The Best Work Cultures Have More Than Happy Hour and Free Snacks

UPDATED: January 22, 2016
PUBLISHED: December 22, 2015

The success of your business can depend on a few different factors. The types of products or services you’re offering, or the audience you’re catering to, all of that can have a major impact on your bottom line. You might have the best product on the market, but without a dedicated, and more importantly, happy staff, it’s not enough. More than anything else, your people are the bread and butter of your business.

How do you make sure your people are happy? By building a strong, positive work culture. A good culture leads to better customer service, lower turnover—and employees who are happy and motivated to work harder.

Culture is what sets the tone for everything that happens within the company, from the type of hires you make to the way teams and co-workers interact.

So, how do entrepreneurs and business leaders create the kind of culture they want—that the best kind of employee wants? It’s about a lot more than just occasional happy hours and free snacks.

There are a few things that should always be kept top of mind in order to effectively build a good company culture:

1. Break out the pen and write down what matters most.

Establishing core values is an important business process that companies all too often forget or disregard, assuming values are born on their own or that employees will just pick up on these ideals, adopting them as their own. But that “hope” isn’t enough.

Determining what matters most to your organization—the type of company you want to be and the kind of people you want to work with—can help bring teams together, everyone working toward unified goals. Once that set of core values is agreed upon, get them down on paper and then communicate them to every individual in the business, even (and especially) new hires and interviewees. Because employees who share the company’s core values, who support the overall mission of your business, will likely become an integral part of achieving your goals.

But, as with anything in life, nothing is permanent and corporate culture isn’t static. In fact, it is almost always a continuous work in progress. And that’s alright. Sometimes with change also comes a need to adjust, so keep the discussions going and be open to suggestions for new ideas. Maybe you should swap your pen for a pencil.

2. Cheer for your cheerleaders.

Want to reinforce the culture you’re trying to build? Reward the people who’ve contributed to making your values come to life, who exemplify them. Maybe it’s an extra vacation day or a cash bonus, but these rewards should be both visible and tangible in order to be effective. However you choose to “cheer” for your champions, your cheerleaders, reinforcing what they are doing can help set the tone for the company culture you’re working toward—and inspire others to do the same.

Sure, it’s not every day that we should expect a pat on the back for a job well done, but it’s important to take the time every so often to recognize key contributors and their successes. Whatever it may be, make it known to employees that they are valued and their hard work doesn’t go unnoticed.

3. Make the workplace the right place.

We get it—work is work. However, the physical environment of any workplace can make a significant impact on employees’ moods, attitudes, work. Whatever your core values might be, your workspace should reflect them. Example? If your organization promotes effective communication and transparency, consider an open floor plan to encourage teamwork and collaboration.

4. Let the good times roll.

Work doesn’t have to be all work and no fun. Find a way to engage your employees in things that don’t always feel like work. Trivia night, wine tastings, fitness challenges—these types of outings and activities can help bolster morale while also giving employees a chance to get to know the people they’re working with outside an office setting. As a side benefit, “field trips” often build strong relationships between peers and lead to more collaboration across the company as a whole.

5. All hands in!

A winning work culture starts at the top but needs to be cascaded down to every individual in the company to make an impact. In other words, you need to get everyone on board and committed to the idea. Culture isn’t born overnight—it takes an entire workforce to believe in the ideas and to put them into practice day in and day out.

By keeping these tips top of mind, you can begin to create a culture that reflects your goals, values and priorities—and attracts people who share in your vision.

Learn 7 ways to make personal development a core value in your company—because better people are better employees.

Rick is the Chairman and CEO at Intronis, provider of backup and data protection solutions for the small business. With more than 30 years of experience in executive management, sales and marketing, he has worked for some of the world’s most successful SaaS and technology companies, including Lotus Development, j2 Global, Mzinga, Cisco, WebEx, and PictureTel.