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5 tips to take your startup’s culture to the next level

Every employee has the opportunity to contribute to the organization’s culture.

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5 tips to take your startup's culture to the next level

At startups, executives and employees alike have the benefit — and challenge — of moulding their own company culture. Do it right with these tips.

People often talk about a “company’s culture,” but how many people really know what that means?

Renowned MIT management professor Edgar Schein, for one, has done a lot of thinking on the subject. He believes that a company’s culture can be broken up into three categories: artefacts, values, and tacit assumptions. “Artifacts” are collective characteristics of a company that can be easily viewed and felt by employees (i.e. dress code); “values” are characteristics that employees and managers would say the company strives toward (i.e. loyalty); tacit assumptions are the elements of the company’s culture that are unseen — and hard to express — in interactions between workers (i.e. the general assumption that asking your co-workers to hang out after work would be viewed as unprofessional).

Together, artefacts, values, and tacit assumptions create a company’s culture, which is more commonly — and simply — defined as “how work gets done.” These elements affect a company at every level: if the culture is welcoming, supportive, and promotes clearly defined expectations, then it will make it easier for people on all levels of the organization to buy in. And when everyone is onboard, the company will be better positioned to achieve its overarching goals.

At small companies, every employee — from entry level workers to the C-suite — has the opportunity to contribute to the organization’s culture. Below are five tips to take your startup’s culture to the next level.

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Define your purpose

In order to foster a vibrant startup culture, you must first clearly articulate your organization’s vision for moving forward, and ensure that all employees know and understand this mission. Employees who connect with an organization’s vision on a personal level will be incentivized to remain loyal to your startup and personally contribute to its growth.

Promote diversity and inclusion

Prioritizing diversity and inclusion at your startup is perhaps the best way to prevent a group think culture — in which people feel afraid to take risks or voice dissent — from forming. A healthy culture is one that not only welcomes people from all backgrounds, with all types of ideas but also grants them a sense of belonging. In diverse and inclusive startup environments, creativity, collaboration, and innovation are all able to thrive. Go above and beyond to ensure that inclusion is maintained at every level of your organization, and allocate resources to support diversity initiatives.

Provide ample development opportunities

Employees should always feel like they are learning and honing new skills, and an appealing culture for employees is one in which managers and executives foster that growth. If you want employees to invest in your startup, then you must make them feel like you are investing in them.

Train managers on how to give constructive feedback, and ensure that fluid communication is happening across all levels of your organization. By showing employees that they have a future at your company, they will be motivated to buy into your culture, long-term.

5 tips to take your startup's culture to the next level

People want to come to work, understand their jobs, and know how their work contributes to the success of the organization. (Source)

Always make space for communication

In a healthy startup environment, channels of communication are always open and accessible. Encourage leaders, managers, and individual employees to regularly engage in honest and transparent conversations. This communication should go both ways: employees should be given consistent feedback, and they should also feel comfortable voicing their concerns. Millennials value transparency in their leaders more than any other generation. Create forums for both casual and formal conversation, and make sure everyone feels encouraged to express themselves.

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Engage your employees

John Baldoni, an internationally recognized executive coach and leadership educator, defines employee engagements as such: “People want to come to work, understand their jobs, and know how their work contributes to the success of the organization.”

Beyond helping employees buy into your startup’s mission, executives and managers can monitor employee engagement levels on a more tangible level through surveys and focus groups. Organizing fun social events is another crucial way to boost engagement and company rapport.

DISCLAIMER: This article expresses my own ideas and opinions. Any information I have shared are from sources that I believe to be reliable and accurate. I did not receive any financial compensation in writing this post, nor do I own any shares in any company I’ve mentioned. I encourage any reader to do their own diligent research first before making any investment decisions.

As COO, Remy directs all internal and client-facing operations for L&T Co., a brand publishing company with offices in New York City and St. Louis. A founding member of the Columbia University Startup Lab, Remy has overseen the precipitous growth of L&T's full-time staff and client base since joining the company in 2014.

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