The ROI of Investing in Creative Company Culture


Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.

At major Fortune 500 companies, entire teams are cultivating a rich and authentic company culture to retain talent and optimize internal workflow. But for many small businesses, especially independent creative companies, well-meaning intentions to allocate time and resources toward fostering positive company culture often fall to the wayside under the intense pressures of day-to-day operations. It’s even more vital for small businesses to invest in nurturing a culture that supports and retains key talent, as turnover is costly and antithetical to the growth and success of your business.

In entertainment, an archaic “you’re lucky to be here” mentality persists, spurring some of the infamous workplace toxicity that continues to make headlines. That approach is not only wildly disrespectful, but when it comes to ROI, it’s a majorly missed opportunity. In the entertainment business, employees are much more likely to exhibit a deep commitment to their work when they feel management is supporting their passion.

With this support, you can build a culture in which employees are self-motivated and proud to work to their full potential. Here is how independent creative companies can invest in company culture that pays off in the long-term:

Identify and Communicate Core Values

Before diving into what many employees may initially think of when it comes to the fundamental pillars of company culture, such as benefits, team building and educational activities, and the unifying power of water-cooler chatter, it’s essential to establish and create widespread internal awareness of your company’s values. Employees should be expected to embody and understand these guiding principles. The process of identifying core values is not only beneficial for your executive leadership, helping to establish a clear understanding of the “why” of what your company does, but also helps employees maintain an understanding of how their individual role feeds into the big-picture strategy and ethos.

For instance, at my company, MarVista Entertainment, the core values we have built our brand on are entrepreneurship, passion, collaboration, gratitude, and truthfulness. Our employees are all representatives of our company in every interaction they have, so ensuring that they authentically exhibit these values is key to consistently showing up as their best selves for our clients and for their colleagues. We leverage each employee’s mid-year and annual review as opportunities to revisit these values, adding a regular cadence to our team’s connection with the shared purpose at the core of our day-to-day work.

Our employees were not only guided by the pillars of what our company stands for, but also by honest, compassionate and proactive leadership.

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Encourage Entrepreneurialism Within Your Company

While your employees are working toward the greater goals of the company, there is a palpable power in granting them the autonomy to take ownership and become the driving force behind initiatives within the company that excite them. Establishing a shared entrepreneurial drive creates space for proactive opportunity-seeking, continuous improvement and openness to feedback and collaboration. As business leaders, we can entrust our employees to leverage this internal drive as an essential shared value that allows us to execute projects. It is not solely an abstraction but can be the source of exponential growth.

While it’s essential that employees feel fully supported by the structure and full breadth of capabilities of the company, creating space for self-driven successes is a powerful tool as beneficial to the employee as to the company. We need to trust that our teams have what it takes to be successful, and encourage and challenge them to be open to creativity and innovation when it comes to problem-solving.

Set Limits with Virtual Collaboration

We are all fortunate that in our digital world, we have such seamless tools that have allowed us to transition (with some hiccups along the way) into remote collaboration. But after the last year and a half, everyone has the understanding that Zoom fatigue is something that even the most driven and hardworking employee has experienced. While face-to-face interaction, even if it’s through a computer screen, is key for productivity, setting clear limits of what is expected of virtual collaboration will help avoid employee burnout and can often help them remain on task.

Create a framework for the company of what types of meetings should be on video, what communication should happen over email, messaging and phone. At MarVista, we have recently implemented a “quiet Fridays” policy that calls for no internal meetings after noon on Fridays. This reset of working habits is something that we hope will provide our team with a designated period of time where they can focus on the projects that are most demanding, without being interrupted by video meetings.

Bring Authentic Passion to Your Leadership

Entertainment is certainly an industry that engenders passionate employees. In the throes of a stressful deadline or unforeseen production challenges, however, maintaining a core understanding of the passion for what you do is not always easy. As entertainment leaders, we should encourage our employees to share their passions and fan the flame of inspiration to continue to build upon and grow these passions. We have found that connecting our employees with resources that encourage their passions outside the office helps ensure they are happy and fulfilled during the workday. This underlying drive can be one of our most powerful resources when it comes to entertaining audiences with stories that truly resonate on a personal level.

As we begin to draw out plans for a “return to the office,” we should aim to bring a fresh perspective when it comes to culture. The challenges of maintaining culture while physically apart have inspired renewed enthusiasm for finding new ways to put our people first.

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