People are talking a lot lately about workplace culture, and with good reason. Your job isn’t just the stuff you do all day. It’s the managers and coworkers and clients you interact with, the physical space (or spaces) you’re located in, and the way you feel when you’re at work.
All of those elements, which are often overlooked in the midst of a pressure-filled job search or a race to a new company or product launch, combine to create a mental space in each employee that we call workplace culture.
Culture is bigger than the snack bar
It isn’t what you’re doing, but how you’re doing it, and how others react to what and how you do it. And culture can make or break a company, especially when it’s just starting out and relying heavily upon fully invested and passionate employees.
That mental space needs to be resilient when you’re working at a startup.
A new report by TINYpulse, a culture and engagement tool, examines the workplace culture of over 100 startups. The report surveyed both startup founders and thousands of employees anonymously, to encourage honest feedback.
A telling statistic appears early in the report, and on the surface it’s unrelated to the culture of a company.
Among those startup entrepreneurs and employees surveyed, only 14 percent are women. In pursuit of basic equality, this absolutely should change. But, unsurprisingly, equality is also good for business. Among growing startups, those with female founders were growing significantly faster than those with only male founders. Startups with 200 percent or more growth are 75 percent more likely to have a woman at the helm.
When it comes to company culture, leaders are likely to overestimate how great their culture is, when compared to the ratings of their employees. In all three culture categories – Transparency, Being Valued, and Happiness – the leader ratings were around .75 higher than those of the employees, on a scale of one to ten. Of the three categories, happiness fared the best, at 8.05 for leaders and 7.36 for employees. Transparency came in lowest, but it wasn’t too shabby: 7.80 for leaders and 6.92 for employees.
Interestingly, the more employees a CEO had working for them, the more likely they were to rate the importance of culture a 10 out of 10. Over 85 percent of those with over 50 employees said culture was of the utmost importance, while only 71 percent of those with under 50 employees said the same.
This troubles the popular conception of small startups as entrepreneurial utopias, and larger enterprises as faceless employee mills, but it makes sense.
A larger organization has more opportunities for checks and balances, more people in leadership positions to collaborate on a culture strategy, and sometimes more at stake.
Surprisingly, perks like work-life balance and benefits don’t correlate with employee retention as much as culture indicators like transparency, being valued, and general happiness. And transparency has, by far, the highest correlation with growth, both in terms of headcount and revenue. That one, in particular, should be easy. Being transparent takes a lot less effort than hiding away important info.
The upshot of this study is pretty straightforward, and it really shouldn’t be news to you at this point: culture matters, big time. But if you’re a numbers person, more stats never hurt.