If you were to ask someone, “what is company culture?,” they may immediately think of an open office concept in Silicon Valley with bean bag chairs, scooters and arcade rooms. While all of these things might be great perks, they don’t define a company’s entire culture.

Company culture is the result of a lot of careful intention, personality and happenstance. Just like anything, there are things owners can and can’t control. But how do you improve company culture? To learn how to do that, we’ve collected a list of company culture ideas you can implement for your own business.

What Is Company Culture?

As a whole, company culture is the sum of each part of a business, starting with its mission, core values and leadership team. Company culture includes the way employees—and how they’re expected to conduct themselves—and customers are treated, and it influences how work is done.

For example, companies like Buffer and Warby Parker are upfront in how they want their cultures to impact both their employees and their customers. Buffer defaults to transparency, meaning they want to build trust with customers and team members, alike. If you ask a question, they’ll provide you with the simplest, most straightforward answer, even when it comes to how much their employees and executives earn.

Warby Parker focuses on doing good for others, whether that’s creating a fun, unique video for someone looking for their next pair of glasses or giving pairs of glasses away to those less fortunate.

Culture is a vital piece of your company’s success that’s become more vital in modern business and both of these companies are modern examples of how impactful your culture can be.

How to Improve Company Culture

Improving company culture is not something that can be changed overnight. Fortunately, there are plenty of great company culture ideas that you can introduce in your business that can improve the lives of your employees and the reputation of your company.  

Improving Company Culture Starts at the Top

Just like Uncle Ben said in the first Spider-Man comic, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Leaders are charged with many jobs in the businesses they oversee, one of which is crafting a productive company culture. Here’s how managers and leaders can shape their workplace.

Identify Your Purpose

Building a great culture starts at the top. The easiest way to improve your company culture is to articulate what your business’s goals are, both to employees and customers. The clearer you are with your company’s intentions, the easier it is for others to buy into your vision

Communicate Your Purpose With Passion

Once you’ve settled on your purpose and why you exist, it’s leadership’s job to make sure that the team understands and believes in it. The passion of an organization needs to constantly be reiterated and reinforced, both in words and actions.

Promote a Team Atmosphere

TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves More

Sharing the load makes everything much easier to accomplish. While a founder or executive may have the vision and experience to see the final destination, a team is necessary to carry out their concept through the journey.

The best way to do this is to create an environment that enables individual team members to feel comfortable in a space that encourages them to share their ideas, opinions and experiences with their colleagues and leaders. The more cohesive a unit feels, the easier it is to be more motivated and rally around a common goal.

Stay True to Your Core Values

Whatever values have been established need to be echoed and observed by everyone across the company—including leadership. Every decision, action and communication, internally and externally, need to be measured against your company’s core values. If a particular activity doesn’t match up with your values, it’s something that should be reevaluated.

Don’t Pay Lipservice to Culture

As you work to improve your company’s culture, one of the things you absolutely don’t want to do is talk the talk and not walk the walk. This is one of the fastest ways to damage culture and lose any trust you’ve established with customers and employees.

HR Level

Getting everyone on board isn’t only the job of the folks at the top. Human Resources plays a big role in enacting and executing the vision of the business. Here’s how HR can advance and improve company culture.

Empower and Trust

What’s the best way to get employees to give their all and be a positive force in your company’s culture? Show them respect and give them the freedom they’re looking for upfront. The more confidence you place in your employees, the more likely it is they’ll go above and beyond for the business.

Encourage Team Connection

How do you build a team? By facilitating ways to bring your employees together as a cohesive unit. One of the easiest ways to do this is by sponsoring or hosting company outings to allow folks who may not work in the same department or location to get together and (hopefully) bond. These types of connections promote camaraderie and can greatly benefit the business.

Give and Solicit Regular Feedback

Beyond keeping people happy and sharing the details of their benefits packages, one of the key responsibilities of the human resources department is to provide — and ask for feedback — from employees. By keeping an open, bilateral channel for communication and assessment, expectations can be set, frustrations can be voiced and ultimately problems can be dealt with before they become a larger, culture-damaging issue.

Embrace Transparency

Just like feedback on both sides allows an employee to understand their place in an organization, transparency keeps everyone on the same page at all times. Whether it’s a simple, seemingly small decision to change coffee vendors or something major, like transitioning to a new agency partner, sharing the thought process behind any decision naturally makes people more comfortable.

Handle Conflict Immediately

Things happen. Disagreements become disruptions and have the potential to ruin the progress of a project, a campaign or, worse, the culture. By addressing issues before they have the chance to fester and spread, HR and leadership teams can understand the reasons why something may have caused friction and can hopefully deal with the issue directly.

Establish a Culture Team

In larger companies, there are opportunities for entire departments to be devoted to keeping a business’s culture intact. Small companies typically don’t have the business resources to do this, but they can, however, name a few key employees to be a part of a group that oversees different activities and events that promote team cohesion and the reinforcement of the company’s core values.

Recognize Hard Work and Contributions

Beyond salary and the general benefits of employment, recognition for the work you do can be something that motivates you to continue giving that same effort, if not more. Whether it’s simply acknowledging someone’s work directly or giving them credit in front of the entire company, these little gestures can have a huge impact.

Taking Care of Employees

Designing a positive culture is contingent on creating an environment that makes employees feel comfortable and cared for. Let’s review some examples of how businesses can improve their culture by focusing on their employees.

On-Site Benefits

Most businesses provide healthcare and other medical benefits to their employees; there’s a difference between benefits and company perks. For example, some of the best perks of working at Fast Capital 360 is that the kitchen is stocked with complimentary snacks and beverages. On top of that, every Wednesday the team is treated to a fully-catered lunch. These are simple perks that may not look as cool and flashy as something you’d see at Google, but they’re appreciated by the team.

Offer Flexibility

Life doesn’t obey a schedule, which is what makes the ability to move your working hours around when needed a priceless perk. The easier it is to work for a company, the easier it will be for you to keep and cultivate your culture as a whole—not to mention retain your best employees.

Unlimited Time Off

Just like having flexible hours, getting away from your work can be beneficial, even making you more productive in the long run. While American companies have issued roughly 21 days of paid time off for decades, recent business trends and studies have pushed companies to adapt, leading to happier employees and workplaces.

Perks Aligned with Company Values

Advancing the narrative of your business requires you to find simple, innovative ways that get people excited. One of the ways to do this is to introduce policies or benefits that are closely tied with your core values. For example, if you run a local business and one of your employees chooses to volunteer their time in the community during normal work hours, they will not have to use a PTO day.  

Volunteering That Aligns with Company Values

Giving back to those around us is a great way to recognize how fortunate we are, both as individuals and as a business. When it comes to improving company culture, choosing the right volunteering effort can mean the difference from a flat, unsuccessful food drive in your lobby to participating in the revitalization of a school playground or raising funds for a related cause.

Creating Company Culture Takes Time and Effort

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of ways you can reinforce an excellent culture in your business. For example, one of the easiest ways is to treat others as you’d like to be treated. Known as the “Golden Rule,” this behavior can have a tremendous impact on the people you interact with on a daily basis and can bring in more business than you might ever imagine.

Ultimately, positive company culture does more than just make your employees feel good. The better your culture, the more likely it will permeate throughout all aspects of your business. As a result, your employees and your customers will feel good about doing business with and working for you.

Get weekly business insights & expert advice to help grow your business.