When you planted the first seed of your budding business, you weren’t just the CEO; you were also the chief culture officer.
And for a while, you performed that role with great enthusiasm. But now, your team is larger, and it’s harder and harder to find time for those meaningful lunches and small group conversations. You can still be the CCO, of course, but the culture can’t live only within you.
That’s because culture doesn’t hinge on a single leader -- or even a leadership team. It must live throughout the entire organization, flourishing organically among people and in the regular interactions they share. Culture is brought to life in a number of ways, and you can ensure culture continues to play a key role no matter how big the company gets by infusing it in everything, from what you praise to how you hire.
Define your culture through praise.
Recognition is a powerful motivator -- multiple studies have positively linked it to increased employee engagement. And when you praise someone, it’s noticed by everyone. Think about what and how you praise, and make sure you’re spotlighting those behaviors you want to encourage.
Of course, performance excellence tops the list. But if your praise is solely performance-based, you’ll breed a performance culture. It will no longer matter how employees achieve results -- as long as they achieve them.
For the greatest results, weave your business goals and company values together to make sure you’re focused on not only what’s accomplished, but also how it’s accomplished. Your values should enable employees to make decisions that not only propel the company forward, but also ensure the company is a place where people want to work.
Related: 3 Ways to Create the Company Culture You Want
Find the talent that best fits your culture.
While praise is important, who is hired will impact your company’s culture most of all. Engaged employees offer your business unprecedented benefits: According to Gallup, highly engaged employees outperform their colleagues by 147 percent in earnings per share. Engaged employees are more passionate and creative.
These are exactly the kind of people you want carrying your legacy on, so determining culture fit from the beginning is crucial. However, ensuring you nab top talent before your competitors do requires a robust recruitment process that attracts skilled, knowledgeable people as well as cultural matches.
To win “best fit” talent who will carry your culture into the future, you must first find people who want to be part of your culture. During the interview, talk about values, work style, beliefs about collaboration and leadership philosophy. Ask specific questions that will extract valuable information about the way they work, including:
How well do you work under pressure?
Describe a time when you did not collaborate effectively. What did you learn from it?
What kind of people do you work best with?
What’s your ideal work environment?
Then, make sure those “best fit” hires enter an environment that embodies the company’s cultural values. Encourage your existing team to welcome and support new teammates at all levels and to demonstrate company values in their words and actions from the get-go.
Related: Company Culture Is Too Important to Leave to Chance
Celebrate shared experiences.
Marking key milestones and celebrating shared experiences helps establish a company culture and ensures it will live on through current and future employees. According to one study conducted at the University of Michigan, even celebrating small companywide wins can provide long-term growth benefits.
We’ve created a number of signature initiatives that not only unify our team, but also underscore our culture. Our company’s Keepers of the Seal program empowers our employees to act as brand ambassadors. Internally, we hold a quarterly Bright Spots meeting, where employees share recent work on behalf of clients as well as best practices and learnings. Once a year, our employees go out into the community to perform random acts of kindness through our Ignite giving program.
Nurturing culture both inside and outside the office can pay long-term dividends for any company. Recognizing performance, shared experiences and values will enable your organization to grow in a healthy and sustainable manner for years to come.
*Originally published in Entrepreneur