There’s a big misconception that culture in the tech/startup scene is all about foosball and in-office kegs. With some of the biggest names in technology flaunting on-campus spas, insane perks, and on-site entertainment, it’s easy to see why it was easy for tech culture to become massively stereotyped.
I think it’s worth saying that there are companies out there that disguise bad culture and work environments with gimmicks. Fortunately you’ll find that many companies benefits and perks are a result of the companies culture and values, not the cause.
And this is where we get to the “meat” of the situation, tech culture often comes down to a companies values and how it instills them.
It’s easy to see how some companies values differ, while some have give back programs, others have neon “RAGE” hats. I bet you can guess which company has the higher employee turnover.
When coming up with a companies values I think it is helpful to return to the core values that can be expected of all employees of a company (from C-level exec’s down to inters).
People in the company accepting other people’s values, ideas, beliefs, and personalities. Employees who do not feel accepted are less likely to provide ideas and partake in discussions. Diversity breeds success.
Providing the resources to help employees become leaders and decision makers within the company (ensuring scalability of growth for both the employees and the company). An ideal scenario is when every employee can find opportunities, asses risks, and feel confident in making decisions and backing those decisions up with the “why”.
Working for the good of everyone, training people out of the “power grab” mindset between departments, builds a mindset of making decisions that are best for the company and it’s employees as a whole.
Ensuring there are ways for people to mingle, talk, ideate, and socialize cross-company (even globally). Encourage cross-departmental social and work activities, lunches, and cross department teams.
From a technology standpoint, ensure that your company has a diverse array of communication tools for both work and social communications.
Providing a mindset that embraces learning (even through failure) to remove fear from decision making, and allowing employees to seek help and advice when things get tough.
Providing open communication with leadership, mentor programs, educational tools, open-door policies, and ensuring that managers work with their subordinates can help in a big way. Supported staff bring more to the table, and are more successful decision makers.
Things never get better if mistakes or problems are covered up internally. Honesty allows better decisions and learning through the company as a whole.
Promoting honesty in a company goes hand in hand with good management. People who made mistakes, or the wrong decision should not be punished unless it was done with malice, or a repeated incompetence.
In most cases mistakes can be a way to learn for all people involved in a project, but one thing is for certain.
Nothing is gained when a mistake is covered up, and in the long run it can do more harm.
Bringing it all Together
Quite a few of these overlap, and most (if not all) of these are complementary, but I feel like all of these values are essential to building a successful tech culture.
Companies that push a cultural image but do it in a self-serving way, or only apply these values at lower tiers of the company, are far more likely to have cultural problems no matter what gimmicks they provide to increase employee happiness as a whole.
Successful companies are often focused on employee success. By providing a supportive, trustworthy, and educational environment for all employees of a company you’ll see a positive company culture blossom.
One thing is certain though, all levels of a business need to be held to the companies values. Failure at the top can be disastrous, and turn powerful company values, in to a company joke.
I’d love to know what peoples thoughts are on this, did I miss something? Do you think some of these values are non-essential?