. To gain a place in society – to make an impact – it’s critical to have the right backing and to create something larger than yourself.
Enter organizational culture.
More than free lunches
If you do any sort of job advertisement browsing, you’ve seen references to organizational culture. “Great company culture,” the ads will say. “Ping-pong tournaments on Tuesdays, beer-thirty on Fridays, unlimited PTO.” Those things are a reflection of the company culture, but are not necessarily indicative of the culture itself.
What’s a good organizational culture definition? In short, it’s what a company stands for. What do you believe in your very bones? How far will you go to achieve that? What do you expect of yourself and your employees in order to get there? If you want to make an impact on the world and develop a raving fan base of customers, then you need to start by turning your employees into your most enthusiastic fans of all. A strong organizational culture isn’t just something that makes your employees happy to come to work every day; it’s also the powerful foundation your business needs to achieve massive growth.
How Zappos did it
Today we’re used to buying clothing – and almost everything else – online, but Zappos faced a formidable battle when it appeared on the scene in 1999. How were people supposed to buy shoes online? You couldn’t try them on, couldn’t see how they looked or felt on your feet.
Zappos got around that by delivering on the promise their organizational culture encouraged: They’re a service-based company, not a produce-based company. What matters to them is outstanding employee-customer interactions and employee willingness to go above and beyond for their customers. They also made the decision to embrace and drive change – fostering innovation within the culture itself – and cultivate a fun, familial spirit that didn’t mind if things got a little weird.
That sort of free-spirited, innovative culture led to the secret that gained Zappos millions of raving fans: Free shipping. Yes, you had to buy the shoes to see how they looked on you, but Zappos paid all shipping costs, as well as any return fees for the shoes that didn’t fit. Shoppers had no reason not to give the service a try; at this point, even if the shoes didn’t fit, they were saving the money they’d spend on gas to get to the store.
Zappos takes their promise of excellent service a step further. While most of their orders were completed online, Zappos found that most customers did call in at some point, and thus they trained their phone reps to provide customers with undivided attention. There were no scripts and no upselling; just an absolute willingness to help the customer out, whether they needed to find the perfect pair of shoes for an event or had just experienced a tragedy in the family (the rep in question sent flowers – now that’s real customer service).
By focusing on going above and beyond and building the consumer connection the same way they built familial connections among staff, Zappos leveraged their company culture into a brand that’s still going strong today.
Building organizational culture that lasts
Organizational culture and leadership are thoroughly intertwined, because it’s the leadership that typically decides what the culture will be. Everything your business does is an extension of that culture, beginning with how you treat your employees and ending with how your customers describe their experiences to friends who might not otherwise look at your product or service.
As a leader, one of your first duties – before you even start hiring – should be to decide what your company stands for and what values you want your employees as a group to espouse. These dots create a blueprint you can follow when writing company policies and getting into hiring decisions, as well as guide the direction of your innovation and customer service.
Your organizational culture is your belief system and the backbone of everything you offer. Create a strong one with values you believe in and your business is sure to grow.