Tell me about the culture at this company. If you have ever had the pleasure of interviewing someone for a role at your company or spoke with someone interested in the company you work for, the culture question likely came up. When the culture at your organization is strong, it is easy to respond. If it is not, then you may struggle to get out the words. Why is culture so important?
“To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.”
– Doug Conant
What is Company Culture?
A company’s culture is the culmination of the attitudes and behaviors of the company and the employees that work there. A strong company culture is one that has an overall purpose, has buy-in from employees and is actively worked on. When a strong company culture exists, you can almost feel it when you walk through the door (or meet with the team over video conference). Conversely, a poor company culture can also be felt – by employees, clients, and prospective employees. And here’s the thing; a strong, positive culture requires work, but the outcome of that work is amazing.
“Company culture is the continuous pursuit of building the best, most talented, and the happiest team we possibly can.”
– Andrew Wilkinson
The Intivix Culture Club
At Intivix, we organized a Culture Club. The Culture Club is a group of individuals that are interested in helping to shape the culture of our organization and focused on aligning our culture with the overall company values. Our group meets every two weeks, for one hour, to discuss potential ideas, events, and ways to enhance the culture at Intivix. But before we dig into the nitty-gritty culture details, we ask how everyone is doing. As a group, we take time to get to know each other and understand something new about each other….and wow, have we learned some interesting things about our colleagues!
From there, we dig into business. Ultimately, we focus on planning monthly and quarterly events, implementing activities for the team, swag ideas, and brainstorming ways to involve employees beyond the 9-5 work-day type of things. Here are a few examples of what the Culture Club has implemented:
- Beach/River clean up
- Mini-golf day
- Karaoke night
- Star Wars movie outing
- Mindful Mob (10-minute-deep breathing, stretching, and meditation sessions)
- Donation matching programs for charities
- Monthly happy hour
- Full team events (we flew the entire team in)
- Baseball day (company went to a baseball game)
- Museum Hack
- Goat to meeting
- Guess the Intivix baby
(Note: The in-person activities took place prior to the pandemic. During the pandemic, we transitioned to virtual events to continue bringing people together.)
That list could go on and on. Beyond that, we’ve sourced swag for the Intivix team: water bottles, stickers, face coverings, shirts, and more. And, while swag is not what builds culture, a fun employee gift every once in a while, can really perk someone up and let them know the company cares.
But our Culture Club goes into more than that. During a recent meeting, we discussed the possibility of implementing volunteer time off (VTO) and transitioning back to the office. Both important topics that will are being discussed and figured out at the leadership level.
“Company culture is the backbone of any successful organization.”
– Gary Vaynerchuk
Activating Your Culture
Before an organization can activate its culture, it is important to understand the current culture, where it should be, and how it aligns with its values. This is a good time to simply watch how the organization functions and how individuals interact and listen to how employees speak about the company. This may be an eye-opening process, but a necessary one.
“Determine what behaviors and beliefs you value as a company and have everyone live true to them. These behaviors and beliefs should be so essential to your core, that you don’t even think of it as a culture.”
– Brittany Forsyth
From there, determine where you would like the culture of the organization to go, based on company values. This isn’t a one-person job; this will need the support of a team – a team that volunteers to help consistently work on the company’s culture. This team will be integral in helping to build a company’s culture and are ideally in it for the long-haul. A company’s culture is not built overnight.
Then it is time for implementation. Ensure the management team is involved – they do not need to be the team implementing, but they need to be supportive of the goals. Begin to build the culture through activities, conversations, events and even company communication. Know that some employees may not be on-board with the direction, and they may decide to leave. If you are trying to build a strong and positive culture, you will certainly need employees that truly buy-in.
Continue to work on the culture of the company – this is an ongoing process. Secure employee feedback when necessary and consider asking, what is the culture like here? The answer to that one question can very quickly tell you if your culture has been activated.
“Organizational culture is the sum of values and rituals which serve as ‘glue’ to integrate the members of the organization.”
– Richard Perrin