Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Roadmap: How to Define and Apply Culture to Your Company - Part 2

Last time, Dan Berger talked about forming a company culture - its core values, mission and vision. In Part 2, he shares the application of a company's culture. If you missed Part 1, click here to read it first. -Andrea Michaels

The Application of Culture

How do you integrate the words that define your culture? The key is alignment. Your interview process, performance management system, marketing collateral, and so on, have to align with your values, mission, vision and purpose to make them worth anything.

For example, during the Social Tables interview, we ask candidates to describe their favorite event. That ensures what we call the passion test. Are they passionate about the industry?

We ask them to tell us what makes them weird. That aligns to our "Be Outrageous" value.

Autonomy and Mastery

In his book, Drive, Daniel Pink says that employees of our generation, once they make a fair wage, are looking for three things: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. I just told you how to make sure your employees get purpose. Let me share with you two other tools that we use to ensure that they have autonomy and mastery in their work.

At Social Tables, we consider ourselves a deliberately development organization (or a DDO).

We believe that coming to work at our company doesn't only make you a better employee. It makes you a better person.

We accept people's faults and work with them on becoming better versions of themselves. 

I urge you to think about how you integrate learning into your organization. How are you giving your employees the ability to master their craft? Here are a few ideas:

  • Facilitate Lunch and Learns with internal talent. Let your employees educate one another about their strengths, and share their weaknesses.
  • Provide an education fund for professional and personal development.
  • Partner programs with like-minded companies for mentorship and industry tours.

As far as autonomy is concerned, we empower employees. I kind of believe in having a chaotic management style. I let people figure it out. But you can't do that without a firm understanding between the employer and employee about what their personal mission is.

To that end, we took a page out of Reid Hoffman's book, The Alliance.

Tour of Duty

The alliance is all about considering your relationship with employees as a partnership. You're honest with them about what you need, and they're honest with you about what they want.

He calls this a "Tour of Duty." HBR does a great job of describing this principle:

"The tour-of-duty approach works like this: The company gets an engaged employee who's striving to produce tangible achievements for the firm and who can be an important advocate and resource at the end of his tour or tours. The employee may not get lifetime employment, but he takes a significant step toward lifetime employability. A tour of duty also establishes a realistic zone of trust. Lifelong employment and loyalty are simply not part of today's world; pretending that they are decreases trust by forcing both sides to lie.

"Properly implemented, the tour-of-duty approach can boost both recruiting and retention. The key is that it gives employer and employee a clear basis for working together. Both sides agree in advance on the purpose of the relationship, the expected benefits for each, and a planned end.

"The problem with most employee retention programs is that they have a fuzzy goal (retain 'good' employees) and a fuzzy time frame (indefinitely). Both types of fuzziness destroy trust: The company is asking an employee to commit to it but makes no commitment in return. In contrast, a tour of duty serves as a personalized retention plan that gives a valued employee concrete, compelling reasons to finish her tour and that establishes a clear time frame for discussing the future of the relationship."

You need to accept the fact that your employees may not want to work at your organization their whole life, and that's okay. Just have honest conversations about expectations to not make it weird.

To summarize, commit to defining your culture through words, apply those words into action, and enable your employees to feel inspired and passionate about their careers through supportive, deliberate shaping of their careers.

Dan Berger is the founder & CEO of Social Tables. Described as a “relentless and focused entrepreneur,” he has been recognized as Catersource and Event Solution’s 2015 “Innovator of the Year,” as well as Successful Meeting’s 25 Most Influential People in the Meetings Industry, BizBash’s 2014 Most Innovative Event,  and by Connect and Collaborate Magazines as a 40 Under 40 Industry Leader. Dan holds an MBA from Georgetown University. Dan may be reached via,  @danberger or on Linkedin at 

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