ABJ Best Places to Work 2011I’m thrilled to share with you that Bazaarvoice has been ranked #1 in the large employer category in the Austin Business Journal’s annual Best Places to Work awards. The idea of culture affects everything we do here, and it motivates us to achieve things that are truly remarkable. But it must be earned, defended and never, ever, taken for granted. And although I could write 10 blog posts about why we feel company culture is important, it makes more sense to share some of the research that speaks to its value to any organization that’s willing to put in the work to make it happen.

The 1992 book Corporate Culture and Performance is regarded as a founding document in the study of corporate culture’s effect on traditional business metrics.  The authors, Harvard professors John Kotter and James Heskett, found that corporate culture was “a strong predictor of financial performance,” in terms of revenue growth, employment growth, stock price growth and net income growth. Fifty-nine percent of working adults feel  “the economic events of the last two years have had a negative impact on their company culture” according to a 2010 Public Affairs-Randstad survey. But cutting back on the things that make workplaces thrive culturally is a misguided approach that creates more problems than it solves.

What have we learned since Corporate Culture and Performance?

Vacations are valuable

Paid time off actually makes us more productive, and evaluating employees solely based on hours worked is an outdated model that generates dissatisfaction, less sleep and ultimately, lower performance. Bazaarvoice’s unprescribed time off policy was created as a reflection of this understanding, and a number of other US companies now have similar policies.

Engaged employees innovate

Gallup defines engaged employees as those who “work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company.” From an overview of their 2006 study:

Gallup research has shown that engaged employees are more productive, profitable, safer, create stronger customer relationships and stay longer with their company than less engaged employees. This latest research indicates that workplace engagement is also a powerful factor in catalyzing “outside-the-box” thinking to improve management and business processes as well as customer service.

Satisfied employees produce satisfied customers (and revenue)

Happiness is contagious, it seems. Sears, Roebuck & Co. saw a correlation between employee and customer satisfaction, finding that for “every 5% increase in employee attitude scores brought a 1-3% increase in customer satisfaction and a 0.5% increase in revenue.” Another Gallup study of 36 corporations linked employee satisfaction to higher revenue, higher profits and lower turnover. Purdue professor James Oakley:

The linkage is through employees’ impact on customers. There is a relationship between attitude and profitability…that relationship is bridged by satisfied customers. There is a direct link between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction, and subsequently between customer satisfaction and improved financial performance.

Inviting them in and asking them to stay

Financial considerations will always weigh heavily in the minds of job seekers, especially during an economic downturn and recovery. But when asked which aspect of a job would be most important if they were looking today, 25 percent of respondents to a poll by the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program chose company culture. It’s intuitive, but when people feel like they belong—when they feel like they’re the right fit for the culture of their workplace—they’re more likely to stay, as study after study has shown. This is one reason why our hiring practices give an incredible amount of weight to culture fit.

We’ve worked hard at Bazaarvoice to make sure that our culture is not seen as a “nice-to-have,” when in fact it is fundamental to our company’s success and the wellbeing of our employees. Awards like this are fantastic milestones, but if you really want to know about our company culture, ask one of us what it’s like to work here.

Bazaarvoice is hiring! Click here to view our openings.