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Technical co-founder of Printify, a print on demand network to help merchants make more money in a simple and easy way.
There’s a modern consensus that a company’s culture is important. But while there are undeniable effects of this concept, the idea itself is less clearly defined. However, the notion of “good” culture is traditionally understood as a company that experiences low staff turnover and high employee motivation (or productivity).
Any dissatisfied worker could quit and would need to be replaced — a process that requires time and resources. Because all employees require a significant investment from an enterprise, it behooves leadership to nurture its relationship with its employees, so it becomes a mutually beneficial arrangement.
Once upon a time, organizations cultivated their culture through personal interaction, workplace gatherings, events and other means of socialization. Recently, these traditional methods have become more difficult to enact.
As it stands, many employees find themselves facing an unchanging screen at home — far from the communal interactions that workplaces used to provide. Without these nurturing influences, the result is a growing feeling of alienation from places of employment. Some surveys point to as high as 83% of remote employees feeling disconnected.
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Lessons From Our Approach To Aligning The Company
While there is data to support the importance of culture, the phenomenon itself is intangible, and the goal at my own company became: to define the indefinable.
While we were smaller (under 50 employees), it was fairly simple to monitor and control the direction of company culture. However, we’ve since scaled to over 400 employees in the past three years. With such a pace of growth, it became difficult to direct the workplace ethos without slipping into the horror of micromanagement.
To our thinking, culture wasn’t something to be imposed on the members of Printify. Instead, the idea was to build a pool of thought from the collective audience and then to distill those concepts into a mutually agreeable, actionable vision.
To keep the entire company aware, involved and on the same page, we devised a five-step system for gathering effective information, which you may find useful in defining your company’s culture:
• Involve everyone. Culture is experienced universally. As valuable components of Printify, each and every employee was invited to contribute their thoughts, feelings and suggestions.
• Validate and add meaning. With a wealth of raw data to utilize, team leads could go through the various information to look for patterns, trends and commonalities.
• Go deeper. With the identification of several prominent factors, those aspects can be tested. If an acceptable degree of support and evidence coincides with the suggestion, then it can move forward.
• Improve the customer experience. With a fledgling cultural component starting to take shape, it is weighed against the fundamental purpose of Printify: to serve the customer. The idea must correlate with improving some form of the customer experience to be valid.
• Clarify. With a strong base to build from, we move from “what” to “how.” Here, the task is to define where an idea comes from, what it means, how it can be defined, potential reactions and how it could be displayed from personal/team levels.
At the end of these stages of deliberation, we were able to clearly define several prominent themes. The elements that made it through these filters stand as Printify’s four core values:
• The customer is our compass.
• We strive for excellence.
• We don’t know it all. We learn it all.
• We play to win together.
These distillations currently serve as unifying, guiding principles within the company. Their utility and practicality are ingrained because everyone can take ownership of their creation. But, from these markers, we can further isolate desired attributes, behaviors and see how those outcomes affect business as a whole.
Lastly, we’ve used these initiatives to streamline recruiting efforts. Indeed, these pillars have assisted in selecting job candidates, not just for possessing appropriate skills but also for meeting cultural standards.
For a company to lead with culture, that culture must be clearly understood. Rather than being “invented,” it’s more important to clearly define it.