15 Ideas to Help Build Workplace Culture

Ideas that you can action today to help build up that company culture across three key areas: team bonding, company processes and workplace setup.

Feb 2019

15 Ideas to Help Build Workplace Culture

Whereas once salaries and bonuses were the currency organizations traded on, today there is something much less tangible: workplace culture. There’s a whole ton of theory around why company culture is so key to generations like Millennials, and creating a positive workplace experience is, undoubtedly, a topic we’re all buying into. But what is workplace culture and how to you create it?

What is workplace culture?

Workplace culture is summarized by three key pillars: the values, beliefs and actions of a workplace. The output of this, helps create a company’s personality and the effect it has on its employees. Think about a person’s personality; if they’re loud, full of energy and extremely creative they might attract friends who carry the same values, like the same activities or thrive within the type of environment a loud, energetic vibe creates.

The same rings true for company culture. The type of personality a company has will affect every interaction, workflow or behavior. It’ll determine how customers are treated, how colleagues interact and even how they socialize, or what their physical workspace looks like.

Workplace culture is what the company feels like, but this feeling is only created from purposeful actions around structure, incentives and processes. These tangible efforts prop up the culture and make the company what it is.

In this guide we’re going to look at 15 ideas that will help to build a workplace culture. Try to feel your way to the ones that are a good fit for your organization; likelihood is, this will be different for every organization.

Team bonding culture ideas

1. Monthly or quarterly socials

Strong co-worker relationships are often the foundation of a strong company culture, but they’re difficult to force. As an employer, it’s a good idea to set up regular environments that help nurture relationships, like monthly or quarterly social events that employees can attend. If possible, make these at least part of the working day. This will ensure that anyone, even those who might need to rush off come 5pm, can still take part.

Coworking organization WeWork goes one step further and hosts a WeWork “Summer Camp”. This is yearly event where more than 8,000 colleagues come together for a full festival experience, in the woods, to bond, learn and meet other WeWorkers from across the world. Inside the festival, sub employee groups like “We of Color” and “Pride of We” help to create a feeling of inclusivity.

2. Cross-team projects

Many famous million-dollar startups were started by people you might least expect. What if I told you that ProductHunt, one of the most revered PR sites within the tech community, was started by someone completely non-technical? Or that Twitter was the result of a company hackathon, by a few employees at a podcasting platform called Odeo?

One of the reasons why company hackathons (where employees get together to brainstorm and build products), are so popular is for their ability to bring together cross-functional teams.

Finding ways to bring together people who wouldn’t usually work together on projects, can help foster new ideas and ways of thinking.

3. No lunch at your desk policies

Zappos is perhaps one company famous for its company culture. One of their policies is the “No Eating at Your Desk rule”. The concept is designed to help push employees to eat “al fresco” and to be more mindful about what they’re consuming.

Aside from the obvious health benefits, this type of policy forces colleagues to be more creative, and social, about where they eat. Colleagues who eat lunch together are more likely to share ideas and bring a bit of their non-work self to the conversation.

4. Brainstorming sessions

Something we’ve recently introduced at ScreenCloud within our marketing team, is a fortnightly “Brain Picking” session. Even though we have a weekly catch up call every Monday morning, and regular small group meetings, these are often too structured to really let our brains wonder.

Brain Picking sessions give us the freedom to create a “wish list” or to discuss “nice to have” marketing ideas.

The sessions are still structured but what we’ve realized is, that by having a free reign, our ability to think bigger increases.

5. Company All Hands

Keeping everyone aligned to the company mission is crucial to forward progression, which is why many startups introduce the idea of a company “All Hands”. Here’s how our friends at Slido define the company All Hands:

“All-hands meetings are regular company-wide gatherings where all employees and stakeholders have an opportunity to meet with leadership. The goal of an all-hands meeting is to share the business updates of the past month or quarter, celebrate milestones and the people who made them possible and create a space for the Q&A.”

If your company is lacking transparency, or alignment between teams, the All Hands meeting is a great initiative to bring in.

ideas to build workplace culture

Company processes to improve culture

6. Make the company mission visible, daily

Outside of a monthly report, or your company All Hands as discussed above, how do you keep the wider company mission front and center of mind? A 2015 Achiever’s study found that 61% of employees don’t know their company mission. Try it: ask your buddy next to you what they think the company mission is and see what they say.

At ScreenCloud, we like to leave nothing to chance. Our company mission, and the key KPIs that push us towards it, are shown every single day on the digital screens in our offices. This helps make the information more visible than if it was locked away in a company handbook, a visual reminder, of what we’re working towards. Of course, these are surfaced in other ways as well but a great big screen is a pretty sure fire method of ensuring we all know what the big goals are.

7. Build a learning culture

You know who has a great learning culture? Google. The former Senior Vice President of People at Google, Laszlo Bock, wrote a book called Work Rules that discusses three core principles Google used to build a learning culture through the very veins of its company:

  • Learn from your best employees: rather than looking for external expertise, allow employees to train and teach others.
  • Don’t link development straight to rewards, development should be linked to both rewards and learning.
  • Learning is personal and how different people like to learn may involve varying styles and formats.

Image source.

For millennials in particular, job-specific training is in the top two factors that they say increases engagement with their work. Consider how you might build a learning culture within your company. This doesn’t have to be big budget training courses either. It could be inviting a knowledgeable friend in to speak, creating a list of interesting documentaries on Netflix or investing in a breakfast workshop or lunchtime training session.

8. Share knowledge

Alongside building a culture of learning, a culture of knowledge sharing is also hugely beneficial to employees, and the overall company. This might mean Founders sharing success stories during a company All Hands, or just having a Slack room titled “Knowledge” where employees can share anything they’ve learned from an experiment or project.

You may also wish to organize your knowledge in some kind of company wiki or portal, so that information isn’t lost when an employee leaves, or is on holiday.

Trying to get everyone in a team, and not just those who are more editorially led, to contribute can be a challenge. One tip from a technology company called Pusher when creating a company wiki is to set up an “easy win” for employees to add their own profile first, so that they get used to using it:

“One thing I’m trying is to make editing your “profile” pages a part of the induction process. This involves providing a template people can use to get the ball rolling:

  • How to contact me
  • Things/technology I am excited by
  • Things I am responsible for in the company
  • Things I tend to do as part of my daily routine”

9. Create no meeting days

If your company culture is designed around helping employees to be productive, you may want to consider company guidelines on creating space for deep work.

In research for his book We: How to Increase Performance and Profits Through Full Engagement Kevin Kruse found that leaders at companies like Asana, Aria Healthcare and Moveline all have a “no meeting” day each week. These are designed to increase productivity, or to give people space to create.

There’s some conflicting advice on whether these contribute to a more productive rest of the week, but they’re certainly an idea worth considering.

10. Improve onboarding for new employees

We all know that first impressions count but when it comes to onboarding new employees, we forget to give it much consideration. A 2012 study compared companies on a series of HR processes, one of which included onboarding new employees. You know what they found? That the more capable companies who onboarded more effectively, achieved more than twice as much revenue growth and 1.8 x as much profit.

Check out this great Hubstaff article on how different companies work the onboarding process.

Workplace setup ideas for company culture

11. Productive workspaces

One of the big perks of working from home is that you get to choose your most productive workspace. No music? No problem. Cute fur baby by your side? You got it. The trouble with company workspaces is that you’re trying to abide by a ton of different parameters. Ensuring you cater to different employees, within the restrictions of the building, or coworking space, can be really difficult.

We spoke before about how to create an inspiring office space, even when you might not necessarily own the building. You could also focus on making a few small tweaks with productivity in mind. For example, creating quiet spaces, improving the booking system of meeting rooms or using physical, or virtual, “do not disturb” signs to help protect employees when they are in the zone.

12. Flexible working

Flexible working doesn’t have to be in place to create an awesome company culture, but in many awesome companies flexible working is a thing. Flexible working reports show that many people benefit from flexible working. As an organization, flexible working increases access to a wider talent pool and also reduces overheads, like offices and desk space.

PwC are one corporation who found that offering true flexible working through a culture of flexibility is the best way to achieve success:

“To build a culture of flexibility, you must first reimagine what flexibility means today. Remember, to create behavior change, you need to allow for variance and creativity and agility. In other words, be “flexible” when creating a flexibility culture. A policy guide or a formal program can work against you. It seems counterintuitive, but having rules in place actually hinders the development of a truly authentic culture. At PwC, we loosely call it “everyday flexibility.” It isn’t something we mandate that all teams adopt; it’s a mentality and a way of life that should be individualized for each person.”

13. Visible digital noticeboards

One way to live out your workplace culture in a physical workspace is to create your own company TV channel. This gives you a way to surface important information, praise staff and live out any company notices that may otherwise be hidden in forgotten Slack threads, or emails.

The benefit of digital noticeboards is that you can adjust them as you grow in size and they can be a mirror image of your core culture, that everyone by default will see.

See how easy it is to set that up here.

14. Praise boards

In the same vein as the digital notice board, a public praise board curates a culture of recognition and reward. This can be automated and employee-driven, to encourage more peer-to-peer praise.

For example, at ScreenCloud we use an HR tool called 15Five where each week we’re prompted to praise a co-worker who has done a great job. That praise gets sent to Slack, making it visible to more people than just that employee, then we take it a step further and send the praise to the screens in our office. This increases the value of that piece of praise, without us having to do any additional work and it makes people in the team feel recognized, which is always a good thing.

15. Live your culture

Many companies have a handbook, or website page, dedicated to how awesome their company culture is and how they want to equip employees to do the best work possible. But picture this: if the printer is constantly breaking and isn’t being fixed, or if management never really shares where the company’s going and there’s always a level of uncertainty, does that company truly care about its culture?

Culture must always be more than the sum of a company handbook and values printed on the wall. It needs to be threaded throughout how people work, how managers manage and what the space looks like (either physically or online) for that company’s employees.

Over to you

We hope you enjoy making the connection between your workplace, the processes and the exercises which help to reinforce the foundations of your company culture. If you were interested in any of the ideas around screens and using them as visual dashboards for your company culture elements, grab a free trial of our digital signage software at screencloud.com/getstarted.

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