What Makes a Good Company Culture


Last Updated: July 30th, 2020

Cubicle office

Guest Post by Alice Corner

Company culture can mean a myriad of different things to different people, but most commonly a good company culture boils down to "Is this environment a good place to work?"

The culture of a company is becoming more and more important in recruitment, with many traditional Human Resources roles being pivoted to People & Culture Managers and even, in some of the more trendy companies, Chief Happiness Officer, Manager of Vibes, and Employee Journey Advisor.

Part of the reason so many people are hesitant to embrace the idea of creating a good company culture comes down to the PR of the topic. There are as many misconceptions about what good culture means as there are Vibe Managers in the world (aka too many).

For example: people think a good company culture means having trendy perks like a beer fridge or office dogs, and that a good company culture can only thrive in tech companies or start ups.

Venngage teamed up with Glassdoor and MIT to analyze 500 of America’s most economically important companies to bust some of the common myths surrounding company culture. By looking at a unique set of data from MIT that rated companies on elements like agility, collaboration, diversity, and respect, and cross referencing those companies with Glassdoor reviews from current and former employees, we were able to get a handle on what makes a good company culture.

Creating a good company culture is important for both keeping your current employees happy, but also for recruiting new team members. Recruiting is becoming harder than ever, with recruiters increasingly reporting potential hires ghosting their offer — so creating a great culture is a wonderful way to stand out.

Trendy perks aren't that important to your company culture

Sure, having catered lunches, a beer fridge, corporate retreats, and company parties is the ideal situation for a lot of workers; it’s not often something smaller, leaner companies can stretch to. And as the world’s biggest fan of our super cute office dogs, I absolutely appreciate trendy perks, but there are ways every company can improve its culture without building a slide in their lobby, a la Google.

Surveys most commonly mentioned health insurance, 401k, and vacation and paid time off as the most important things a company can offer.

This makes sense — trendy perks are a luxury, whereas decent health insurance, a good 401k, and a fair paid time off policy are essentials for a healthy and happy worker.

If you are a start up that heavily invested in providing enough sparkling water for the office — don’t panic. This can absolutely still be seen as a perk, but make sure that your employees are fully aware of your less glamorous but more essential policies too.

If your company culture isn’t where you want it to be, revisit your existing employee perks to see if there’s any room for improvement. Perhaps you could implement working from home for employees, or more flexible hours. If in doubt, survey your workers to get ideas as to which perks they would benefit from the most.

Great company culture starts at the top

Your CEO isn’t just the figurehead of your company externally, they are also the leader of your workplace culture. In fact, Venngage found that companies whos CEO had over a 90 percent approval rating consistently also ranked highly for company culture.

A dynamic and engaging leader can make all of the difference in a dissatisfied workplace, so it’s important to make sure that your CEO is clearly following your company values and providing a good role model for the rest of your employees.

This becomes more difficult in bigger organizations, especially those with multiple sites. At Venngage, if I want to know what the CEO is up to, I just look to my left! But there are ways for leaders to be present even from a distance.

Ask yourself:

  • Is our CEO clearly representing the values of the company?
  • Is our CEO good at acknowledging those who represent the values of the company?
  • Is the on-site Senior Leadership Team (SLT) present?
  • Do the CEO and SLT make an effort to turn up to company social events?
  • Is there regular communication from the CEO and SLT on high level progress and goals?

Easy ways to be more present could include creating a weekly presentation sent to all staff of the top issues or highlights from the last week, conducting a monthly all-hands meeting (even via video link!), or scheduling team building exercises or social events. You’d be surprised how much of a difference being treated to lunch can make to an employee's impression of the management team.

Remember, a good company culture just means that employees enjoy working at your company, so lead by example.

Work/life balance creates a great company culture

Saying that a good work/life balance is essential to a good company culture might seem like an "Okay, Captain Obvious" moment, but in smaller companies or companies going through rapid growth, it can be incredibly easy to become too focused on targets and forget that your employees are people first, workers second.

Burnout is a real problem in many workplaces and costs the economy about $190 billion in healthcare and lost productivity costs. And burnout has a knock on effect. If one person has so much work that they can’t complete it and become ill, the person who has to pick up their work will be put in a difficult place too.

Creating a workplace that values employees as a whole person is an essential factor to creating a great company culture. How this looks will vary from company to company, but here are some common ways to help encourage a great work/life balance:

No emails after a certain time

Encourage management to not send 9 p.m. emails. Instead, schedule them to send in the next period of working time. Every company has its own standard hours, so adapt this for your business.

Allow short-term flexible working

At Venngage, we have an incredible work from home policy because we understand that sometimes stuff just happens. If you have an appointment or wake up with a cold, then you are free to work remotely that day. As a result, workers are more focused and productive when they're in the office.

Manage workloads and expectations

Something that agile companies do incredibly well is work in short bursts. Instead of working on a project for months and months before releasing, they will work on many smaller weekly projects, releasing on a weekly basis. Working this way ensures that the workload is evenly spread. By scheduling on a weekly basis, any issues with workloads or capacities can be flagged straight away and expectations of deliverables are clear.

Review and improve your company culture regularly

It’s easy to lay out plans on paper, but it’s vital that you regularly check in on your employees to make sure they are happy with the culture and that the changes you have made are effective. Conducting a quarterly employee feedback survey can be a great way to measure the mood of the office.

Don’t forget how useful having the reputation of a good company culture is in attracting new hires, building your company brand, and retaining your current employees.

Alice Corner is a Content Marketer at Venngage who likes good design, social media, and visual communication. When she’s not writing about those things, she’s making videos about those things on the Venngage YouTube channel.

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