Your Culture Is Important So Take the Time to Write It Down

In 2009, Netflix published its now famous culture deck online [since updated]. The deck – a series of slides outlining the company’s values, expected behaviors and core philosophy (“people over process,” in case you’re interested) – demystified the company culture, providing access to anyone who wanted a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what it’s like to work there. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg described the culture deck as, “The most important document ever to come out of the [Silicon] Valley.”

Ten years later, culture is still just as critical to all facets of an organization, including and especially HR. Having spoken with hundreds of HR leaders about their company cultures, I have heard the same stories over and over again. A company without a well-developed culture becomes a company with a culture that is a liability. And when a CEO doesn’t appreciate the importance of consciously nurturing and developing the company culture, it’s an enormous missed opportunity. A well-defined culture is the superglue that enables companies to unite, break the mold, and scale to unparalleled heights.

HR leaders understand this, well aware that culture is more than a key differentiator for building a truly great company. It’s often the primary reason a candidate joins a company in the first place – even beyond salary, stock options or the inherent risk associated with the business or role. Company culture is the one competitive advantage the company has full control over. By defining and developing it, HR can transform the culture from an invisible and intangible liability into a clear business asset.

Create a culture deck

One highly effective tool for conveying a company’s culture is a strong, well-designed culture deck. A great culture deck acts as an ambassador for the company, saving the HR team endless amounts of time. They’re a key to winning the so-called war for talent and should be an intrinsic part of any company that wants its culture to be an asset.

A good culture deck communicates exactly how the company operates, giving people insight into the company’s mission, values, vision and purpose. It helps the HR team differentiate the business from the competition, and can help attract, recruit and retain great talent. It explains what the company expects from the employees and what the employees can expect from the company. It can illuminate how employees can make a difference and reach their potential, and answers the fundamental questions potential employees may have about how the business operates.

Make the deck a comprehensive document

The slides on a comprehensive culture deck should cover a wide variety of topics. They should include the mission, vision and values statements, as well as:

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  • History of the business — Companies can use a history slide in their culture decks to demonstrate where the company started, the progress that has been made over the years, how much the company has achieved over time, and where the company is heading.
  • Onboarding — Every HR leader knows that the first challenge with onboarding new hires is to ensure that they hit the ground running and are productive from Day One. What they can expect during onboard helps prepare them while also showing them how what they do is important and meaningful.
  • Diversity & inclusion — Today, companies have to address issues of diversity and inclusion. These are now non-negotiable areas. Use a culture deck to demonstrate to new hires that senior leadership and HR take diversity and inclusion seriously.

A deck may also have slides on the perks and benefits offered, the company’s approach to talent attraction and retention, how it encourages feedback, how it deals with failure, and how it facilitates and supports employees making a difference in the society at large.

Your deck also needs to reflect the culture you have, and not the one you wish for. See “What Comes First — A Meaningful Workplace or a Strong Culture?”

Countless HR directors have told me that while that researching, comparing and assessing all the culture decks out there would be a valuable process, it would take far too much time — time they don’t have. There’s also the challenge of knowing just how to leverage the deck you do create so it has maximum impact.

The culture comes first

In Culture Decks Decoded, I offer a blueprint for the many HR leaders out there who understand the critical role culture will play in the eventual success of their company and want to do something about writing it down. It outlines the framework for a well-structured culture deck by demystifying what makes a culture deck effective, while also providing a comprehensive evaluation of some of the world’s most successful company cultures, including Valve, Asana, Hubspot, LinkedIn and, of course Netflix.

The success or failure of a company can often be directly linked back to how well the company’s culture is understood and leveraged. Encoding the values, mission, vision and cultural norms into a culture deck is an absolute must for any company wanting to thrive in today’ VUCA economy. The best HR leaders understand that developing a strong culture is not only about intentionally creating the environment and experience of your employees and the value you want to provide your customers, but it also directly impacts revenue and profitability.

Bretton Putter is a leading expert on startup and high-growth company culture. As managing partner of a global executive search firm, he sourced CxOs, VPs and Directors for more than 400 startups and high-growth companies. He is the founder and CEO of CultureGene, a company culture consultancy, writes a popular blog on culture-driven companies, is a sought-after speaker, and a contributor to Forbes. His new book is Culture Decks Decoded: Transform Your Culture Into A Visible, Conscious And Tangible Asset. Learn more at brettonputter.com

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