Have you ever met someone out networking who told you about their company while gleaming with pride, which made you think, “I would love to work there”. Experiences like these are the reason why companies that focus on cultivating a great culture and communicating that culture externally drive excellent business results, retain employees and generally enjoy a thriving work environment.
While thousands of companies develop culture and do their best to communicate it, there are three common themes that companies that are known for their culture do differently.
They are intentional.
Companies that discover increased success ensure everyone within the organisation is aware of the aspects of the company culture and go out of their way to prioritise keeping that culture alive. For example, Zappos has been making headlines with stories of its engaging culture for years. Zappos’s core values include: Deliver WOW through service, create fun and a little weirdness, be passionate and determined, etc.
Companies also create intention around their culture by recognising employees who exemplify or live out the aspects of their defined culture.
They remember where they came from.
Another important common thread that culture-centric companies weave into their day to day is celebrating their roots and defining bonding rituals. When Howard Schultz returned to Starbucks as Chairman and CEO in 2008, his priority was to return to the core of the business: serving quality coffee. Schultz recognized that this starts with employees (known as partners). In his 2012 book, Pour your Heart Into It Schultz writes “It’s our partners who pass on to customers their knowledge and passion about Starbucks.” As a way to ignite this in every partner, every new hire takes part in a ritual tasting of his or her store manager’s favourite coffees. The manager tells the story of where the coffee is from, how it’s grown, and how it’s brewed. It’s a ceremonial experience that reinforces Starbucks’ values—for the new partners and managers alike.
They don’t force it.
One major theme among all of these companies is that the culture is not rigidly defined. Rather, employees exemplify what “living the culture” looks like to them. At Southwest Airlines, the culture has a different meaning to everyone in the Southwest family. According to the CEO “There are consistent trends and we have core values around how we live the Southwest way, but each employee has their own way of showing culture.”