A huge part of your employee’s day is spent with colleagues and managers, which is why a company’s success depends in large part on the cultural dynamics. For better or worse, company culture can take hold quickly and greatly affects your brand, so knowing how to develop a positive culture is important.
Whether you have a well established company culture, or it’s still developing, there are ways to you can impact it. We gathered ideas from experts on how to shape and improve your company culture.
Here are the top 27 company culture ideas from the pros.
1. Document regular work processes & procedures.
Søren Pommer, Co-founder & CEO, Gluu.biz
Team members may disagree on simple, recurring tasks such as how to invoice specific customer groups, onboard new employees, and hire contractors. Having such discussions saps energy and often leads to a negative culture. The solution is to let the next person who completes a regular task write down their process and share it for everyone to access. Others can then reuse it and add their comments and insights. Doing this task by task will gradually establish a common way of working that saves your team a lot questions, time, headaches, and even conflict. It requires some discipline and consistency, but the payoff in terms of not reinventing the wheel is substantial.
2. Define a people-focused, not profit-focused, purpose.
Dean Mathews, Founder, OnTheClock
Building a company culture is about building a team of people who have the same purpose, the same passion, and the same principles. The culture must be deliberately designed [and followed] by its leaders, or someone else will create it. When creating a culture, the absolute most important thing is your people. Your people should be valued above everything else, including profits and growth.
A clearly defined purpose that is not related to profit must be established and communicated to everyone, and the money will come if the purpose is genuine. Passion is contagious and must come from the top. If leaders are passionate about the purpose, then the entire team will be passionate.
3. Develop the culture you already have.
Rob Mead, Head of Marketing, Gnatta
Your existing culture defines who you are and what you stand for, rather than the blue-sky ideals you might have come up with in a strategy session. If your business is built on a bedrock of practical, sensible people who make good decision, that goal of being an irreverent disruptor with a Chief Fun Officer and a ball pit in the office might not be the best idea. Instead of determining your culture based on a misguided perception of what you want, build and develop based on who you are. It’s got you this far, and any new direction you take without acknowledging your existing culture will risk being divisive.
4. Appoint a “culture whip.”
William Vanderbloemen, Founder & CEO, Vanderbloemen Search Group
I believe that culture is so important to the workplace that I have a team member who we’ve deemed our Culture Whip. She’s on our Client Relations Team, but she spends a third of her job intentionally infusing our culture through every part of the company. She coordinates our Culture Team, which includes a culture ambassador from each company department. They have regular meetings where they coordinating our monthly culture events on our culture calendar that point back to our nine company values. She also sends out a weekly email with an inspirational article or tip that aligns with one of our nine company values. Having someone who owns the responsibility of infusing culture into every part of our company has been a game changer for our small business.
5. Create a culture handbook.
Jon Saxton, Inbound Marketing Executive, PHOS Creative
In addition to our regular employee handbook, we have a 29-page Culture Handbook. It unpacks each of our core values in detail, explaining what each means and how it applies to how we work, with clients and with each other. Every team member is introduced to the Culture Handbook when they join the team, and we update it periodically. Biweekly, one of the leaders on our team will go even deeper, unpacking a specific section and discussing what that tangibly looks like, in work, communication, or otherwise, often using recent examples.
6. Incorporate compassion into your company’s culture.
Leah Weiss, Ph.D., Speaker, Author & Lecturer, Leah Weiss PhD
Build compassion into your culture from the start – not as an afterthought. To do this, begin by looking for specific leadership soft skills like intellectual humility, the ability to admit mistakes, and problem-solving. Then, formulate a leadership program that is rooted in self-compassion (how to be compassionate towards yourself), group compassion (compassion towards other leaders), and compassion towards employees. These steps are essential to cultivating cultures that are healthy – they are also essential steps to creating an HR culture that is beneficial.
7. Recognize the impact of office space design on company culture.
Rachel Sowards, Vice President, Paladino and Company
The office environment and building also influence company culture in the long-term. The physical environment that people occupy has a significant impact on how they interact and how employees engage with their work.
Here are three simple ideas to improve company culture by addressing the physical work space:
- Remove walls or doors that are barriers to collaboration.
- Give collaborative spaces the best views, daylight, and fresh air.
- Take advantage of underutilized spaces like corridors, intersections, lobbies, and break rooms by incorporating furniture that accommodates laptops, and installing large monitors, whiteboards, and collaboration tools
8. Promote an “office hobby” that employees can participate in.
Steven Benson, Founder & CEO, Badger Maps
At Badger Maps, we keep the same ‘office hobby’ across all the offices. All of the Badger offices have a Foosball table that people enjoy playing – often in a highly competitive manner. When your team has a sport or an activity they have in common, it’s invaluable. It helps everyone get to know
each other, deepens relationships, and gives people a way to blow off steam together. What is special about Foosball is that it’s a very inclusive activity, cutting across gender, culture, and natural physical ability, so that everyone can have fun playing.
9. Reward employees for helping others.
Christine M. Allen, Ph.D., President, Insight Business Works
To create a positive and ethical culture, set up a culture that rewards people for helping others, even on other teams. Even small behaviors that are helpful or positive (e.g., bringing in food for the team, helping someone carry things out to a car, or loaning someone an umbrella when it’s raining) should be noticed and rewarded.
Set up a way for employees to notice other employees’ kind and generous behaviors, and give that employee a small special notice (e.g. put their name on the company bulletin board, or buy them a free cup of coffee or a snack). This creates a culture that is positive and where common values of caring are not simply words, but actions.
10. Conduct regular employee surveys.
Kerry Wekelo, Managing Director of Human Resources & Operations, Actualize Consulting
To create a thriving organizational culture, you must infuse culture in all aspects of your organization, from your people to your programs. One easy way to achieve this is to regularly conduct short employee surveys throughout the year. Employees who are able to contribute ideas of their own to the team will be happier with the results of changes or new initiatives. The important thing to remember is to always communicate what you will and will not implement.
For more information, read Fit Small Business’ article on How to Conduct an Employee Engagement Survey.
11. Serve as a stepping stone for career growth.
Aaron Steed, CEO, Meathead Movers
Meathead Movers is rapidly growing and building a work environment on what we call “encouraged turnover.” Unlike many jobs, Meathead Movers encourages employee turnover by acting as a stepping stone to its student athletes’ dream jobs. The company’s goal is to give its team members skills and mentoring that will equip them with what they need to reach their life goals.
12. Let people take ownership.
Andy Goldstrom, Managing Partner, Midcourse Advisors
While it is important to set expectations and hold people accountable, they need room to do their jobs. If you want someone to get from Point A to Point B, empower them to get the job done. Let them know you expect them to achieve it and when the deadline is, but don’t tell them each step to get from Point A to Point B. If you want to have someone own an initiative, let them create the plan to support it.
13. Host a workplace vision board party.
Dionna A. Appling, BA, M.S.M., Owner, Business Advocates PRO, Inc.
This activity allows your employees to illustrate what an ideal workplace, team, or company culture looks like to them. To do this, close the office a few hours early and provide the supplies for your employees to create their boards. The key here is not to treat this as just an activity or gathering, but to really observe and make note of what your employees truly want while they’re at work.
This will help you align your leadership and employee engagement practices to their needs and ultimately, build a company culture that employees buy into. You can even hang the completed vision boards around the office afterward as a visual reminder of what you and your team are working towards!
14. Encourage your employees to volunteer.
Ann Marie Dori, Marketing & Outreach Coordinator, SOLitude Lake Management
SOLitude Lake Management encourages and rewards staff for volunteer efforts outside of and during work hours through The SOLution, our community outreach program. Company leadership feels it’s important to not only be good stewards to the environment, but also our local communities. Volunteers are recognized quarterly and rewarded for their charitable hours with gift cards, prizes, and company-matched donations to charities of their choice. I volunteer once a week with the local SPCA and host monthly cleanups in my neighborhood – and get rewarded for it at work! It’s a unique aspect of our culture that encourages teamwork and leadership, but also kindness and compassion.
15. Make your business family-friendly.
Joy Gendusa, Founder & CEO, PostcardMania
PostcardMania is located in Florida, where one season that really matters is hurricane season. In the unlucky occasion that a tropical storm or hurricane is threatening our shores, schools in the area will close on pretty short notice. I’m talking the day before! So during hurricane season, we have babysitters on hand at headquarters for storm days, and they turn PostcardMania’s first floor and common areas into a kid zone. Not only do they supervise the kids, they play games with them, watch the latest Disney release on our big projector, feed them something kid-friendly from our organic cafe, and more.
It’s a fun day for the kids, and mommy and daddy staff members don’t have to use up a vacation day or pay for last-minute arrangements the night before if they don’t want to work from home. They can just bring their kids to work and rest easy knowing they’re safe (and totally occupied!) and still be productive for the day.
16. Allow employees to work from home.
Jacqui Liberman, CEO & Founder, Gossip Genie
One tip that can improve company culture is to let employees work from home a couple days of the week. This helps create a positive and trusting atmosphere. Letting your employees work from home sets a tone. It makes the culture feel open, casual, and relaxed. It also builds company morale and shows your employees that you trust them to get their work done, no matter where they work from. This, in turn, develops a positive company culture and improves employee morale.
17. Hold a storytelling workshop.
Jessica Tower, President, Tower & Company
A unique yet powerful idea to improve company culture is to hold a storytelling workshop in which employees create and share stories with fellow team members. Story prompts might include why they joined the company, a time when a team member embodied the company’s mission, or a time when they overcame an obstacle to achieve an important goal. Storytelling workshops help identify and articulate the values of the culture, and enrich the folklore of the organization. Plus, storytelling workshops helps cultivate employees’ leadership and communication skills.
18. Be open to constructive criticism from your employees.
Jon M. Quigley, Principal, Value Transformation
The manager must demonstrate what is the epitome of the expected culture. It helps to be egalitarian regarding power in the organization. Your job title should not dampen the discussion or the ideas from the team. I have had employees talk back to me, never name calling, but assertive and you have to be able to listen to those moments. It is not productive to have your employees suppress their emotional reaction to a crappy situation. Better still, go to that emotional spot with them, give them the space to quickly call the situation for what it is, and then quickly bring the discussion back to solving the problem.
19. Establish a mantra.
Kris Potrafka, CEO, Music Firsthand
Every great company has a mantra that bonds team members, guides behavior and decision-making, and lives beyond any one leader. The mantra has personality and emotion, it is not the mission statement or charter. Over time, a mantra takes on a life of its own and becomes the catalyst for many things such as company traditions, branding, and products. At Sun Microsystems, the mantra was “kick butt and have fun”. These simple 5 words propelled a culture.
20. Focus on friend-building within the workplace.
Shawn D. Madden, Ambassador of Fun, FunCorp
Most companies have no problem pouring time and money into healthcare, 401k’s, and other benefits, but they still find themselves losing valuable employees. Those employees aren’t necessarily leaving because the benefits aren’t good enough, but because they don’t feel a sense of social connectedness at work. Gallup found that close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50%, and people with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to engage fully in their work. Friends will do more for other friends in a week than they will do for a coworker in a month, so why not invest in building friendships to create the culture your company needs?
21. Organize team bonding activities.
Dave Green, Chief Mysterious Officer, Mystery Trip
When looking for team bonding, getting out of the office is always a good idea. Fun activities such as photographic scavenger hunt, trivia night, escape rooms, an improv lesson, even making a music video can bring people together in a way that dinner/drinks or going to a ball game ever can. I have found a key to strengthening the dynamics of a team is to flatten an org chart so everyone can feel important and heard. Having a unique shared experience lowers people’s guard, allowing them to improve relationships and forge new bonds.
22. Use an accomplishment bell.
Fred Schebesta, CEO & Co-Founder, finder.com
We use a bell to celebrate the wins in our offices. The concept is simple: If something awesome happens, ring the bell for everyone to come together and celebrate the win. There’s nothing more exciting than seeing your entire team cheer on a success. You don’t have to use a bell, but the concept remains the same – show acknowledgment and appreciation. It’ll help drive the passion of your staff and make them genuinely want to come into work every day knowing that they’re valued and not just a number on the payroll.
23. Support your employees’ core values.
Jon Michail, CEO, Image Group International
Understanding our own and other people’s core values is so important for so many aspects of life. It is especially important when working on team dynamics. So many petty frustrations can be avoided by better understanding your colleagues’ core values, and employers can learn to create stronger teams by balancing them out with employees whose core values will complement each other so that everyone is bringing something important to the table.
24. Develop a culture code.
Kevin Sproles, CEO, Volusion
Understanding your core values is an essential part of this process, but it is not your culture code. There is a big difference. Core values aren’t strong enough to hold on their own because they aren’t actionable. Once you come up with your core values, it’s essential you add a codification layer to it. We map strategic objectives to each culture code. This means that if we create a new program internally, we always go back to our code and ask ourselves if it contradicts anything on the list.
For example, we have parts of our culture code that are customer-centric, so if we make a decision to raise prices with customers, we ask ourselves if our intended actions are a reflection of what our code says. As a result of revisiting our core values and culture code, we developed the company code, which we live by each day.
25. Build a culture around feedback.
Molly Nagy, Senior HR Coordinator, Hanapin Marketing
The single biggest driver of our award-winning culture is that we have a culture built around feedback. We act and adapt based on the feedback we receive from our team because our team is dynamic and we strive to evolve our business with them. We solicit feedback in a variety of ways – like Leadership Coffees, Stay Interviews, Monthly Questions, Town Halls where employees are able to ask any questions, and having an Open Door Policy.
26. Offer programs that build cohesiveness.
Phillip Cohen, CEO & Founder, Cohen Architectural Woodworking
Our programs at Cohen Architectural Woodworking go well beyond the typical offerings of simply on-the-job training. They include free courses on leadership, business, mentoring, financial planning, free consulting to raise credit scores, and a Cohen Cares Program. The latter involves tax-free donations from pay to a special fund for those in need where an employee committee decides where the contributions go.There is also an expense paid 2-day retreat focused on restoring hope by helping people resolve pain and issues from the past. Together, these programs indicate how much we care about our employees. We get to know them, and they get to know us well. At the end of the day it fosters a strong infrastructure and togetherness, and a culture that will serve you well no matter what type of challenges you face in the future.
27. Bring sportsmanship to the office.
Jen Asbury, CEO & Founder, ACE Group
People (no matter the location, age, gender) know what it takes to win together – and sports teams teach these basics. When teams in companies focus like sports teams and create a season win that energizes employees and management and owners, it builds emotional engagement – “we’re in it together”. The game approach teaches long term teamwork skills: getting on the field to do your part (vs being in the stands) the power of frequent huddles to align, the importance of scoring (taking responsibility for results), tuning the game plan (staying nimble), looking out for each other(having each other’s backs), facing losses (having difficult conversations), and celebrating wins together(making sure people know what they do makes a difference).
Over To You
As your business grows, so does your company as a community. Having a concrete vision of what you want your company to represent makes it a better place to work, and ultimately, the kind of business that’s appealing to customers.
Do you have other company culture ideas worth sharing? Feel free to leave us your comments below.