The Beginner’s Guide to Company Culture

When you hear “company culture,” it’s easy to picture office snacks and free kombucha on Fridays. Unsurprisingly, there’s much more to company culture than meets the eye. The issue? It’s notoriously difficult to create and maintain. This guide will walk you through the basics of company culture and specific strategies and tools you can use to establish a culture that drives growth.

What is Company Culture?

Shared goals, attitudes, actions, and values are what define a company’s culture. It helps to think of it as the soul and personality of a business. It doesn’t matter if you run a business of two or are the head of an organization 5,000 strong—company culture is a big differentiator for any business that plans to be around for a long time.

Depending on how it’s managed, company culture can play a decisive role in the ultimate success or failure of a business—which is why it’s so essential that companies spend time thinking deeply about getting it right.

In many cases, company culture is a driving factor behind employee retention.

The Basics of Company Culture

Before we get into ways to improve company culture, it’s important to understand some of the basic puzzle pieces that come together to create it.

A Clear Mission and Vision

Due to the impressive list of benefits that an organization’s culture can bring, focusing on creating and establishing a healthy company culture is an intelligent long-term business strategy. To do this, though, your company first needs a clear mission and vision.

Your mission informs the shared values and goals of a culture that retains and draws in talent. The mission and vision of a company are crucial to what direction it takes and the growth it sees.

Going through the process of forming your company’s mission and vision statements could be its own book. First, however, in relation to company culture, it’s worth asking a few pointed questions:

  • What steps is our company taking to bring its vision to life?
  • Is our mission illustrated through our company guidelines, rules, and responsibilities?
  • Are these two things clearly communicated to every single employee? If so, how? If not, what specific steps need to be taken for better communication?

Clarity will ultimately lead to better decision-making. With a foundation of a clear mission and vision, you can start setting goals and establishing strategies to cultivate the culture you want to create.

Traditions

Tradition and culture are closely related. If one suffers, inevitably so does the other. Traditions are an important part of your company’s culture because it helps shape your company’s identity through the employee experience.

They can take many forms and are informed by the uniqueness of your business rather than a one-size-fits-all playbook. For example, while an SMB can celebrate individual employee birthdays, larger organizations might opt for scheduling a quarterly outing for each department.

Are you incorporating employee-enriching traditions into your day-to-day operations? One of the best ways to improve traditions within your company is to clearly define what you want to achieve through them.

For instance, ask yourself, are your goals to:

  • Make your employees feel cared for and supported or like they belong to a bigger mission-driven quest?
  • Establish an environment of safe and rule-abiding team members?
  • Encourage innovation and out-of-the-box thinking?
  • Increase the collaborative spirit within your organization?

Deciding what you want to achieve through traditions first then working backward can be an effective way to pinpoint practices worth keeping that go beyond basic company rules and guidelines.

Technology

Though technology might not be what comes to mind when you think of company culture, it’s increasingly playing a part in how employees relate and communicate with each other. Especially with the ongoing changes that enable companies to be more flexible in allowing employees to work and communicate from home.

If you’re a company that values and foster’s innovation, you’d be remiss not to ensure your teams are equipped with the technology that eases communication, collaboration, and processes. This rings true for just about any organization that cares about its employees’ experiences and work environment.

In essence, the technology you use can have a pervasive impact on your business’s unique “expressions” and “personality.” For example, if your company’s systems aren’t integrated or equipped to communicate, employees will have a harder time hitting goals and maintaining a collaborative spirit.

Riding on that topic, below we go through a few tools you can use to improve company culture.

5 Tools to Improve Company Culture

There are a variety of ways to approach how you improve your culture. Here, we look at a few tools that can make that process easier.

Culture Amp

Over 4,000 companies, including Etsy, Slack, and Mcdonalds, use Culture Amp to easily and intelligently collect employee feedback. The platform is designed to improve engagement, development, retention, and performance through timelines, development-focused reviews, and goal tracking tools.

How are your initiatives performing? How do employees really feel about working at your company? Are your turnover rates improving? Who are your highest performers, and why? These are all questions you can answer once you put Culture Amp to work. Feedback collection is an integral part of improving your company culture. It starts with using the right tools first.

Performance Culture

As the name suggests, Performance Culture is built to create a culture of inspired performance and employee engagement. Through performance reviews, check-ins, recognition systems, and employee engagement surveys, performance culture lets you assess each of your employees and where they perform best.

Establishing performance expectations and behaviors can be a challenging task to overtake. But doing this can get you closer to aligning your employees to your mission and vision—which is what Performance Culture was built to do. Not only that, but it also comes with built-in coaching tools that help you shape how your employees perform as you reward high achievers.

Explorance

Successfully managing your employee’s experience is without a doubt a big part of creating and maintaining company culture. Explorance sets out to do this by providing you with tools to hire and manage for success from the beginning. Tools to help you through the recruitment process make sure that you’re onboarding the right people in the first place.

Additional tools like learning evaluations, competency assessments, and feedback management systems all come together to help you lead with a unified approach to culture. In addition, its employee journey mapping capabilities and pre-built reports and dashboards make sure you’re getting a bigger picture of what’s really going on in your organization’s day-to-day. And how you can improve it.

Basecamp

Company culture isn’t only reserved for employees that work in-house. Remote or hybrid teams also need and benefit from an established culture where they feel they can communicate without ceremony or red tape regardless of where they are. Basecamp was built with such teams in mind.

When you onboard with Basecamp, you get access to a slew of tools that move your company forward as it tackles goals and executes projects. However, three specific tools help establish and maintain a culture of open communication: its message board, check-in automation, and chat features. Each of these features allows your employees to freely share feedback, announce milestones, chat casually, and stay on track with automated check-in questions. Learn more here.

Motivosity


Motivosity is built around the idea that your employees are motivated to do their best work once they feel heard through constructive relationships and a sense of belonging. The trick is in cultivating an environment where that’s the reality. Then, Motivosity brings your employees together through tools that connect them.

Managers are better able to manage their employees through priority tracking, the ability to conduct better one-on-one meetings, and the ability to create custom surveys. Motivosity connects four of its products, Connect, Recognize, Lead, and Listen, to help you create a culture where employees feel recognized for their work and heard when there’s a pressing concern. It uses the power of public milestones, awards, and badges to help bring out the best from your teams.

3 Tricks To Improve Company Culture

You know the essential components that create culture and tools to help you execute and improve that culture. Below are a few suggestions for making your company culture the best it can be.

Collaborate With HR

HR isn’t only good for hiring, onboarding, and protecting the interests of your organization. They can also play an important role in setting the tone of your culture as early as the vetting and hiring process.

To collaborate with HR, include them as part of your culture-setting process. For instance, empower them to weed out candidates that aren’t a company culture fit once they learn about the type of culture you’re looking to establish, rather than just selecting employees by an isolated set of skills that fit any given job description. Moreover, HR can encourage communication between employees and managers by making the process easier and more accessible.

Overall, HR should play an active role in setting and maintaining company culture if it’s treated as an integral stakeholder in the planning and execution throughout the company. It starts with setting the example of inclusion from the beginning.

Work-Life Flexibility

Yet another universally flattering strategy that improves company culture is establishing more work-life balance by being a more flexible organization. The pandemic has brought with it a few universal lessons. One of those is that employees not only highly appreciate but need work-life flexibility.

This can take many forms. For example, are you allowing your employees to work from home? Are your dress codes or scheduled office hours less stringent? Are employees freely able to take time off for significant life events?

Going back to the drawing board to revise how exactly you’re flexible with your employees can pay generous dividends in the long run through increased productivity, higher employee satisfaction, and higher retention rates. Both data and feedback help you learn how employees feel cared for, supported, engaged, and included the most.

Gather Feedback and Data

You don’t want to define your company culture in an echo chamber. Gathering candid feedback and relevant data points on the performance of your culture efforts from employees and managers can be a game-changer. Unfortunately, this can be an area of your culture-setting process that’s easy to overlook.

But you shouldn’t. Not if you want to create an environment where employees are generally satisfied and want to do more to move your organization forward.

Whether it’s by surveying, a suggestion box, one-on-one assessments, or other means of collection, gathering feedback can help you through the iterative process as you get rid of what isn’t working and try new and novel ideas. Data can make it easy to pinpoint where you’re falling short and which efforts produce stellar results.

What to Do Next

Establishing a company culture that drives growth is done by being proactive about creating an environment that supports the shared values, attitudes, and actions you want to uphold. Though there isn’t a one-size-fits-all blueprint for creating your own company’s culture, there are steps you can take in the right direction that’ll help shape it unique to you. Hopefully, this guide gave you additional insight into the how and why of company culture.

However, there is always more to learn. For more, I’ve created a guide on how to make your company blog relevant. It goes through why it’s crucial for companies to establish a relevant blog (which could also inform your company culture efforts) and actionable tips to make it happen.

Does your brand have a compelling story? Here’s how to leverage it to drive sales. If you’re struggling with conceptualizing an interesting story, it’s an excellent read that walks you through the process of crafting a compelling story that drives results for your business.

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