By Annie Weckesser, CMO + People at Uniphore
Company Culture Makes the Difference
The business landscape is littered with companies that have a great idea and great products or they have strong funding and a pedigreed leadership team… and yet, they don’t achieve broad success or worse, they fail. Why? It comes down to an often-overlooked, yet vitally important part of a company: its culture.
A company’s culture shares similarities with every person’s unique personality. In the same way as individual ambitions, interests and goals are shaped by people’s personalities, every company’s expectations, processes and values are driven by its organizational culture.
And I would argue that the singular, most important aspect of building a great and lasting company is building and growing a strong culture. It is a culture that defines who you are and who you aspire to be. It defines and amplifies the success and enables people engagement, employee motivation, stellar customer service delivery and business growth.
Discussing Growth and Culture With Chris Yeh
Recently I was thrilled to have Chris Yeh join a company meeting for a conversation with our team. Chris is an accomplished author and storyteller. He’s the co-author, along with Reid Hoffman (Co-founder of LinkedIn), of Blitzscaling, the book that explains how to build world-changing companies like Amazon, Alibaba, and Airbnb in record time. As a writer, investor, and entrepreneur, Chris has had a ringside seat in the world of startups and scale-ups since 1995.
With Uniphore experiencing record growth and given our focus on culture, I had a strong hunch that Chris and I could have a really good conversation. So we invited him to share his thoughts with the Uniphore team as our employee headcount is set to explode from 400 today to 720 in the next 8 months. I could think of no better person to share his thoughts on some of the critical challenges that come with rapid scale and growth.
Interconnections: Company Growth, Velocity and Culture
Chris explained that rapid growth is both qualitative and quantitative. Historically, company culture can be passed on through osmosis, where people learn from those around them. But companies now face a problem of rapid growth in the face of a global pandemic where people don’t meet face to face as frequently.
Remote work will continue, so organizations need to be intentional and evolve their culture rather than set it in stone. For example, Apple’s company culture has continued to evolve through subtle changes that Tim Cook has made even after the passing of influential founder Steve Jobs. It’s crucial to develop and improve culture, enabling new employees to contribute and make it even stronger.
We Must Find Ways to Articulate our Evolving Culture
Many companies struggle to articulate cultural evolution, but Chris explained it’s often driven by the stories people choose to tell. For example, early Amazon employees would tell stories about Jeff Bezos buying doors from Home Depot and using them as desks. This symbolized Amazon’s dedication to lowering costs and doing whatever it took to run a lean culture. The lack of practicality of doors as desks is not the point; it’s vivid, concrete and generates an emotion with employees about Amazon’s frugality.
Infinite Mindset While in a Constant Mode of Execution
Chris’s Blitzscaling book addressed a central principle of being an infinite learner in a new market. He related this to playing a game of chess that occasionally changes to checkers or Monopoly without anyone realizing it. At every growth stage, you must accept that the game will change while quickly learning the new rules.
Chris provided the example of Airbnb founder Brian Chesky learning from Walt Disney and other influential leaders to shape his company’s experiences and customer journeys. Other business leaders can follow this example to gain the proper knowledge and skillsets to help them learn about their situation, the rules and how to win.
Using Culture to Succeed in a Society That’s in Transition
Organizational culture enables you to diffuse an entire company with a set of values and a way of doing things. For example, Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings’ first company used an approach of creating rules when something goes wrong to prevent it from happening again, which resulted in people simply following directions. With Netflix, he set out a principles-based culture that made it easier for people to understand how it guides their actions and helps new candidates say, “that’s not for me.”
Expanding Social Collaboration in a Pandemic World
Many organizations continue to rely on the social capital they developed before the pandemic. Chris explained that, while this has worked relatively well, this short-term solution may see the strain increase as remote working continues.
To address this, Chris recommends building micro-socialization into meetings to maintain the social interactions that accompanied meetings pre-pandemic. He advises brief breakout periods that randomly pair people up to catch up and develop a sense of human contact, which goes a long way to producing social fabric and capital.
Culture Fit vs. Culture Add When Hiring
Chris explained that a strong company culture requires diversity and people that don’t think alike. New hires need to add to and be a fit for the existing culture by sharing the same underlying values and bringing different experiences and areas of expertise.
Taking Care of Employees vs. Taking Care of Customers
Businesses sometimes must choose between prioritizing employees or their customers. For example, you’ll often hear phrases like “the customer is always right” or “always be customer-centric” quoted as absolute business principles. However, Chris explained that employees allow you to serve customers now and into the future so you should, in general, put them first.
That said, a careful balance is required, especially when it comes to deadlines that require people to work extra hours to achieve a critical customer milestone.
Creating a Workplace Culture That Evolves With Your Company
A company’s culture is crucial to growing a successful company. It embodies the processes, values and ideals that guide the actions of both leaders and employees. It also should constantly evolve as new people join.
What Makes Uniphore Culture Stand Out
Our inclusive workplace culture makes us stand out. Our team takes care of and trusts each other and we hold each other to high standards. We compete and are inclusive, but we also debate and maintain a united front. Our culture is shaped by our core values of:
- One big team
- Punching above our weight
- Taking action
Discover how Uniphore is one of the best places to work by putting people first.