Company culture is a vital part of any successful business model. Happy employees equal happy clients.
This is not a new phenomenon; it’s Business 101. Yet in today’s competitive global marketplace, maintaining a thriving (and happy) office environment often gets pushed to the bottom of a CEO’s to-do list.
When I launched STRV, a mobile app and web development studio, more than a decade ago, I didn’t give much thought to company culture. There were just five of us crammed in a tiny office space with one toilet, working around the clock to make ends meet. I didn’t have the time (nor the cash) to plan elaborate team-building retreats or Friday-night mixers.
Today, my “little” studio now has more than 100 employees in five offices, actively working on projects for top U.S. startups. Company culture is one of my top priorities. It should be yours as well, regardless of whether you’re a seasoned chief executive or just starting out. Improving your company’s culture doesn’t have to break your budget, but investing in your employees will certainly improve your bottom line.
Here are eight tips to help you enhance your company’s culture:
1. Validate the achievements of the company as well as the individual employee.
If something good happens at the company—a project wins an award, the sales team lands a big client, an employee is promoted—spread the word. Your office’s internal message boards are a good place to start, whether it’s through Slack or old-school flyers throughout the office. Highlighting the achievements of your company and employees sends a positive message, not only to your team but also to your clients (and potential clients), so make sure to broadcast good news on all your social media networks as well.
2. Personalize employees’ birthday gifts.
Everyone likes to be remembered on their special day, even if they don’t admit it. Cake, flowers, balloons-take your pick, but make sure it’s a consistent part of your social calendar. We use Slack, which automatically sends out birthday wishes on our #social channel. CEOs should also make time to personally wish his or her employee a great day. The good cheer is followed up with a cake with our company logo and a personalized message to the birthday person, as well as a gift certificate to a popular restaurant chain.
3. Create welcome kits/care packages for an employee’s first day.
The first day of any new job is stressful, so have a detailed onboarding process in place. Personally greet all new employees, and ask what they are hoping to get out of their new job. A welcome kit is also a good idea. Ours includes an employee manual, a guidebook to how our company operates as well as a number of fun sundries like a company “superheroes” T-shirt, water bottle, laptop sleeve, stickers and pens.
4. Draw people from different departments together.
Find ways to bring people from other departments together. Sure, team-building events would certainly fit into this category, but I suggest establishing a regular one-on-one program. At STRV, we have “Lucky Lunches,” in which two team members are picked to go to lunch together at random during a weekly drawing. Several lunch “dates” are set up each week, and the company picks up the tab. This helps facilitates cross-department company culture.
5. Set up inter-office sports clubs.
As the saying goes (sort of): The company that plays together, stays together. There is no better way to encourage team spirit and boost employee morale than through interoffice sports clubs. We have a number of different sports channels open on our company Slack, including #running, #badminton, #soccer and #trx, and employees routinely participate in local marathons, among other events.
6. Send thank-you notes—lots of them.
They’re simple and effective. Whenever someone does something nice for you, say thanks. We prefer to say it with chocolate. Our office coordinator oversees this, typing up thank-you notes and wrapping chocolate pieces with them. The gesture will brighten anyone’s day.
7. Host company Q&A sessions.
This costs nothing and helps facilitate an open company culture through honest conversation between employees and management. I try to organize monthly Q&A sessions and encourage employees to ask me anything. From salaries and HR issues to long-term company goals and business strategies, nothing is off-limits. I have received invaluable feedback and insights from my employees during these sessions. It’s teamwork at its best.
8. …and regular “happy hours.”
Yes, I’m talking about adult beverages. This might sound as stereotypical as watercooler gossip, but who wouldn’t want to unwind after a long workday with a drink or two on the company dime? Treating your team to a happy hour on a Thursday or Friday will score you brownie points and reinforce that work doesn’t always have to be about work.
David Semerad is an entrepreneur with experience in software development, having expanded his mobile/digital app development company STRV. BusinessCollective, where a version of this article originally appeared, is a virtual mentorship program.