Blog post by ELP Student Alex Bascom (Earth Science| Class of 2019)
Culture defines the work environment. If you have ever worked at a company where things were off, or just plain dreadful, the company culture likely did not foster a positive work environment. Having strong company culture is key to any successful company because no one wants to work somewhere they are miserable. That’s why it is especially important for startups to build and design the culture from day one. Once a company begins to grow, changing the fundamentals can be nearly impossible. I have looked at company culture with three different lenses while working at a startup this summer: the company, the team, and the individual.
The foundation of any great culture is communication. The easier it is to communicate across the company, the faster problems get solved, creating less of a bottleneck for management, and gridlock within the staff. Companies that use platforms like Slack are able to build a casual communication vibe, while integrating everyone into the ecosystem. This is especially helpful when a company has employees who work remotely. It allows them to access everyone at the company without having to send emails, or phone calls every time they need to communicate. Slack also provides subgroups, and non-work related channels for water cooler talk and banter that makes working more enjoyable. It makes every part of the company more efficient, and the benefits only grow as the company does, because of the ease-of-use.
Culture can be defined by a respected leader. A strong team can make or break company culture. Because they are the majority of my interaction, I have learned just how important this to be. I’ve had the opportunity to work for an excellent leader. Having a strong team leader makes the subculture of the group better because there is trust built in. This trust leads to a culture of responsibility and accountability. Additionally, I learned that strong leader will bring the team together to help a team member when they need help, which gives the entire team more courage to succeed in their tasks.
I have found that my attitude had an effect on the culture. My choices to encourage those around me, and take advice and constructive criticism enabled the culture that was already in place and make it stronger. I think that this is the biggest advantage of working in a startup environment. Each person has a larger sphere of influence, and can positively grow and contribute to the company culture. I learned that the culture is typically defined by the leader, and that the founders begin creating their culture when they hire their first few employees. I believe a company that has strong culture is able to successfully communicate their expectations to their employees, and conveniences them to enthusiastically take ownership in their role. With the right leadership, this can be taken for granted, but it should not. Strong culture is not organic. It takes work to cultivate and maintain. That is why I believe it is important for everyone to play an active role in fostering culture. And that starts with You.