Every company has a culture – good or bad. However, building a strong company culture that leaders and employees will get behind requires time, effort and collaboration. According to Erica Javellana, speaker of the house at Zappos Insights, all the hard work is worth it. In fact, there is a return on investment (ROI) on company culture: “Companies with strong company culture have engaged and happy employees, and happy employees help drive productivity and brand strength.”

Inversely, companies suffer when a clear mission and culture is not defined or adhered to. So, how can your organization define, establish and uphold its culture? Javellana shares insights and best practices gleaned from Zappos’ journey toward a strong company culture.

Look to Your Employees

When beginning the journey to defining and establishing your company’s culture, look first to your employees. Your employees are the backbone of your culture, and, in order to embrace it, they must play a role in defining it.

Your employees’ shared values will inform the definition of your company’s culture. By consulting employees across all levels and departments, your culture becomes representative of your company’s people. Zappos included its employees in the process of developing its company’s 10 core values. “These values define what we want our culture to be,” Javellana says. “[Our culture] really became the foundation for every business decision we make and every interaction we have with our guests, our customers, our vendors and each other.”

If employees are excluded from the development process, they will not adhere to the culture. Let your employees share what is most important to them in the workplace, and watch your culture begin to grow with its people.

Hire for a Culture Fit

A strong company culture doesn’t end with identifying the core values of your workforce. That is only the beginning. Once you have defined your culture, you must infuse it into everything your company does, including hiring. Javellana notes that Zappos upholds the company culture during the hiring process by “making sure [it hires] for a culture fit and not just a technical fit.”

By hiring for a culture fit, Zappos is able to reduce turnover and retain talent. The company goes so far as to offer its new hires a month’s salary to quit at the end of the onboarding process if they feel the job is not a fit. While that may seem like a bold move on Zappos’ part, it hires for culture fit so effectively that fewer than 1% of new hires accept the offer.

Hiring for a technical fit is important. However, by ensuring your hiring process emphasizes culture, your organization will be able to retain talent and bring on new hires who are passionate about your company’s mission and core values.

Commit to the Culture

Now that employees at all levels have defined your culture, and you’ve ensured that your incoming employees fit that culture, Javellana notes that the real difficulty comes in maintaining and committing to the culture. “You can define what you want your culture to be, but the true challenge lies in the commitment to the culture,” Javellana says. “It doesn’t work if only certain areas or departments believe in the company’s culture. It has to be everyone’s commitment and responsibility to maintain the culture.”

At Zappos, L&D professionals play an integral role in upholding culture by consistently providing training and development opportunities. One of Zappos’ core values is the pursuit of growth and learning. Javellana (and Zappos) recognize, “One of the top reasons employees quit their jobs is because they aren’t growing and developing.” All teams and departments represent the Zappos culture, but the L&D team is instrumental in upholding the culture by providing ample learning opportunities.

Employees and leaders must constantly consider whether their actions support the organization’s core values. However, if they played a role in the development of the culture or were hired based on their compatibility with your culture, committing to culture will come naturally.

A strong company culture fuels your organization’s success. When you’ve clearly established your culture, employees come to work with a sense of purpose and ready to deliver on your company’s mission. By identifying your company’s core values and living them on a daily basis, your organization can achieve sustainable and meaningful growth.

For more insights on company culture from Zappos Insights’ speaker of the house, Erica Javellana, attend her keynote presentation at this year’s TICE!

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