How To Build A Company Culture That Drives Productivity

Have you ever wondered how to really improve your team’s productivity? If you’re past the point of trying to fix workflows and test new tools, then this article is for you. It will teach you how culture impacts productivity and what you can change in your organization to build a team of productive, results-driven professionals.

Photo by Andreas Klassen on Unsplash

Every organization has its own unique set of beliefs, values, and attitudes. These form the organization’s culture. It can be well documented and intentionally formed, or it may be the result of an organic evolution. Some companies are born with a great culture, others craft it in time. Some cultures are made out of attitudes and values that foster productivity, others hinder it.

Culture is relevant only when people embrace it

Most leaders are aware of the fact that their organization needs a culture code. Something morally positive, empowering, and uplifting. Something that would explain why the company exists in the first place and what values and beliefs it stands for.
Here’s an example of how a great set of values looks like:

  • Integrity 
  • Communication 
  • Respect 
  • Excellence

These are actually the values written in the culture code of Enron, a company whose leaders went to jail and which went bankrupt from fraud. Obviously, there were other things that were valued more at Enron 😀
So, it’s not enough to put some empty words on a paper that you hang on the office walls or publish on your website. These words must have a meaning, and the meaning must be embraced by the people who are part of that team. Only then, words are the foundation of culture.

The art of building a great culture

For a startup, it’s relatively easy to establish the desired culture. The founder(s) have to look at their own personal values and start building on that. No matter how many new people they bring on board, they always need to make sure that the newcomers embrace the core values and practice what they preach. Culture-fit should be an important checkpoint in the hiring process, otherwise the company risks diverting from its initial plan.
For an established company, the situation is a bit more complicated. There are a couple of important steps to take. First, recognize the problem of productivity and tackle it. What attitude does not foster productivity? What mindset needs to be changed? This will allow you to define your company’s culture today – not the one written on the website, but the real one that people live by every day.
Make sure you’re not being judgmental. Instead, look at business failures as patterns of behavior. Recognize those patterns and you’ll be able to define the existing culture.
The next step is to articulate the values you aspire to. Make sure everyone in your organization knows about them, understands them, and believes in them. The last part is, of course, the most difficult one to track. You can, however, take measures to see that the new culture is implemented.

For example, is transparency your aspired value? Be as open as possible about everything that is “taboo”. At Hubgets, we’ve implemented transparency through a challenging performance system based on belts. Kind of like in karate. Everybody knows what belt anyone else has, what steps they need to take to reach the next milestone. Both the path and the important details along the way are clear and available for everyone.
Do you want excellence? Reward excellent results. Not effort. Nor time spent with the company.
You get my point.

Find the inspiration to make the right change

In a Harvard Business Review article, author John Coleman talks about six essential components of culture that all successful companies have in common. If you’re looking to build a productivity-driven team, use them as a guideline to make sure you hit all the right spots.
1. Vision: Just look at the most successful companies around the world. They all have a clear definition of their vision and mission. Apple wants to challenge the status quo through technology. Netflix has more than a vision, they are on a “quest” to becoming the best global entertainment distribution service. Bosch wants to improve the quality of life through its products and help conserve natural resources.The vision and mission work as a compass for them whenever they have to make a decision, big or small.

“It’s not what you do; it’s why you do it that’s important – Howard Schulz, Starbucks CEO

2. Values: They are the core of a successful company’s culture and they derive from the vision. To understand the relationship between values and vision, think of them this way: the vision articulates the company’s reason for existing, while the values offer a set of guidelines on the behaviors and mindsets needed to achieve that vision.
Recommended reading: The Little Book of IDEO | A beautifully designed book for everyone to better understand the company’s values
3. Practices: Of course, values are worth next to nothing if they are not put into practice. Next to the founders, everybody in the company has to fully embrace the values and show in what they do.
4. People: No company can thrive without people willing to embrace and act on its core values. Look again at successful companies, and you’ll see a deep interest in recruiting and retaining top employees. They are also ruthless when it comes to cutting out the mediocre and the negative people.

“We’re a team, not a family. We’re like a pro sports team, not a kid’s recreational team. Netflix leaders hire, develop, and cut smartly, so we have stars in every position” –  extract from Netflix Culture Code

Recommended reading: How to Help New Team Members Fit In and Deliver Fast
5. Narrative: Any organization has a unique history — a unique story. For a company that has been around for ages, that story might look like an enchanting page from a history book. Guinness does a wonderful job at telling its story in a unique, visually delightful way. Other companies, like Apple, use a different kind of story. Steve Jobs used his personal history and life lessons like his fascination for calligraphy that shaped the aesthetically oriented culture of his company.
6. Place: Have you ever wondered why open space offices have taken over in the past decade? Of course, there are numerous answers, but one of them is proximity. Being close to colleagues and peers clearly impacts the values and behaviors of people in a workplace.

Practice what you preach

In my opinion, vision and practice are the most important factors in building a great culture. The more obvious and powerful the mission, the more people will love to live by it. At the same time, practicing the company’s values will come naturally.
Many founders do a great job at establishing the right values at the very beginning of the company, yet lose control once the team gets bigger. When new people step in, they bring new values, most often diluting the initial intention. That’s why it is very important for founders to be aware of what their actions say about their values, every single step of the way. If they lead by example, the new hires will find it easier to adopt the culture and build on top of it.
What do you think about this article? Use the comments section below to share your opinion about the link that exists between productivity and culture.


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  • This article was well written and to the point. I found your points to valid and honest. I too find culture to be a very important part of our mind, body and soul. If you read Vygotsky’s theory , Zone of Approximal Development, ” Language and culture are the frameworks through which humans experience, communicate, and understand reality.” Vygotsky’s theory is basically saying we only learn and thrive where we are culturally relevant. In conclusion, a business environment is essential to productivity!

    Jean Leonard 7 years ago Reply

    • Hi, Jean! Thank you for your feedback. I really appreciate it <3
      I loved what you pointed out in your comment, that “we only learn and thrive where we are culturally relevant”. I completely agree that a great culture doesn’t only help teams and companies flourish, but us, as individuals. When we’re in the right environment we learn more, we perform better – we simply become better people.

      Irina Nica 7 years ago Reply

  • I plan to bring my own harmonious values into any group that I join. This makes it easier to assimilate to the values already in place without creating any kind of conflict.
    Confliction occurs when a new set of values are introduced with a lack of flexibility. Instead, empathy by the newcomer should trump any rigidity that they may have with their own values.

    Bill Walker 7 years ago Reply

    • Bill, I see you come in peace 😀
      Great attitude! Thanks for the comment.

      Irina Nica 7 years ago Reply

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