Company Culture

July 6th, 2011 by michael | Print Company Culture

I have worked at several jobs over the last 10 years and some have done an excellent job of creating outstanding company culture, while others have, well – they were horrible. What are the key ingredients for creating a top notch culture? Why should companies strive to attain positive work environment? The second question is easy to answer – high moral, high employee retention, better employee efficiency, creating employee evangelists for your product / service, and personal happiness.

Below is a top list for setting a positive company culture:

  1. Personal interactions: Agile software development dictates that you have a daily morning meeting whereby you review yesterdays work and discuss the current days goals. As a manager, I made it a point to include a few minutes of personal catch up with each team member (our team was 3-5 members). We’d talk about what people did over the weekend, hobbies, kids, etc. By talking everyday with my team about their personal lives, we laughed, understood what potential issues were going on in everyone’s lives, and formed a bond deeper than a professional relationship.
  2. Group activities: In the office people put up a guard, they act a part in the office theatre. Outside of the workplace, people let loose and you get to see another side of the quite introvert who just shot you in the face with an M16 (video game night was an all time favorite at Datran). Meanwhile, everyone giggles to see the corporate VP run around in circles and blow himself up with a hand-grenade. Hitting up happy hour, enjoying a summer BBQ, or blasting golf balls at the driving range all lead to a feeling of family and let you get to know your coworkers on a different level.
  3. Positive Feedback: Creating a culture of positive feedback is critical to an organization. What gets employees to put in extra hours, strive to hit quarterly goals, and push extra hard – positive feedback. It doesn’t have to be a monumental task, even small things where you can show appreciation for the work done are appreciated. I made it a point to be aware of the things that my team members had acheived and went out of my way to say, “Thanks, you did a great job getting that done.” One sentence – that’s all it takes. Positive feedback should permeate your entire organization, from the CEO to VP’s, to managers.
  4. Personal Responsibility: If you treat your employees like children, they will act like children – and resent you like a kid who had his favorite toy taking away. I worked at a job where we were allowed to come in between 6am and 10am. Then policy changed to 7:00 to 9:00. Then policy changed to everyone working from 9:00 to 6:00. Next, policy changed so that during inclement weather, if you couldn’t make it to the office you weren’t allowed to work from home. Why? Because management didn’t feel like the employees were actually working if they weren’t being micro managed.

    Here’s some advice – if employees are not doing their job, have a heart to heart and find out what’s going on. If that doesn’t solve the problem, then act on changing their position. Give employees the responsibility to get the job done and let them do it. They will develop confidence in their abilities, work harder to show you they can be responsible, and everyone will be happier for it.
  5. Concrete Goals: This is the one area where most companies fail. I’ve never had a job where there wasn’t a year end review. Most of the time neither of us knew what we were reviewing. Did you show up on time and get your work done? Great. That doesn’t cut it.
    Other companies at least put something in writing. Usually it consisted of vague generalities such as: high quality work product, ability to meet deadlines, etc.
    Why not set concrete objective measures that are tracked on a monthly or quarterly basis. For example, track project estimates and deadlines via an online service. Set a goal of no more than 2 revisions to the deadline per quarter and 90% deadline achievement. For managers, put in place concrete revenue goals or business objective goals. You can come up with objective criteria in any profession with some thought and creativity.

    Giving people an objective goal provides them with something they can be clearly measured against. It creates an environment of merit based achievement, limits notions of office politics and nepotism, and creates a feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment when said goals are achieved.
  6. Success follows people who love what they do. Create a culture where you encourage and nurture your employees and create a fun and family-like environment.


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