Employees want a great culture. This is a fact the marketplace of U.S. workplaces has begun to adjust to. However, it can be a bit nebulous defining what a great culture is and isn’t. Leaders and employees will have different definitions of course, as their focus and priorities are very different. Some conflate culture with a lack of strict rules, fun activities around the office, cool perks, and of course—free snacks. Is that what culture is?
Simply put, no. Culture is the grand total of an organization's values, traditions, beliefs, attitudes and actions. One way to look at it is as the dynamic created within the organization both by leadership and each of the individuals that work there. There are several dimensions of healthy culture that can be measured, analyzed and shaped in order to transform an organization's culture and combat the pandemic of disengagement the U.S workforce is experiencing today, but maybe that is jumping the gun. There may be a more important question that an organization needs to ask itself—what do we want our culture to be.
The reality of organizational culture is that it isn’t one size fits all. Cultures can be as unique as the missions of various companies and the personalities of the humans that make it all happen. While they may share certain key dynamics, it is important to recognize that each company and its teams need to create a culture that is theirs. Theirs to own, theirs to shape and improve, theirs to use to empower and drive results. As an organization starts thinking about the culture they want to build, here are 5 company cultures that have been positively rated by employees, and have driven business success.
Since 2010, Warby Parker has been cutting out the middleman in the eyewear industry, manufacturing and selling glasses directly to the consumer at competitive prices.
Meteoric is one word you could use to describe their growth, growing from 0 employees to over 1,400 in 8 years. So how did they manage this growth and foster a team with strong commitment to values and high engagement?
WP places a strong emphasis on onboarding their employees and creating opportunities for teams to bond and be vulnerable with each other in order to create an environment of trust from the get go. This is reinforced by integrating their mission driven model (a pair of eyeglasses given to someone in need for each pair purchased) throughout daily work to create strong emotional ties for employees through meaningful work. Finally they place an emphasis on transparent communication to help their employees improve and develop over time to continue to become a more valuable part of the team.
Mission takes center stage at WP and is visible and present from onboarding to long term development. Especially important in socially conscious organizations, the focus on mission and meaning has helped the company engage and retain their employees as they rapidly scale.
New York, the corporate concrete jungle. Among the skyscrapers, web design and website building company Squarespace thrives. It makes regular appearances on employees lists of NYC’s best places to work as they have grown from a startup into one of the leaders in the web design space.
Some unique elements of their culture is a commitment to employee wellbeing. They offer 100% coverage of health insurance premiums, flexible time off, catered food, spaces for employees to relax, and period wellness sessions with experts. But it doesn’t end there. Employees regularly cite that on top of these benefits the key instigator of culture within the company is its flat organizational structure. Common in startups but more challenging as organizations grow, flat structures have very few levels of managers between employees and top brass, giving employees direct access to their leaders.
Not having to go through a managerial chain helps employees let their voices be heard, which can go a long way toward driving engagement and morale. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the leadership also demonstrates a strong commitment to ensuring employees enjoy good health and positive work-life.
Recently rebranded, Meta is synonymous with the tech giant explosion we have seen in recent years. It is one of the most powerful tech companies in the world and is known for being highly competitive, fast-growing, and having a unique culture.
Like many highly competitive talent seekers Meta has built a comprehensive list of perks and benefits: food at work, open beautiful office space, stock options, laundry machines, nap rooms and more. However, one of the big challenges of a highly competitive company is that it tends to drive an environment full of stress and competition between employees.
To combat this, Facebook has brought management into the office space alongside their employees to create a sense of equality, and intentionally designed their office spaces to lower stress levels and provide breaks by having multiple buildings and outdoor spaces for employees to get time outside as they move between meetings. It is a unique way of using the architecture of the company buildings themselves to drive their culture in a healthy direction.
Culture isn’t synonymous with easy going and soft. Even highly competitive industries can benefit from intentionality when it comes to culture. From highly competitive perks and benefits to attract the top applicants, to using unique strategies to make a highly competitive environment more healthy for their employees, Meta is an industry leader both in culture and technology.
Culture always matters. It might not be hard to assume that anyone could sell shoes. But for Zappos, it is the driving factor for everything they do. In their own words:
“Zappos is not an average company. Our service is not average, and we don't want our people to be average. For all our emphasis on customer service, our #1 priority is company culture. It’s what makes us successful"
This isn’t just lip service. Half of the determination of hiring a candidate is based on a cultural fit interview. The goal is to find employees who embody the organization's core values. They even go so far as to offer quitting bonuses after the first week of training to encourage people who don’t feel like the job is a good fit to part ways. This policy doesn’t come at the cost of skills. The company invests in team building and skill development and promotions and raises don't come from making the most friends but passing skills tests and demonstrating that they have grown.
Skills aren’t the only thing that matter when it comes to hiring. Some of the most talented people could have a negative impact on a culture if they don’t align with the mission and culture of an organization. Zappos hires with culture at the forefront and let these values perpetuate all the way down the line to their happy customers.
REI is a leader in the marketplace for outdoor enthusiasts, and has one of the most unique organizational structures around. The company operates as a cooperative, where employees and members are owners in the company. Their mission as an organization is to steward the environment and equip humanity for their next outdoor adventure.
As their co-op structure suggests, REI firmly believes in giving their employees ownership and stake in the mission, and ingraining them in their culture. From giving them opportunities to create outdoor adventure proposals and win equipment to consistent town hall meetings to gather feedback and gather new ideas, REI engages employees to join with them in their mission and propel it forward.
Culture isn’t a list of acceptable behaviors and beliefs that leaders post on the bulletin board, it is their people. REI has found a way to attract people with a strong interest in their mission and give them the opportunity to buy in and drive the cultures. Ownership matters.
Every leader is unique. Every organization is unique. Every team is unique. But every company has a culture. Some develop naturally, but some of the most successful companies with the most engaged employees make an intentional effort to build a culture that is aligned with their mission and attracts and retains the right people to go and make it happen.
Let’s drop the third person here. This is about you and your company. What is your mission, and what kind of culture do you want to build? If you don’t know yet, let some of these companies inspire you. Feel free to check out our resources on culture.
If you know the type of culture you want to build, but don’t know how to start, we would love to connect and learn more about your vision. Just head to www.ledgestone.com/contact to get in touch!