What Would Twitter Do? Lessons on Culture From 5 Top Startups
How Airbnb, Twitter, Skillshare, Buffer and Squarespace create and maintain great company cultures.
What do the world's top startups all have in common? They've mastered the art of company culture.
Brands from all over have attempted to mimic "startup culture" -- the collaborative, fun and enriching atmosphere that makes employees want to come to work each day. But fostering a startup culture is not as easy as it sounds, especially as your company grows.
Having a strong culture, however, is the key to success and cannot be neglected. In fact, research from the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick showed that happy employees are 12 percent more productive than the average worker. So it truly pays to have a strong company culture.
But what exactly does a strong culture look like? And more importantly, how can you build one? Follow these five tips from successful startups:
1. Keep employees engaged
At Airbnb, employees are kept in the loop on major company happenings and big decisions. This gives them a sense of ownership and purpose in the company, which in turn fosters engagement. According to a Gallup survey, 51 percent of the American workforce is not engaged. But having engaged employees is highly beneficial.
As Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky wrote on Twitter, "A company's culture is the foundation for future innovation. An entrepreneur's job is to build the foundation."
Engaged employees create a more positive work atmosphere. And, with happier employees, as well as increased productivity, your company will have happier customers and boost sales.
2. Focus on the company's purpose
Employees want to feel that the work that they do matters. That's why Twitter's purpose-driven environment works so well. Its focus is on creating a collaborative, team-oriented space that helps employees come together and see the value of what they do.
In an article on Medium, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone wrote, "Startups have a unique ability to create a culture of compassion that helps us improve; and in so doing, we are more likely to make a difference in the lives of others."
In 2014, Twitter's employees were named by Glassdoor as the happiest in the country. Much of that happiness can be attributed to the company's culture, where employees feel that their voices matter.
3. Be proactive
Culture doesn't just happen on its own. It's something that needs to be nurtured and tended. Without culture, your company will have no legs to stand on.
On his blog, Buffer CEO Joel Gascoigne wrote, "There's no right or wrong with culture, it is simply a combination of [the] natural personality of the founding team, in addition to proactive work, to push the culture in a desired direction and to maintain certain values."
Since the beginning, Buffer has made culture a priority. At each stage of its business, it's assessed its company culture and made changes based on the company's growth. As your company grows, you must also scale your culture. And that will almost certainly mean that the culture for a three-person team will look very different from the culture for a 20-person team.
4. Stick to your values
In essence, your culture is your people. Without great people, you can't have a great culture. That means you need to define what you want your culture to be like from the beginning -- starting with whom you hire.
In an article on Medium, Skillshare CEO Michael Karnjanaprakorn wrote, "Because the best cultures derive from actions people take, it's imperative to define expectations around optimal behaviours, which set a foundation for a value system."
To ensure all new employees fit in with their culture, Skillshare developed specific hiring guidelines based on its core values. This allowed the company to build a team focused on common goals so people would be able to work together successfully.
5. Show appreciation
Not every employee needs to have fancy benefits like free lunches, yoga classes and snacks -- but perks like those don't hurt, either. Squarespace offers some exciting benefits for its employees, including flexible vacations, catered meals, relaxation spaces and occasional guest lecturers. The company was even named one of the best places to work in New York City in 2013 by Crain's New York Business.
Employees appreciate being taken care of, but that's not the sole reason they want to work for a company. Squarespace also boasts a flat organisational structure, which means there is no hierarchy or levels of management. This creates an open space for employees to collaborate and make their voices heard as well as gain access to the company's leadership.