What is company culture?
Developing and maintaining a strong company culture is the key to longevity—but before we can do that, let’s define what company culture is first.
Depending on where your business is in its life cycle, company culture can feel hard to gauge. If you're still in the earlier stages of a business, building culture from scratch can certainly feel daunting. If your company is further in its journey, with procedures and processes already in place, maintaining a strong culture can also still feel challenging.
Unfortunately, culture can’t be measured by some type of metric, score or number, unlike many other aspects of your business that will move it forward. Therefore, investing in company culture can sometimes be hard to justify.
Hopefully, we can change your mind.
Although there are tools that can help measure how your employees feel and give you a better understanding of where your company's at—the truth is, culture is a little more complex than that.
Your culture encapsulates everything you do. It can't be physically held but it can certainly be felt. It's what you do, how you do it—and maybe most importantly, it's why you do what you do.
Why company culture is important
Culture is intangible but is felt by everyone who interacts with your company, not just your employees.
Strong company culture is important because it brings your team together. It provides confidence and clarity that makes achieving individual goals more attainable. A company's culture is the difference between someone showing up to work just because they need money and someone who shows up to work to actually move the needle forward. It’s how you get the most out of your team.
Creating company culture from scratch, with no experience, can be tricky. But so can establishing culture at a more mature company that hasn't really made a conscious effort yet.
Either way, there are a few things that every company should establish to set the tone for the culture they want to build.
Here they are:
A strong mission statement should not only say what your company hopes to accomplish but it should also do a good job of aligning your team. Hopefully, it will get them excited about the end goal.
Your mission statement should be short, right to the point and demonstrate exactly what your company has set out to accomplish. ZayZoon's is:
"ZayZoon will bring financial flexibility and empowerment to all employees as a standard benefit."
A good mission statement should point you in the right direction if faced with adversity. It’s your team’s compass. If they ever find themselves in the dark, your mission statement will be their guiding light.
Every single thing your team is doing, whether it be small mundane tasks or major team projects, should help push towards your mission statement. The correlation between what your team is doing and your mission statement should always be clear. If it’s not, you may need a new mission statement (or re-evaluate what your team is doing).
Like a good mission statement, your company's core values will also align your team to ensure everyone is on the same page. Your core values should demonstrate the things your company values the highest and what you expect out of your team.
To be effective, you don't want to have too many core values. Too many values can muddle their importance, rendering them all useless—but without an adequate amount of core values, your team might struggle to align and connect with them. More than eight might be excessive but less than four might not be enough. They should be all-encompassing and applicable to everything you do.
They should set a standard for how you expect your team to operate.
“Core Values should be a direct reflection of culture. In the early days, you sorta just do your thing and it’s easy to understand your culture. But as you grow, you need a way to take that culture and package it up into guiding principles. This is exactly what core Values are—guiding principles of how YOUR business should operate. One of my favorite examples of this is how in Amazon’s early days, every new hire made their own desks out of surplus doors in the warehouse they were renting. This later manifested itself into a leadership principle—Frugality—‘Accomplish more with less. Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency, and invention. There are no extra points for growing headcount, budget size, or fixed expense.’” - Tate Hackert, President ZayZoon.
How your team communicates will also set the tone for the type of culture you develop. It's important to open up communication channels and avoid silos between departments. Your team should constantly be in communication with one another and should feel comfortable reaching out to anyone they may need something from.
Provide your team with the proper communication and collaboration tools/resources, whether it's walkie-talkies or computer software (email, Slack, Meets, Lattice, Figma etc.)
Ensure they're meeting with the right people, on a regular cadence with a standard operating procedure. Set meeting agendas, with clear expectations and objectives.
Be transparent with your team when it comes to the business's goals and failures and always lead by example. Your culture should have high standards and you need to be the one to set them.
Transparency within your company will ensure more efficient problem-solving when things don't go as planned—but transparency is also important when things are going well.
Recognizing your team's accomplishments as they happen makes them feel valued and more tied to your mission and core values. Although this recognition doesn't need to be some type of grand gesture (it could be as simple as a small shoutout for the team to see), it does go a long way in building trust and motivating your employees.
Providing these employees with proper feedback is also essential to any good leader. Feedback within the team allows them to utilize each other's knowledge and helps them learn and grow much quicker.
At ZayZoon, we give teammates shoutouts every day based on our core values. This recognition allows us to reinforce our core values by actually living them—which brings culture to life.
How can you provide motivating feedback? Ask yourself these questions when providing recognition to your team:
How does your team’s accomplishments push the overall goal forward?
How does one person’s work make another’s easier?
How is the customer benefiting from these efforts?
How to improve company culture
Once you have the fundamentals from above in place, it's natural to want to improve your company culture even more. This is a great mindset to have because when it comes to workplace culture, people's wants and needs do vary and change.
Corporate culture is constantly evolving. This doesn’t mean your current efforts will soon be outdated—but it's always a good idea to try and stay aware of what new trends are popping up.
Here are the ways today's companies are improving culture through employee engagement:
Purpose is what drives your employees to get work done. As you hire people for certain roles, they will be responsible for certain tasks but to truly ensure employee engagement, they need more.
Every person's purpose should be clear and aligned with the company's mission and core values from the beginning. The expectations for that role should also be clear, and so should any timelines that the employee is expected to abide by.
Without individual purpose, your employees will quickly lose all motivation.
Tips for creating individual purpose:
Well-defined job descriptions and roles
Clear career pathing
Regular growth assessments
Tying organizational goals and accomplishments to the individuals responsible
Opportunity to grow
Another key component to motivating employees is offering them the opportunity to grow. Without an opportunity to grow, your best employees will soon be leaving you for greener pastures.
Providing opportunities to grow offers many great benefits. It encourages people to take on more responsibility, be more proactive and take more pride in their work. It also allows them to visualize what the future looks like and the next steps they need to take to achieve their goals.
Yes, people want to make more money—but they also want to learn new things, develop new relationships and gain new experiences. According to Pew Research Center, in 2021 the majority of people who quit their jobs cited low pay (63%) and no opportunities for advancement (63%) as the two main factors.
You (or your managers) should be working individually with every single member of your team on a plan to help them grow professionally. Some employees will be more ambitious than others but the key here is providing the opportunity.
The balance between work and life is extremely important in ensuring longevity and sustainability in the workforce. According to a report by Randstad, 94% of employees feel that work-life balance is important. It lets your team reset mentally, physically and emotionally—while adding fresh perspectives to your business by allowing your team to bring their personal experience and opinions from the real world to your workplace.
Work-life balance starts with recognizing that your team has a life outside of work. They have families, friends and hobbies that are also important to them and their well-being.
Without a good work-life balance, employees quickly lose motivation. The stress of their everyday lives starts to compound on top of the stress from their work. As a manager trying to create the best company culture, you need to do everything you can to reduce stress.
Similar to offering an opportunity to grow and giving employees individual purpose, work/life balance looks different to different people. Work together with the people on your team to help establish what works for them but also for the business.
Offer as much flexibility as possible, operate with empathy and try to think about how your efforts will benefit your business in the long term, not how they affect you immediately.
Employees with young kids may appreciate a little more free time in the mornings to deal with getting kids ready for school. Other employees with older parents may need a little extra time to take care of their loved ones. No matter the case, working with these employees to ensure flexibility that works for both them and the company will go a long way.
Time does not equal productivity, therefore making your employees work more doesn't necessarily mean you're getting the most out of them. The key is motivated and productive employees and a comfortable work/life balance is essential in ensuring this.
Things to consider implementing when focusing on work-life balance:
If it makes sense for your business, give employees the option to work from home or in a hybrid setting. This flexibility will allow them to put more energy into their work and less energy into tasks they deem unnecessary, like commuting to work.
Certain people are simply more productive at certain times of the day. Unless a person’s responsibilities are dependent on another employee, allowing them to work when they feel most productive will ensure maximum productivity.
More personal/sick days
Offering as many personal/sick days as possible is something that your employees will really appreciate. It shows that you respect and value their personal time. It may seem counterintuitive and is something that you need to be careful of when evaluating but working with your team to give them as much as possible will go a long way.
Mourning days are something you may not have considered but are very important nonetheless. If tragedy strikes in someone's personal life, they shouldn’t have to worry about taking a sick or personal day to tend to the matter or grieve.
Mourning days offer space when your employees need it the most, something they will really appreciate.
Other things to stay mindful of as a leader:
Respect work hours
Offering flexibility to your workers doesn’t mean you can call or message them whenever you want. Stay respectful of their time and their work hours.
Educate your team on the benefits available to them
Just because your team offers a bunch of great perks or benefits doesn’t mean they know about them. Inform your team about what’s available and why they're important.
Encourage people to unplug and reset
While some of your team members will be good at doing this by themselves, others will need help and encouragement to unplug and reset, as a manager or HR leader, this is something you should stay mindful of.
Perks and benefits
Finding the right perks and benefits for your employees is extremely important and something you should constantly be mindful of. If you're building your plan from scratch, some basic benefits to ensure a happy and healthy team would include:
Health insurance (Medical, dental, vision, etc.)
Paid time off
But some other great benefits to consider would include:
Tuition reimbursement (or other sabbaticals)
Personal development training
A good foundation of benefits is a great start but many companies these days elect to go even further.
We joke about pizza parties around here a lot but the truth is, a lil' Friday pizza party once in a while does actually help boost morale. Some other great perks for building a strong company culture include:
Relaxation spaces (lounges, game rooms, etc.)
Paid memberships (Costco, fitness, etc.)
At ZayZoon, our main office is located in Calgary where the majority of our team lives but we also offer shared workspaces in Toronto and Scottsdale, where we have many additional team members.
Going above and beyond for your team is a great way to show your appreciation—and this appreciation will go both ways.
Empowering your employees in any way possible will help them perform at their best. Providing financial empowerment allows employees to worry less about their finances and more about what's truly important.
How do you accomplish financial empowerment?
The key is to provide tools that will bring a sense of comfort to your team and help them feel confident when dealing with their finances
With ZayZoon, we utilize technology to help offer financial resources like Earned Wage Access—a way for people to get access to their paycheck without waiting for payday. Smoothing out cash flow issues and relieving stress.
On top of EWA, we also offer other financial resources that are quick, accessible and simple. The best part about it? It comes at no additional cost to you, the employer.
ZayZoon and other Earned Wage Access providers allow employees to access their wages whenever they need them—helping improve cash flow and avoid unnecessary fees.
Measuring culture's impact
Once you feel like you've done a good job at establishing culture in your place of work, finding ways to try and measure it is the natural next step.
Luckily, there are some ways to get a better understanding of how your culture is perceived by the rest of the team, some more formal than others.
eNPS stands for Employee Net Promoter Score which is a metric used to gauge how much your employees enjoy their place of work. Major corporations need tools like this to really get their finger on the pulse—but it is still a great resource for any sized company looking for feedback.
Your eNPS survey should be short and easy to fill out. It gives your team a chance to provide honest feedback that you can use to shape your cultural efforts.
“Getting started is not hard so don't overthink it! At ZayZoon we started with just 2 questions: How likely are you to recommend ZayZoon as a place to work? And what would help you to increase your rating?” - COO of ZayZoon, Kristen McGill.
eNPS surveys are also a great place to ask any important questions you’d like to ask anonymously—but eNPS is really just about one question, How likely would you be to recommend working here to a friend?
Each question asks for a rating from 1 to 10. Any scores above 9 are considered promoters while anything from 0-6 is considered a detractor. Anything in between is a passive.
The formula is then:
% of promoters - % of detractors = Employee Net Promoter Score
Results can range from -100 to +100.
A standard scale used is:
-100 to 0 - Needs Improvement
0 to +30 - Good
+30 to +70 - Great
+70 to +100 - Excellent
These numbers directly represent how your employees feel and the culture you've built but don’t open this can of worms unless you’re ready to put in the work that comes with the feedback.
“Asking for feedback if you are unwilling to take action on it, or responsibility for addressing what you are hearing when you can't take action is worse than not asking for feedback at all. Make sure you are ready to show you are listening.”
Right now, recruiting and retaining good employees is tougher than ever. Loyalty can feel hard to come by and improving recruitment and retention efforts not only takes time—but costs money too.
If you're spending money and time on recruiting and retaining your employees, you're certainly not alone. Some people change jobs quicker than they change their underwear but fortunately, there are resources specific to improving these efforts.
Our blog, Recruitment strategies to win the war for talent may be beneficial if this is something you struggle with.
However, if you find yourself on the other side of this issue and recruitment/retention seems to come easy to you and your company, this may be a good sign you've built a strong company culture.
One of the easiest ways to measure culture is simply by how much people actually want to work there. There are obviously other factors that go into taking or leaving a job but in general, this should help you gauge whether or not you're doing things right.
Establishing individual purpose and demonstrating opportunities to grow is important but ultimately how your employees react is what determines the effectiveness.
Sometimes you might find people who are professionally motivated and aligned with their purpose but the second a better opportunity comes along, they put all that behind them. This may simply be a personal preference or circumstance but if the trend continues, there may be some work to be done on your end.
If you have team members who embrace their purpose and strive to grow their careers within your organization, you must be doing something right. This is a good indicator of the culture you've built.
Maintaining company culture
Okay, you've built a company culture that you currently feel proud of. Congratulations—this is no easy feat. But you're not done yet.
The final (and most important) step is maintaining that culture. As mentioned earlier, culture is constantly evolving—whether it be what society deems relevant or how someone's personal journey affects what's important to them.
It's important to constantly monitor your efforts. Revise your plan, see what's working and what isn't then implement the changes you need to see.
The only things in this article that shouldn't change are your core values and your mission statement. Everything else, like how you:
Or define things like:
Opportunity to grow
Perks and benefits
Should constantly be changing—but don't worry. If you're consciously monitoring on a regular basis, these changes will be slow and gradual.
How culture creates longevity
Building and maintaining a strong company culture will not happen overnight. It takes time and a lot of effort to build something you can be proud of.
The beautiful thing about building a strong organizational culture though, is that it can be felt by everyone within the organization, even you.
It makes accomplishing tasks and facing adversity so much easier and eliminates stress and many other detractors that may be stopping your team from performing at its best. It brings people joy and fulfillment.
This is the key to longevity for you and your business.