This was an exciting week at Reveneer. We were recognized by Inc. Magazine as a best workplace for 2018!

This recognition got me thinking about employee engagement and company culture. It’s extremely difficult to get everything working the right way, where you can attract the right people, provide an environment where they stay, grow and develop, all while providing the right mix of challenging work, achievement and fun.

I don’t believe that a founder or even a management team can set a course for great company culture.  As a company grows, particularly one that grows exponentially as ours has, its culture can become diluted or strengthened as more people join.

While we can attempt to describe the culture of the company to others, like those seeking to join, we can’t demand that they adopt a set of values or behaviors once they arrive.

So what is it that makes some company cultures evolve and strengthen as the organization grows, while others deteriorate into something unintended and undesirable over time?

I’m not sure I know the answer, and there are certainly a lot of books and articles on the topic.

For me, it comes down to one word – Authenticity.  Rather than ask the question “Is our company culture good?”, I prefer to ask “Is our company culture authentic?”.

It is fairly easy today to create what appears to be a great company culture and strong employee engagement.  We can buy the ping pong table, offer Thirsty Thursdays, lunch on Friday, and celebrate ugly sweater day at holiday time.  We can post pictures on social media of happy smiling people at fun company outings, and oh yeah, sometimes doing work.

I believe having an authentic culture is more than that.  It’s what your people say about your company when no one’s looking.  It’s how they describe the company to friends, to family and to people they meet – not just on a survey.

For the management team, it’s demonstrating what’s important to the company and what it values, not in speeches, but in what we do every day.  It’s how we interact with our employees, how we handle adversity, how we reward success and how we deal with failure.

Authenticity can’t be created in time to win an award, and then put back on the shelf to be used later.  An authentic company culture is one of those things that’s hard to explain, but you know it when you see it.  I’ve seen a few, and they’re rare.

So, I ask, your company culture is good.  But is it authentic?