Kids these days have it easy (I’ve always wanted to say that), but they are definitely missing out. They don’t create mixtapes anymore, they create playlists—it takes 10 minutes and the only skill that’s required is a solid drag and drop. A good mixtape took planning, effort, and time to get right. And you were willing to spend so much time on it because it mattered.
Let’s be honest, if you were making a mixtape you were probably making it for someone you had a crush on, or even loved and this was your way of declaring your feelings. Every song you selected had special meaning and was chosen because of what it said, how it made you feel, and (more importantly) how it would make the recipient feel, which led to the second part—the sequencing.
Sequencing mattered almost more than the song selections themselves because a good mixtape took the listener on a journey. It was designed to make someone smile, cry, and dance in all the right spots, and by the end of it, your feelings would be clear and hopefully this special person would fall in love with you. But before you handed it over, you listened to it from beginning to end and tweaked and made adjustments as needed until it was perfect. Then you let your person experience it.
Creating a company culture is much like creating that well structured mixtape in that if you apply the same principles of selection, sequencing, and shaping, you can make your employees fall in love with the company.
Let’s break them down so you can see what we mean.
Selection – The Ins and Outs
What you allow to happen in your organization is as important as what you don’t allow—or as we call them, the ins and outs. As with a mixtape, what you choose to present to your employees tells them what is important to you and the organization. You want to select the best parts of your organization and the components that will lead to the fulfillment of your organizational goals, promises to your customers, and promises to your employees.
The ins and outs are all about alignment. Does what they see, match what you say, and align with your core values? If not, your employees will feel it and trust issues can arise. Be picky about what you allow, and don’t be afraid to remove elements or people that don’t fit with the story you’re trying to tell.
Sequence – The Order of Things
As we discussed, every song matters on a mixtape, but where that song falls in the order of the tape is just as important. It’s all about sequencing, and that goes for company culture too.
Think about an employee’s lifecycle and what he or she needs at each phase. Before an employee even joins your organization, there’s your employer branding messaging—who you are, what you stand for, the value you provide as an employer, and what someone can expect as an employee.
Once hired, an employee is offered Onboarding or New Hire Orientation to learn the values of your organization, how you fulfill the brand promise to your customer, and how to be a successful member of your organizational system.
Finally, when you are developing your employees into leaders and helping them grow their careers, the way you promote, the feedback you give, the way you recognize, reward, and reinforce your culture with employees shows them what is important to you. That’s why it’s imperative to give the right messages at the right time, telling employees what they need to hear when they need to hear it.
At Cardigan, we are big fans of getting it right the first time, but with culture, sometimes it’s trial and error. Just like with your mixtape, you might listen to it and decide to take a song out, add a song, or change the sequence. The same is true for your culture.
There are several things you are going to try that might not garner the best feedback. No worries. You can always adjust. Plus, over time the nature of your industry might influence how your business needs to function and this can necessitate changes in order to keep your culture in line with your strategy. Just know that you can and probably will continue to shape your culture as your organization continues to grow.
When your company culture supports your strategy it results in increased productivity, happy workers, and better decision making to name a few benefits. But when your culture is not aligned and working against you, it can lead to high turnover, difficulty recruiting, sabotage, unethical behavior or decisions, lack of teamwork, and other issues that can destroy a company faster than that beloved mixtape can unravel in your boom box.
If you get nothing else from this, it’s that you should give curating your company culture the same care and concern that you gave to making the perfect mixtape. Pay attention to selection and sequence and then continue to shape until it’s exactly where you need it to be.
There’s too much at stake. It’s important for your employees to know how you feel about them, and how you want them to feel about the company if you want to get the most from your people and culture.