great culture? look to the cows.

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We’re told happy cows make happy milk. True or not, the California Milk Advisory Board’s award-winning campaign speaks to our senses.

Translating that into the workplace makes even more sense: Happy employees make…, well, you get the idea.

It stands to reason that if you have enough happy employees, you have happy situations–and the makings of a great work culture. All of which begs the question, “What are the real benefits, the upside and the advantages to a great culture at work?”

A conspicuous list would include employee loyalty, better products, better services, better environment, better everything that is good. Digging deeper, you might find enduring value in your brand and other meaningful intangibles.

“The first benefit that comes to mind for me regarding working for a company with a great corporate culture would be looking forward to going to work every day,” said Dan Burgess, Sr. V.P. at Louisville-based Doe Anderson advertising. “A great culture doesn’t guarantee you love your job or you might not be burned out, but at least the environment around you would be invigorating, supportive and comfortable.”

That level of culture boosts morale, something needed in today’s world of up-and-down economy. It’s natural to want associate with winners. It’s seen everywhere that a winning team makes fans and followers euphoric–and spend more money. Working at a winning company has similar positive effects.

Great corporate culture also strengthens efforts to gain new customers. Customers of every sort want to bring their business to winning companies, whose culture often spills out to a broader audience through its employees. (Maybe that’s one reason companies spend vast amounts of budget to establish and protect their brand.)

Companies committed to a culture of integrity establish a built-in system that drives honest decision-making. Even without realizing it, that type of culture spreads to all who associate with you. Simply put, being part of a company with a culture at that level enhances an individual’s own brand identity.

Los Angeles-based International Public Relations Co. president Jack Whitehouse regularly counseled clients to improve their corporate culture because of the positive ripple effect. It’s a simple observation but highly telling: How employees talk about their employer on weekends to their friends is a key indicator. “That’s the real measure of your work culture,” he advised. And probably your success—as a company and individually.

“In a great corporate culture, everything seems possible,” said Sharon Boeldt, Milwaukee-based Hoffman York partner. “Because the vibe is positive, you have more energy to do more things–at work and in your personal life.”

Combining the power of culture with technology allows some companies to attract top talent no matter where they operate. In fact, trends show more companies are finding corporate culture is unifying, appealing and universally embraced as the glue when coworkers’ physical offices are remote. In those cases, without the company’s cultural connection, many employees would feel isolated and removed, reverting to emotional silos of workers who are disconnected and hopelessly out-of-touch. The next step on that path is decreased productivity, unhappiness and a yearning to belong.

Perhaps that sense of belonging is a silent indicator of worker satisfaction with today’s workers. Fortunately, a strong corporate culture has the power to thread that through lives of employees who are on front lines to positively influence customers. It gives them a sense that they matter, they count and they do belong.

San Francisco-based Automattic, Inc., which created WordPress.com, is but one example of the strength of the corporate culture in their world of remote workers in 36 countries. With no actual home office, Automattic enlists top talent in their 400-person international company even though they are not located in New York or West Coast markets.

In a virtual office structure, the sense of purpose–of belonging–is key to employee morale and happiness. In fact, in similar situations, company culture may be the most effective tool to ensure employees are unified and productive.

The business model of working anywhere, which is stronger now than ever, can instantly improve personal life by making work life rich in a culture that connects with today’s employees, even though the boss may be based a thousand miles away.

So what are the real benefits of great work? And a great work culture? Happy cows. Happy people. Dare we say a happy life?

By tim brown
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