Top 10 Ways to Build Company Culture

Written by May Chau of 7 Geese

Company culture.

If you’re an avid reader of business blogs on entrepreneurship or general management, the popular term culture will be of no stranger to you. The following are just two of the most common questions people have about it.

  • What is culture?
  • What makes great culture?

According to an article written by the Harvard Business Review:

Culture guides discretionary behavior and it picks up where the employee handbook leaves off. Culture tells us how to respond to an unprecedented service request. It tells us whether to risk telling our bosses about our new ideas, and whether to surface or hide problems. Employees make hundreds of decisions on their own every day, and culture is our guide. Culture tells us what to do when the CEO isn’t in the room, which is of course most of the time.

Unfortunately, many studies show employees don’t like their jobs. While challenging work may provoke stress from time to time, workplace culture shouldn’t be creating additional stress.

Culture matters because it creates employee enthusiasm and sustains it over time.

Beyond the human factor, employees that want to come to work everyday are those that tend to be most productive. And quite frankly, becoming more efficient than your competitors is a strong competitive advantage to gain.

So, to help you better understand how to create strong work culture. Here are some top things companies with great work cultures do:

1. Hire for culture fit

When it comes to hiring employees, it’s always important to find people that work well with your current employees. No matter how high-performing an individual might be, the ones that don’t fit in your culture can impact your company negatively.

Zappos for example, makes it a point to hire people that represent the company well even outside of work. Chances are, you’ll make a passing judgement on a particular company if the person telling you they work there is rude or arrogant.

Successful teams never have a bad hire to discuss.

"If candidates aren't a good fit with the Zappos Family Core Values then they don't make the cut."

"If candidates aren't a good fit with the Zappos Family Core Values then they don't make the cut."

2. Trust employees to make decisions

Employees are one of the most important stakeholders to a company's success. And as companies grow, the ability for employees to provide input and actively make company decisions weakens. Limiting employee involvement can have long-term negative consequences on any company.

Great ideas and decisions don't always come from management — they can come from anywhere within the company.

For instance, the Google News tool we all know and love was created by research scientist, Krishna Bharat of Google, not top management. 

It wasn’t a tool he was told to create, but something he felt was useful to build.

Khrishna Bharat, creator of Google News, a universal tool that indexes over 25,000 news websites.

3. Value collective team intelligence

Ever wonder why so many CEOs address their employees as a team? It’s because collective intelligence is far more valuable than one single high-performing individual.

Employees are individuals thrown together to work on the same projects.

However, as a collective team, the goal and vision is the same and no credit needs to be claimed because the end result was achieved together.

Notice how one of the biggest interest communities today, Pinterest, addresses their employees as a team:

Valuing team intelligence promotes a sense of unity and accomplishment among employees.

Valuing team intelligence promotes a sense of unity and accomplishment among employees.

4. Communicate core values often

Since the only way to really know whether an employee lives by company core values is to observe their work over time, candidates that fit company culture are a much safer hire.

If they live by similar values in their personal lives, it makes sense for them to carry these same values to work.

Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg does a fantastic job of communicating this:

The reason why we’ve built a company is because I think a company is by far the best way to get the best people together and align their incentives around doing something great.

5. Provide flexible work hours

In a previous article, we discussed the importance of building trust in a team.

Providing the option for employees to choose when, where, and how they get work done is a privilege given on the basis of trust. Discipline without a manager looking over your shoulder is something everyone should seek out in their careers.

Citrix is a software that makes remote working possible and defines strong culture and good values as part of their product strategy.

Citrix built a strong work culture by offering flexible hours and remote opportunities to employees.

Citrix built a strong work culture by offering flexible hours and remote opportunities to employees.

6. Give fantastic training

When you find a high-performing individual that fits your company culture, it’s time to make sure they have the knowledge necessary to succeed as part of the team.

Today, the vast majority of successful companies, like Discover, provide employees with top-notch training.

Not only will training increase the knowledge of an employee, it also supports employee retention. When an employer is willing to invest time and resources into an employee, one cannot help but feel more valued in the workplace. That employee can continue on and assert themselves as a valuable member of the company.

7. Foster innovation in the community

What’s the next best thing to retaining top talent? It’s to cultivate new talent in the community.

New graduates are often looking for experiences that many companies are not willing to provide. Companies with great cultures build their own talent and foster strong relationships with educators and students in the community.

REI, a popular outdoor equipment retailer does this by hiring co-op students — often hiring top talent after graduation. The key here is continuation.

At REI, programs are offered to help employees prepare for and move into management positions.

At REI, programs are offered to help employees prepare for and move into management positions.

8. Promote transparency

Promoting transparency develops a company culture based around honesty and trust.

Leaders that are transparent find themselves in positions where their core values are clearly communicated to the rest of the team.

Buffer for instance, embraces transparency as a core value. The social media startup makes internal company data, such as salaries and revenue, readily available to the public and other employees.

They’ve not only brought attention to their successes but failures as well.

This level of openness is something that employees and customers can both value.

9. Believe in continuous feedback

Trust is often interpreted as an action — It's not, it's a feeling.

You can’t ask two people to trust each other and expect that they will. There has to be an emotional willingness to trust between the two. This starts when individuals are viewed as people, not just as subordinates in a vertical hierarchy.

HelpScout, for example, believes in ongoing feedback that has allowed them to become an open and strong working team. Here, workers at any level, are recognized as equals for their collaboration and effort.

Trust is key — HelpScout's methods not only build customer loyalty, but employee loyalty as well.

Trust is key — HelpScout's methods not only build customer loyalty, but employee loyalty as well.

10. Recognize the achievements of peers

Recognition reinforces achievements and can be utilized to align employees with company core values.

Satmetrix recognizes employee achievements in alignment to their company core values using the 7Geese Recognition Board. By determining both company and employee objectives, they can be aligned with the desired end results. Whether it’s increasing employee engagement or revenue, alignment is key to company success.

Ultimately, an effective work culture means an effective workplace. Choosing applicants who share your company values, recognizing their achievements, and valuing workplace collaboration goes a long way in creating a more enthusiastic team.