How to build a culture for success

By Tom Huggins


A company’s culture is what truly makes it unique. It defines how your organisation interacts with each other and the teams interact with their clients, business partners and customers.

Essentially, it is the formula that inspires and motivates employees and what is responsible for attracting and attaining great talent. Creating a great company culture is not optional anymore. It directly affects employee retention, reputation, productivity and quality. It represents a set of behaviours, values, reward systems and rituals that make up your business.

The impression you get when you visit a company is from not only the behaviour of your employees, but by the office space itself. Working in a vibrant and aesthetically pleasing space that has aligned core values (and an inspiring persona) immediately creates a positive energy. This will not only improve employee output but make it a far more enjoyable experience. 

However worryingly, an US study conducted in 2015 showed that only 31% of employees are engaged at work with 51% disengaged and 17.5% actively disengaged Click here.

Having conducted countless interviews, job-seekers consider culture as important as salary and benefits. For smaller businesses it can often be the difference between success and failure. 

A survey by Deloitte shows culture, engagement and employee retention are some of the biggest challenges that business leaders face.  Linkedin, Indeed and Glassdoor provide a company’s employment brand and their culture as public information. As a result, it is very easy to quickly determine what is an enjoyable place to work and what isn’t. Analysis of the Glassdoor database shows that employees give their company an average score of a C+ (3.1/5) when asked if they would recommend their company to others. (Bersin by Deloitte research with Glassdoor). 

Creating a company culture that oozes success is not easy. There are a range of techniques that can raise morale and help create a constant positive atmosphere within a business. 

Companies such as Twitter, Facebook, Google and Zappos are places that people aspire to work, not only for their reputation but for their cultures. They are some of the largest companies in the world, so how do they master it? Stocked kitchens, yoga classes, parties, bonuses? Fully expensed employee trips to allocating budgets specifically for culture promotion? Employee team building and programs to promote community?.  This shift of power to the job-seeker, puts pressure on businesses to provide an enjoyable, positive,  professional atmosphere.

If you’re considering creating, changing or just reviewing your own company culture, here are a few strategies to help.

  • Understand what makes your culture good (or bad): Get employees who you think personify the culture you want to build and ask them: What do you like about the current culture? What don’t you like? What is culture? Does it matter to you? You won’t define culture by doing this, but you will know where you’re headed, why and how to get there.

  • Assign an owner: Companies who are successful in nurturing their culture assign someone who is directly responsible for it. Whilst they can’t do it on their own, having someone with focus to push everyone else in the right direction – whether they’re hiring candidates or managing a team as it sets priorities.

  • Leadership: Culture is shaped mostly by how senior managers act, so make sure your leadership team embodies the type of company you want to be.

  • Structure: Organisational structure drives culture. Apple elevated the design group in the organisation by having them report directly to the CEO. If you are a service organisation, but the client services team is buried in the hierarchy and under a marketing leader, are you really valuing it?

  • Have fun: It’s simple: a little fun goes a long way. Yes, this will look different for every business. A tech company can get away with more fun than a legal firm, but there are ways to engage employees in activities that feel less like work. For example, declare half-day Fridays during the summer, do something out of context and give people the freedom to relax and have fun.

  • Believe: Every one needs to believe. If you don’t stand for anything, you stand for nothing.

  • Work as a team:  Don’t think of people in terms of employees or departments, you’re all part of the same team. Rallying around the idea “we’re all in this together” builds a sense of unity and community, which fosters culture. The best people are team players who truly support the company, its founders, management and co-workers.

  • Communicate: Communicate your values and culture explicitly and continuously, both internally and externally. Employees must understand your culture and why it’s important. Reward employees who advance your culture and be open and honest with those who don’t. As a company grows, culture will help keep it on track, effect hiring decisions for the people who will maintain that success and safeguard your company. Even when you get so big you no longer know everybody’s name.

  • Nurture and evolve: Culture is not something you put in place and expect it to stay forever. It takes work and you need to nurture it. You also need to give it the freedom to evolve. If you cling too tightly to your culture you risk smothering it. 

  • Understand that your culture will change and evolve – that’s okay so long as it maintains its heart.

Finally, evaluate your staff against your culture. Evolving your corporate culture can sometimes require making the hard decision to let go of people who don’t evolve with it.

If you’d like to discuss this or any aspect of your recruitment strategy, drop me an email – or call me on +44 (0) 1189 881143.