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Embracing the Start-Up Culture
Thursday, Feb 18, 2016

We’ve all seen it from afar. From Silicon Valley to Silicon Alley, the start-up culture is just about the trendiest thing in the workforce these days. It represents a refreshing shift from the stiff corporate environment that no longer appeals to young applicants, with a specific focus on millennials. Capturing a lasting and appealing identity that vibrates throughout the company is fast becoming a priority for CEO’s everywhere, and it’s just about the most effective strategy for attracting new and qualified talent.

So what makes a start-up culture feel like, well, a start-up? 

Establish core values

It starts with the core values instilled within your company’s fabric. These values are (or should be) exemplified throughout your workforce. Most companies possess synthetic values and lack the commitment and proper execution needed in applying them, they usually sound more like something you’d read in a press release, and for many employees, they only exist in memory (from that stunningly boring PowerPoint presented on orientation day). A sustainable culture that empowers individual success and productivity can’t be bought or managed with tangibles, it is instead developed with the right people who understand the vision and are eager to play a part in your success.

Diversify your coalition

Diversity in the workplace is a valuable attribute that barely phases most companies, but it’s often thoroughly pronounced at start-ups. A company like SeatGeek, an online ticket aggregator for sports, concerts, and theater, strives for a diverse workforce, going as far as devoting a portion of their jobs page to highlighting the varied backgrounds inducted in their ranks. Embracing diversity means pivoting from only hiring the most qualified applicants on paper. These days, a true ‘cultural fit’ embraces and thrives in a diverse working environment.

Reward your workforce

Promote casual dress wear along with a relaxed facial hair policy. A recent survey found that over 70% of employees prefer a business casual dress code as opposed to formal wear. This goes a long way in promoting self-expression and a comforting work environment, it also gives off a ‘cool’ illuminating vibe that most companies have a hard time replicating.

Perks are a biggie. Many prominent, youthful companies are stocking up on free drinks (yes, even beer) and snacks, hosting monthly companywide socials, offering ample work-at-home days, and reduced summer hours, while allowing for an abundant amount of vacation time. In many start-up cultures, there is a true emphasis on the work/life balance, which is one of its major draws for job seekers. Promoting work/life balance and making sure employees are happy benefits employers as well. In fact, employees who report being “happy” in their workplace outperform the competition by 20 percent. There’s real value to be had when investing in your people, and with a successful business model in place, everybody’s a winner.

There are so many avenues at your disposal to market your culture, whether it’s written on the wall (literally), branded on your website, or conveyed through email communications with potential candidates. Word of mouth follows, and before you know it, rival CEO’s are pointing to you and your company as an example.

It’s not hard these days to find a company struggling with a cultural identity crisis, but the solution is often right there in front of them. Take a look at any dynasty in sports history, you won’t just find a collection of talented people preforming at a high level, you’ll find that the winning culture they’ve created has been cultivated and harnessed. It starts with the people, your soul, and you’ll only go as far as they allow.