Why Every Part of Your Company Should Be Focused on Giving
A company’s culture is one of its most valued assets. That’s why it’s essential that leaders commit to defining and developing it as they expand.
“Work hard, play hard” is a frequent motto of modern startups that want to counter the rigid processes and protocols of large corporate environments. These companies move fast, try new things, and usually have ping-pong tables.
We subscribe to that mindset at TechnologyAdvice, but with an added dimension. We try to promote a culture of giving that guides our actions every day. This credo of helpfulness is akin to Adam Grant’s philosophy of “Give and Take,” which argues the greatest source of motivation is a sense of service to others. When you build a company culture around giving, it cultivates positivity and promotes holistic growth and engagement.
I believe a focus on giving is a fundamental element of successful companies. Encouraging your team to base all of its decisions around how they can help others will always benefit the three groups that have the greatest impact on a company’s success: colleagues, customers, and community.
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Giving to Your Customer
Most businesses are created to provide a service or product that fills a need in the market, or helps customers overcome a challenge. However, a recent study shows that rather than service, “greed” is the word that most often comes to mind when Americans hear the word “corporation.”
How often do you take time to focus on the “why” in what your company is doing? (And hopefully that “why” is not purely “to make money.”) How often is that communicated to the team? How often is that communicated to your customers?
A company’s mission statement should reflect who it is helping and how it is helping them — providing a clear meaning in the work. A culture of giving in this sense is one focused on customer service. When interacting with customers, an employee’s goals should be developed around building meaningful relationships, creating positive experiences, and providing a service that positively impacts the customer. Measuring service quality, seeking feedback, and learning to anticipate customer needs are actions that create true loyalty and brand advocates, as opposed to inconsistent customers who come and go amid empty rewards programs and marketing sweepstakes.
Continuously interacting with customers to gauge their satisfaction is key. A company needs to ask questions, listen, and learn from its customers, rather than dictate what they should want. When you focus time and energy on doing what’s best for the customer, and then see the positive effect and satisfaction that work produces, it naturally makes you want to do more of it. When you have happy employees giving their all for their customers, your brand will be linked more with service than with greed.
An employee’s goals should be developed around building meaningful relationships, creating positive experiences, and providing a service that positively impacts the customer.
Giving to Your Colleagues
Being a company dedicated to giving has a growing positive impact on employee job satisfaction and motivation. A 2012 survey from Net Impact revealed 53 percent of workers wanted “a job where they could make an impact,” and 72 percent of students about to enter the workforce agreed. Whether that’s helping customers, helping teammates, or helping the community, one of the most important things you can give your employees is the opportunity for them to give.
Investing in the quality of your team’s work experience will naturally create more productive and efficient employees. This goes beyond perks and benefits by also including the gifts of freedom, flexibility, and responsibility. Teams can achieve great things when they have a sense of ownership, know that leadership is open to new ideas, and have the freedom to collaborate. In fact, collaboration may be the most important element in a culture of giving. A recent McKinsey & Company study of US intelligence groups found the single strongest predictor of group effectiveness was the amount of help that teammates gave each other. This result wasn’t just about working together on a project. The study analyzed the time and energy that analysts invested in coaching, teaching, and consulting their colleagues.
Of course, personnel plays a large role in making this type of culture possible. Managers need to hire candidates and develop teammates who are givers, not takers. That comes from constant reinforcement of putting teams above individuals, and rewarding efforts made to both seek and provide help to teammates. In the McKinsey & Company study, helping behavior enabled employees to solve problems faster, ensured expertise was transferred efficiently to new employees, reduced variability in performance, and established an environment in which customers felt their needs were the organization’s top priority.
Giving to Your Community
Being an active member in the community is the most visible aspect of a culture of giving. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) continues to be a focus of large corporations, as much for the positive publicity as the recruiting benefits.
In the same Net Impact survey cited above, 35 percent of respondents said that, all other things being equal, they would take a 15 percent pay cut to work for a company committed to CSR. In addition, 45 percent of respondents said they would take that pay cut for a job that makes a social or environmental impact. Understandably, more companies are finding ways to help their employees make those impacts. NetApp, for example, allows employees to volunteer up to five consecutive paid business days per year to support the nonprofit organizations or schools of their choice.
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It’s important to communicate, however, the reason for making such opportunities available — which is making a difference in the lives of others. It’s no secret that giving time and support to charitable causes makes us feel good. However, research shows that acts of goodness have an even greater “happiness effect” when they facilitate social connections as well. In other words, donating to a non-profit cause that has affected a colleague or friend gives us more joy, just like being a mentor to a new hire or a student interested in your profession brings more personal happiness than simply donating to a mentorship program. It’s the perfect example of how a culture of giving can positively impact multiple areas.
Happy people do more. Happy people care more. Happy people give more. A company should strive to fill its team with such people. Set expectations that foster habitual behavior, and start giving. You will be amazed at how much more you receive.
How does your company promote a culture of giving? Share your experiences in the comments!