When I ask founders about culture at their company, many start talking about their new ping pong table, free lunches, generous vacation policy, etc. While perks are important to build a culture, it seems that many startups are now confusing perks with culture. Here are a few signs that you are confusing perks with culture:
Your team is unable to differentiate between perks and culture
When you ask your team about the culture of your company, they start talking about karaoke nights, free laundry, etc. This is a sign that company culture hasn't really been discussed with them lately. Your team should ideally talk about things that are rewarded / punished, how you guys go about everyday work, your core values, etc., when asked about culture.
Your HR team is fully responsible for your culture
Culture cannot be off-loaded to a particular team. You as the leader of the organization have to be involved in developing and implementing the culture at your company. You also have to involve your team in developing the culture. If your HR team handles the culture without input from you, it probably means that you are confusing culture with perks or something else.
You spend more time on perks than culture
Another sign is if you / your team spends more time on deciding what perks to offer than on culture elements such as communication, employee feedback, hiring strategy, etc.
You don't ask the "right" questions when hiring
When interviewing job candidates, you don't ask them about their communication style, their values, their motivations, etc. Instead your cultural test is seeing whether or not they dress casually, or if they seem "fun", etc.
The silver lining in all of this is that you do realize that company culture is important, you are not quite sure how to define culture. You can start now and build a true culture that will give your company a great performance boost that will last. Start by doing two things - read the book Tribal Leadership and analyze the basic cultural elements at your company (core values, your criteria for hiring, firing, and promoting).
About the Author: Anshul is the founder of Employee Boost, a Human Capital consultancy that helps organizations attract, engage, and retain top employees.
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