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How to Build Strong Company Culture in a Modern Workplace

February 2, 2021

company-culture

When you think about the elements that are most important to your business, what comes to mind?

Surely you thought of profit-margins and closing big deals. While yes, these are both valuable assets to your company, let’s not forget about how impactful boosting strong company culture can be to an organization. Company culture should be at the heart of everything your company does and it's one of the most important parts of any successful talent acquisition and recruitment strategy.

Sometimes referred to as organizational culture, corporate culture, or workplace culture, it’s oftentimes reflected in the attitude and behavior of a company and its employees. You’ll get a good first impression of a company’s culture based on how people interact with one another, the values they uphold, and the decisions they make regarding their organization. 

Plus, creating a winning corporate culture within your organization improves your recruitment marketing efforts and leads to higher retention rates, while also leaving your current employees with a sense of empowerment. 

Company culture is how various elements come together as one, and these elements often include the company mission, its leadership style, the workplace environment, the expectations set by leadership, and the values and ethics the team works toward.

Why is company culture important?

Because company culture is essentially the personality your company has, it’s important to build one that’s strong and accurately reflects your organization. The culture your company has should go deeper than just “vibes” it gives off during the recruitment process or onboarding new hires, but every aspect of the daily routine.

And yes, candidates interested in joining your team will pay special attention to the salary range and benefits that are being offered, but they’ll notice culture, too. 

77%

of adults would evaluate a company's culture before applying to an open position. 

Source: Glassdoor

Your company's culture will set the tone and expectations for the work environment and is a key factor in how employees feel about working for a business. Company culture and employee engagement are at the heart of everything your company does and it's one of the most important parts of any successful talent management strategy as you look for new employees to join your team.

The four types of company culture

The four types of company culture were developed by Robert E. Quinn and Kim S. Cameron of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. After investigating the qualities that make businesses effective, and listing out 39 attributes, they were able to narrow the types of company culture to four that are the most popular and widely accepted across varying industries.

1. Clan culture

Having clan culture means that your company’s primary focus is all about mentorship and teamwork. Your company motto is probably something similar to “we’re all in this together” as clan culture is very people-focused in the sense that your company wants everyone to feel like they’re one big happy family.

In clan culture, the work environment is extremely collaborative, every individual is highly valued, and communication is a top priority. 

A clear benefit of establishing clan culture at your workplace is that it often leads to high employee engagement. However, the flip side is that this “family-style” culture is difficult to maintain as your company grows and hires more people. Because of this, it’s often found in startups and smaller companies.

2. Adhocracy culture

Adhocracy culture is centered around taking risks and being innovative. Companies that exhibit adhocracy culture are always looking to come up with the next big thing. They value individuality in the sense that they encourage their team to think outside the box and exhibit creativity with every idea they bring to the table. 

A benefit of having this type of company culture is that it often leads to high-profit margins as employees are always motivated to achieve sky-high goals. However, taking risks is always going to be, well, risky. There’s always a chance that one of these ideas won’t work as planned and could hurt the business in the long run.

Think big-name businesses like Google or Apple. You’ll find adhocracy culture in places like these. They live and breathe creative energy and do what has never been done before. This company culture is common in tech industries where new products have to be unveiled in order to stay relevant.

3. Market culture

Companies that exhibit market culture are centered around competition and growth. Being profitable is front and center as a top priority and everything is evaluated with the bottom line in mind.

Because these companies are so focused on the results and external success, there are several degrees of separation between employees and those in leadership roles and C-level titles. The main objective of these companies is centered around meeting a quota, reaching a specific target, and getting results. 

A clear benefit of having market culture is that they are often profitable and achieve success. This is because the entire company is laser-focused and everyone is working toward the same objectives. However, a downside is that the focus is never on internal satisfaction, so it can be difficult for employees to have a sense of purpose outside being a cog in a machine. 

Companies with a market culture have the goal of being the best of the best, meaning you’ll find it at larger companies where well-known leaders are at the top of the pack.

4. Hierarchy culture 

Last but not least, hierarchy culture is centered around structure and stability. Companies within this culture adhere to traditional corporate culture, meaning there’s a clear chain of command with various tiers of management that separate employees from leadership. They often boast a structure that leans more on the rigid side, likely with a business-professional dress code.

A benefit of having hierarchy culture in the workplace is that they often have a clear and well-defined process that keeps the main objectives of the company top of mind. However, because this culture is so rigid, it leaves little room for employees to be creative and employee feedback often slips through the cracks.

You’ll see this type of culture in various types of companies, from old-school organizations like law firms all the way to customer service companies like fast food-chains. They’re the companies that are hyper-focused on the day-to-day operations and aren’t interested in changing how things are done any time soon.

How to build or improve company culture

Regardless of which type your company is looking to build,– or which type you have that you’d like to improve upon – creating a positive work culture isn’t easy. 

Utilize the right software

First things first, you need to have the right software within your tech stack. For that, you need to choose from the employee engagement software market. These tools work to help companies of all shapes and sizes track and solicit feedback from their employees while also recognizing their achievements and promoting positive activity. 

Thanks to employee pulse surveys, you can easily distribute customizable culture-focused surveys or polls to employees to measure all aspects of employee engagement, including their satisfaction surrounding their job, the workplace environment, and pay.

Establish and implement core values

When you’re hiring for open roles, candidates will always look to see what your core values are, so it’s important that you take the time to make them stand out. 

Keep in mind that your company’s values are just words unless you take the time to put them to action. If one of your values is that your company values loyalty, curiosity, and integrity, how do you plan to back them up?

When put into practice, your core values become more than words. They become what healthy company culture is built on.

Set realistic company culture goals

The goals you set in regards to your organization's culture are going to be a little different than your usual KPIs. The goals centered around culture will pertain to the fundamental ideals behind your company.

Think about why the company was founded in the first place. Your company culture should reflect that while showing what the company is working towards. It should have an almost inspirational message behind it or feel like the company’s overall mission statement.

An example, front and center on the G2 homepage is “Where you go to buy software”. Our company culture is built around that goal and all decision-making initiatives reflect that.

Get everyone involved

The element about company culture that can be a little tricky is that, while it’s easy to define, it’s hard to measure and track the effectiveness of your company culture initiatives.

In order to help nail this down and improve company culture, always involve your employees in the process. You should stay in constant communication with your staff and ask for their opinion of their success through an employee engagement survey or tracking system.

Make diversity a priority

A top priority for any company should be taking the time and investing in creating a team that accurately reflects the culture we live in. Too often people get caught up in finding candidates that remind them of themselves or have the exact same qualifications that they do.

As an HR professional, recruiter, or hiring manager, if you’re struggling with your company culture and looking for a quick way to improve, take some time to reexamine your hiring structure and process. Make it a priority to hire qualified people different from those who already work for your company while still finding the right cultural fit for long term success.

Diversity within a team is something more and more employees are saying is important to them when looking at company culture. 

67%

of employees say that diversity is an important factor when they look for a job.

Source: Glassdoor

Having a diverse workforce does more than improve your corporate culture – it pays in the long run. The advantages of having people from different walks of life working for your company are abundant. They offer a different perspective, fresh ideas, a variety of skills, and they bring something new to the company’s culture.

Clearly define and encourage career development

This is especially important when dealing with young professionals who are just starting out in their careers. Many employees will only stay in a job long enough for them to learn everything there is to learn before moving on and taking their skills elsewhere. Are you offering your employees room and space to grow?

If not, you could be inadvertently pushing them out the door. In fact, the number one reason employees leave a job is due to lack of development and career growth.

Career development is more than just offering someone a promotion. There are several options you can give employees that go beyond the more traditional way of thinking about career development.   

  • Create a mentorship program to pair newer employees with more senior staff.
  • Reimburse employees for attending work-related conferences and training sessions.
  • Create a tuition reimbursement program.
  • Put an ambitious employee in charge of a new project.
  • Encourage cross-departmental collaboration.
  • Start a lunch-and-learn program where employees can learn from each other.

You can start small by offering one or two of these programs before expanding to something more complex. Remember that when it comes to company culture, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You need to decide what works for your company’s budget, time, and resources.

Encourage innovation and spontaneity 

As you implement cultural changes to your organization, you’re going to have employees that are excited and want to get involved. It’s in your best interest to not only listen to these employees, but also to engage them in the process.

These employees can act as ambassadors of your new company culture initiatives and provide feedback from fellow employees as you try new things. You may even consider designating them a special role for new company culture ideas that you roll out in the future, which will help maintain a competitive advantage when recruiting new individuals to join your company. This will help engage them and make them feel valued.

Looking for ways to accomplish this? Here are five ideas you can do to encourage innovation:

  • Hold a contest for the best new idea in the office every quarter.
  • Create a suggestion box that anyone can submit ideas to.
  • Have a team brainstorming session once a quarter to get new ideas flowing.
  • Dedicate a whiteboard space for people to write and share new ideas.
  • Create a culture committee where employees can plan potlucks, luncheons, holiday parties, and more.

It’s important to provide people a way to suggest their ideas anonymously. It’s common that some of your teammates or employees may not be motivated by recognition and would rather quietly offer their suggestions without the fuss and fanfare. Be careful not to alienate those people when you’re creating your company culture initiative.

Be transparent as things change

As companies grow, so do their policies. An organization with 30 employees might not be able to afford the same resources when they grow to 200 people. For example, frequent office lunches and snacks may become a financial strain, and your organization may decide this is no longer in the budget. Or perhaps company outings have become too expensive and it's time to reevaluate if they should continue.

These changes aren’t necessarily negative. They’re a natural reaction to company growth and change. One way to avoid trouble or discontentment with these changes is by communicating them clearly, honestly, and making them true for everyone.

Another change could be that perhaps your organization wants to adopt more business-professional standards and make changes to the dress code. Communicate that clearly and well in advance with written regulations and ensure there are no exceptions.

Failing to communicate these changes in a clear way with your team can leave your employees with mixed messages. Veteran employees will be upset that new rules and changes are unclear, and new hires will be upset that they’re following rules other employees are exempt from. Various managers, depending on their personal convictions, may enforce the rules differently among their teams, leaving employees feeling unfairly treated.

The best way to avoid this is to enact changes across the board, holding every employee or team member to the same standard. Your team members should never feel like they have to guess what’s okay, or feel like they may be punished for disobeying rules they don’t fully understand. Bypass some of the tension associated with rule development by remaining open and honest with your employees about why these changes are necessary.

Companies with exceptional company culture

When creating company culture for your own organization, it’s always helpful to see some examples of what others are doing. Check out these examples of companies in varying industries that are leading the charge when it comes to exceptional culture.

G2

Alright, hear me out. We’re probably a little biased, but G2 has killer company culture, plus a landing page to prove it.

There, you’ll find our motto: Reach your peak.

Scroll a little further down and you’ll see that PEAK is actually our culture code, and it stands for:

  • Performance
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Authenticity
  • Kindness

Everything you need to know about G2 is here on this page, from a video explaining what we do and who we are, from how it all began in 2012. It’s all a short and sweet glimpse into why we’re one of the best places to work in Chicago. 

We asked Dave Faulk, Head of Employee Success at G2, to share what he thought of G2's culture. He shared, “We talk a lot about climbing personal PEAKs at G2. It’s special that G2 acknowledges that everyone is different, and that every individual will have different goals, interests, lifestyles, and beliefs. 

"We’re all here to get an amazing experience, and everyone is urged to define that authentically to what that means to them.”

Dave Faulk
Head of Employee Success, G2

Zappos

You’ll be hard-pressed to read anything online about company culture without reading about Zappos. It’s one of the most well-known examples of top-notch company culture – and it all starts with their culture fit interview during their hiring process. 

In fact, they’re so confident in their company culture that new team members are offered $2,000 to quit after the first week of training if they decide the job isn’t for them. When it comes to giving their employees a raise, it comes down to passing skills tests and working hard to crush their goals – not from office politics. They also allocate a portion of the budget to employee team building and culture promotion.

Zappos has put extensive effort into team building and culture promotion as they instill their values into everyone they hire. As a result, they’ve achieved high functioning and happy employees day in and day out. Check out their website for a glimpse into their values and what makes their culture so great. 

Twitter

Another company famous for having great company culture? Twitter.

Their landing page that features the ins and outs of what they stand for is not only impeccably designed, it shows readers just the right amount of information regarding their culture. Twitter boasts a lot of great qualities within its culture, including rooftop meetings, friendly coworkers that go above and beyond, and a team-oriented environment where every employee is motivated by the company’s goals.

Factor in perks like free meals in their San Francisco headquarters, yoga classes, unlimited paid time off, and continued education through Twitter University, employees can’t stop talking about how much they love to work there.

Zoom

Zoom is a video conferencing software company that has not only grown in popularity over the last year but also an organization that exhibits strong company culture. In fact, they took the time to create a happiness crew whose main focus is to uphold a close-knit culture as the company grows. 

Every new hire that joins the Zoom team is paired with a mentor to learn more about company culture and company outreach. In addition, part of their weekly company-wide office meetings is taking the time to recognize a colleague who supported them, while also sharing updates to keep everyone in the loop and show appreciation for individual successes.

“Delivering happiness is about company culture. I ask myself, ‘What kind of company do I want to work for for the next 20 years?’ and create that culture.”

Eric Yuan
Founder of Zoom

Zoom also makes it easy for others to see their details regarding their mission, vision, culture, and values on their About Us page. They also share their company goal front and center: “We deliver happiness.”

Positive culture. Positive vibes.

Building strong company culture is easier said than done. Once you gather your human resources department to work together and get the leadership on board, and the extra care and attention you give to improving the culture for your employees will be worth it in the end.

Now that you know the ins and outs of company culture, check out these best practices to modern employee engagement and why it’s becoming so popular.

employee engagement software
Promote positive culture

Utilize employee engagement software to take your company's culture to the next level.

employee engagement software
Promote positive culture

Utilize employee engagement software to take your company's culture to the next level.

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