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Can you smell a company’s culture?

Whenever I walk into a supermarket or grocery store, the first thing I notice is how it smells. Do you know what I mean?  Does it smell like a relaxing, happy health spa like a Whole Foods store does, or does it smell like fried chicken or bad fish, which sadly I have experienced too many times?

Do the people working there seem happy, and smile at you, or do they not make eye contact and give off an “it’s just a job” vibe?

Well, it’s the same when you visit a company’s headquarters or warehouse.

This past week, I visited several companies’  facilities and I got an instant impression of the company culture. Admittedly, I knew the companies’ management, so I had expectations, but I noticed some things that were pleasant surprises.

Before I share my observations – I want to say: a positive company culture is not created by perks (like free food, fancy offices and good quality coffee), it’s created when there is a sense of teamwork, trust between employees and management, engagement, respect and communication.  And all of that starts at the top.

If you are a company leader, here are some of the best practices I noticed during my visits:

  • I was greeted at the door by a friendly, smiling and happy team member.  They knew I was coming and greeted me warmly by name. I felt like I was expected and welcome. (Do you announce company wide when visitors are expected in advance, so they feel welcome?)

  • I noticed many company employees wearing company logo shirts, jackets and hats. That says a lot about a company that its employees are proud of the company they work for – so much so, that they wear the brand proudly and often! (Sharing company SWAG and logo wear with your employees shows you value them.  It should not just be for your customers.)

  • At two companies, I noticed how proud they were of their customers and suppliers – they had their client and supplier names, logos and products hanging on the walls!   (Are you proud of your customers and suppliers? What a great way to remind everyone on your team who are your key business partners.)

  • As I walked around the offices, employees smiled, were engaging and joined in conversation.  They showed  genuine interest in the visitor (me) and didn’t avoid chatting.  In the accounting and QC departments, which are not typically included on most company tours, I found the employees were thrilled to be introduced. (When you give a company tour, do you visit and introduce every employee to visitors?  Can you imagine how important everyone feels to be introduced?)

  • Offices were well lit and I noticed family photos at every desk. (Ratty desk furniture, poor lighting or burned out lightbulbs and overly worn or dirty carpets send the message that employees are not a priority.)

So, building a positive company culture starts with making employees feel like they are welcome and valued.  The sense of teamwork is obvious to anyone who enters the building.  Of course, beyond that, regular, complete and informative communication from the President or company leader about what’s really going on in the company creates a sense of importance and that everyone makes a difference.

What is your company’s culture?  What kind of communication do you have with your teams, coworkers and other leaders? Take a sniff.  You can smell it.

Onward and upward

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