The Secret Ingredient of a Healthy Company

by Scott Kuethen
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What is the secret ingredient of a healthy company? Many successful chefs will share a favorite recipe but leave out one secret ingredient so you can’t make it taste quite as delicious. If there were a secret to having a healthy company, wouldn’t it be great for everyone to know about it?

Measuring a company’s health

We’re familiar with the nurse taking our temperature, blood pressure, and maybe a sample of blood to measure our physical health. How do we measure a company’s health? Here are some typical ways people determine whether a company is healthy, but which may or may not be accurate:

How much money it makes. Enron, Bernie Madoff, and WorldCom were making money, but time revealed that they were not healthy companies at their core.

Happy customers. Apple has a lot of loyal customers, yet competition and lack of continued innovation are slowing its success. For other companies, loyalty only goes so far when salmonella contaminates a fast food chain’s meals, dial-up internet becomes obsolete, an airline’s policies damages its reputation, or a department store fails to stay relevant.

Social good. Microsoft’s philanthropy program includes paying employees to volunteer time, and the company gives a lot of cash to good causes. Likewise, other companies have implemented Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs. But for some, their espoused social good behavior is a pleasant mask for something less tolerant, welcoming, honest, or generous. Think about a coffee shop that wants to know your name unless you’re homeless, or a social media site that favors only people who agree with its politics, or a digital content platform that offers free software, digital storage, and email service but with a possible hidden agenda.

Environmental good. Patagonia became a leader in Corporate Environmental Ethics by deciding to make their clothing with materials that didn’t harm the environment. As other companies followed, questions have arisen. Are there unintended consequences–for example, when an electric car requires a new battery? What’s real and what’s marketing hype? Who holds a company accountable for what it claims? Are there increased costs through increased regulation without improving the environment?

Depending on who they are to a company, people measure its health in different ways. For instance, shareholders may measure it by the stock price or quarterly dividends it pays. Customers would measure a healthy company by how it serves them or delivers the product they need. Some businesses might measure their own health by their safety record, or how many on-time deliveries they achieve. For job seekers, what’s important is whether a company is a good place to work.

The secret ingredient of a healthy company

Although there are many ways to measure a company’s health, one stands out to us because of our unique perspective as a 60-year-old recruitment firm. Glassdoor recently conducted a survey of more than 5,000 people in the U.S., the UK, France, and Germany. They uncovered what we feel is the secret ingredient of a healthy company. It connects to what makes a company a good place to work.

“Among key findings, Glassdoor found that more than three-quarters (77 percent) of adults(1)would consider a company’s culture before applying for a job there, and well over half (56 percent) say company culture is more important than salary when it comes to job satisfaction. In addition to asking people the extent to which they value culture at work, the survey also uncovers the importance of culture and company mission to recruitment and retention, as well as the extent to which job seekers are now looking for employers whose values align with their own personal values.”

Were you aware that your company culture and mission were this significant a factor in your recruitment and hiring process? Of all the things you focus on improving in your business to attract better candidates, company culture may not be one of them. But this survey shows that it needs to be, especially in a tight labor market where candidates are in high demand and receiving multiple job offers. And improving your company culture means higher morale, better employee retention, increased productivity, and a more profitable bottom line.

Yes, the secret ingredient of a healthy company is its company culture. Isn’t that a relief? You may not be able to increase your company’s revenue or launch a CSR program in the next month. But you can increase your team members’ satisfaction by showing them respect, care, and appreciation every day. Make a point to look them in the eye, ask for their feedback, learn about their career goals, and let them know you’re glad they chose to work for you today.

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