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Crafting a 21st-Century Human-to-Human Company Culture

By: Roman Zelenka, CEO - ZELENKA Translations - Your CEE Specialist

06 April 2018

This blog is a follow-up to a presentation on Crafting a 21st-Century Human-to-Human Company Culture by Roman Zelenka and Kyle Kristoffersen at the GALA 2018 Boston conference. 

For those of you who managed to make it to the GALA 2018 Boston Conference, I hope you’ve made it home safely. We had a great time meeting up with everyone and really enjoyed sharing our ideas during our presentation on company culture. Several people approached us afterward with various questions about the topic and a lot of them were really good!  Here are our answers to the questions that came up the most.

1. What can my colleagues and I do to strengthen our culture?

Get your boss involved. Leadership not only gives direction to the activity, but also underlines its importance. From there it is much easier for colleagues to be involved, because their boss is actually encouraging it.

"That makes a lot of sense, but... how do I get my boss involved?"

This is a good time to point out that any successful culture requires active involvement from its leadership. Every boss is different and the approaches to this issue can range from simply offering examples of how a healthy culture can benefit the business to having braver conversations about where the company and its people are hurting, because there isn’t a defined, healthy culture in place.

2. As the CEO of my company, how do I motivate my people to make time to develop our company culture?

Perhaps you’re in the lucky situation where accepting fewer jobs right now won’t drastically impact your business. If so, awesome! But for those who aren’t (which is most of us), asking your people to invest some personal time into the company is the most straightforward way to make time for strengthening your company’s culture.

The best way to persuade your people to work a little longer to make up for time spent at a workshop, company event, etc. is to show them that you are putting your own time into it as well. And the more time and thought you put into it, the more willing they will be to do the same. It’s also a really good idea to remind them that they are investing into their own satisfaction in the office.

3. Does it make sense to hire people who aren’t in sync with our culture?

When hiring new people, the goal is to look for someone who feels completely at home in your company and resonates with all of the values it stands for. Accomplishing this means typically waiting for exactly the right people to come along. If, on the other hand, you have some positions that you desperately need to fill, then here are some suggestions:

Always have a threshold. If your interviews and conversations with a potential hire give you the feeling that they are 80-90% in line with your company’s values, then go for it. Going below this number risks bringing a person on board whose natural behaviors can harm your culture. Beyond that, rapid hiring typically ends up costing more money in lost communication time and also in hours spent training new people after the fast hires eventually leave (as they tend to do).

Talk it over with your people. One tactic I’ve used in my own company is to bring my people together, let them know the situation, and ask for their input. It sounds something like this: "OK, folks, I’ve got this new person that I feel is about 70% on board with us, so I want to ask you: do we really need a person right now, or can everyone handle their current workloads until we find someone who is more fit for the position, which could be another 3 months?" Being transparent like this has worked really well for me in fostering a feeling of employee ownership in the office.

These are just a few of the questions that came up during the conference and there’s definitely a lot more to talk about regarding company culture. Feel free to contact me directly on LinkedIn and let’s keep this conversation going!

Roman Zelenka

Roman is the CEO (“Chief Energy Officer”) of ZELENKA Translations, a company that his father started in the Czech Republic 30 years ago. Since taking over the company in 2007, he and his team have been pursuing a single vision: to maximize the value of translation services through close, meaningful, human-to-human relationships with their vendors and clients.