Entrepreneurs

The Secret to a Strong Company Culture Is Creating Success Criteria

Much has been said and written over the years about how critical values are in creating corporate identity, and importantly, culture. They are the guiding “why” for companies and the promise made to team members, customers, investors, and the industry in general.

Additionally, they provide a mechanism for making key decisions on everything from hiring and firing to product development and growth. Companies that aren’t contemplating core values in every aspect of decision-making aren’t building the culture of trust necessary to attract the high-performance team needed to win.

But how do you make your values actionable beyond the “about us” page on your website and real for the team members who’ve aligned with and signed up for the exciting journey you’ve promised? In every company I’ve worked for and consulted with over the past decade, I’ve introduced the concept of Success Criteria. If values are the “why,” then Success Criteria are the “how.” Defined as the unique traits and characteristics that all team members must possess to succeed at your company, they are the recipe for how you expect your team members to show up.

Developing Success Criteria is relatively simple and should be a collaborative process. Start by looking around and asking, who here is succeeding and why? What behaviors do they regularly demonstrate that makes them the “go-to” team member when things absolutely need to get done?

In other words, who do you wish you could clone? Take your time and write them all down. Once you think you have a solid list, take the opportunity to sanity-check your work with trusted team members beyond the working group. This impacts everyone, so you want to get it right.

The next step is codifying and communicating them. Weave your Success Criteria into key people processes — specifically hiring, onboarding, rewards and recognition, and performance management. At my workplace, we’ve developed a hiring “scorecard” that helps keep us honest. Just because a candidate has the technical expertise and experience that we seek, doesn’t make them a shoo-in. We also need them to share an affinity for how we work. This is both kind to the candidate and a smart business decision. Because, as we all know, if someone isn’t a good culture fit, they won’t meet their potential for success, and might even stymy the company’s forward momentum in the process.

Having leveraged your Success Criteria to hire, make sure you share with your team during the onboarding process so that they understand what it takes to be successful in their new role. Why should that be a mystery? Everyone wins when your team member does.

Every company has a culture. To get the one you want, you need to be intentional. Defining your values is table stakes, living them through your Success Criteria can be a game-changing element that will attract high-performers to accelerate your business. Like most things in life that are worth the reward, it will take some planning and focus but when done right, the results can be exponential.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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