As a startup, you need to move fast. You’re going against companies with huge budgets and your time and resources are limited. You need to get most out of every hour put in. In other words, you need to be productive. Here’s one of the best hacks to building a super-productive startup.

It’s called positive workplace culture. Sounds simple, yet it’s something that’s not easy to achieve. To operate at 100% of your potential you need to have everyone engaged. Positive culture reinforces engagement.

Don’t get it right and you’ll risk wasting time and resources. According to studies by the Gallup and the Queens School of Business, disengagement is costly. Disengaged team members had 37% higher absenteeism and 60% more errors and defects. Companies with low engagement score experience 18% lower productivity and 16% lower profitability. This can cost you losing to a competitor or not breaking even soon enough. And the moment you get into red numbers, it’s over.

So how do you build a positive culture that leads to maximum engagement and productivity? Here are few things you can do to make it happen:

Include Everyone in Setting the Company Values

An example to follow here is Zappos, the company famous for its great culture. In the early days of Zappos, its founder Tony Hsieh asked each employee to say a sentence or two about what they thought was the Zappos company culture. This inspired Hsieh so he later asked each employee to write 100 to 500 words on what they liked about the company’s culture and what made it different from other workplaces.

Zappos' Culture Book (2011)

Zappos’ Culture Book (2011)

This was then narrowed down to what became Zappos’ famous Culture Book. Later on, the startup used the same approach to defining company values. That was then narrowed down to “10 Commandments of Zappos” – core values that serve as a guide for managers to make hiring and firing decisions.

At Appster, our core values are:

  1. Open Company – No BS.
  2. Change is Good – Be productively paranoid.
  3. High Performance – Always be raising the bar.
  4. Ownership – Do what you say you will and take responsibility.

The moral of the story is: you can’t just define a company culture if you want it to last. It’s not something to simply write down based on some textbook. For people to live by it, it has to come from within your company. You then want to use this culture as something to follow and maintain.

Hire for Culture Fit, Train for Skill

Ideally, you want a culture fit with excellent skills. But most of the time you get candidates with both. In such situations, the majority of companies simply go for the skill, even if the person doesn’t fit the culture at all.

In a startup, you want to work incredibly hard to find people with excellent skills who share your values and fit the culture. However, if you can’t, culture comes first. You can always train the skill but you can never really change someone’s values, and it shouldn’t be your job anyway.

Team Building Actually Works, Use it

Team building is often perceived as those forced, annoying exercises in big corporations where everyone has to pretend they’re happy. A startup typically wants to stay away from whatever big companies do. At the end of the day, a startup is an antinode to big co.

But team building done right is a powerful tool. And there’s a strong scientific evidence to prove so. For example, an analysis of data from 103 studies conducted between 1950 and 2007 shows that team building has a measurable positive effect on team’s culture and performance.

The key to team-building done right is simply to avoid everything you have about traditional team building. For example, forced situations, like going to the woods to share feelings. Keep them normal, relevant and social. The best team-building activities often include volunteering work, sports, trips, and shared meals.

Get Rid of Negativity and Toxic People Fast

I already talked about the cost of toxic workers and how to deal with them in this post; you should definitely read if you haven’t done so already. The point here is, you don’t want put all your focus on building the positive culture, you must actively protect it too.

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