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Creating a Strong Company Culture – 7 Keys to Success

Your contractor has no clue about your team’s communication protocol. Your Senior VP refuses to use Slack. A manager deliberates on how to treat someone who has turned in poor quality work late… again, for the fourth time. And your rock star performer is wondering about their career path. How these critical moments are handled determines your company culture for better or worse. Free breakfast and lunch help, but perks don’t cut it when you’re trying to build the right environment and enable a growth mindset within your organization.

1. Embrace Values-Based Leadership

How do you currently treat each other, your clients and prospects? Do your employees want to go to work when they wake up in the morning? ¹

Your current culture was probably organically created over time by your past and present employees’ values, mannerisms and habits both good and bad. List these out and take a look at where you are when it comes to your company values. Company values drive performance. Values-based leadership emphasizes these values in decision making, employee evaluations and more over traditional KPIs and metrics. Your values also help further your company growth, how change is navigated and the new employee selection process. It is constructive to communicate your company values in as many formats as possible at every opportunity. Repetition will help instill these values when employees are recognized, promoted and coached through mistakes. ²

2. Establish Incentives

Harnessing that special spark that propels your employees to be more productive isn’t always easy. Even well-known companies can severely miss the mark. United felt the consequences of getting this wrong when earlier this year they announced the elimination of their bonus program in favor of a lottery bonus system. It was called, “a deplorable new system that only rewards an elite few,” and over a thousand signatures were gathered on change.org before the outrage caused United to pause and rethink their plan.

If you’re rewarding new, more efficient behaviors, first make sure they are in line with your company values and will have the greatest impact on your productivity. Then make sure employees get outcomes they like as a reward and have leadership emulating these behaviors so they’ll be more readily adopted across the organization. 

In addition to performance rewards for individuals, incentivize groups for collaboration and team-based outcomes. Studies have shown that group incentives achieve up to 18% greater results, mostly due to stronger bonds that form from teamwork as well as informal peer policing that helps cut down time-wasting activities. Take precautions to avoid teams competing with each other. Try to keep their focus on sales, your competitors or outdoing their personal best. 

3. Offer Skill Development

In addition to incentives and rewards, it’s a smart investment to provide some key areas for personal growth for your team members, so they have greater responsibilities and opportunities that don’t focus only on upward mobility. If your skill development has a clear path toward advancement, it helps people feel as though they are in motion on their employee journey with your organization.

Employee development can be implemented in a multitude of creative ways that can cater to individuals’ needs. To begin with, take a look at where the most considerable needs are for training within your company. Once you have a handle on your greatest pain points, you can establish both short and long-term programs. Get managers involved with coaching and informally mentoring employees. Reimburse employees for industry related memberships and tuition for relevant degree or training programs. Allow for a variety of learning styles from online learning to hands-on activities, and don’t skimp on soft skills training. Rolling out these types of initiatives should get you started on the right path toward offering a solid skill development program for your employees. 

4. Remove Organizational Impediments

Incentives, development programs, and removing organizational impediments are critical for creating a reliable company culture that employees feel treats them fairly. Having the right incentives and development programs in place increase employee retention, but removing organizational impediments toward success is perhaps an even larger piece of the retention puzzle. If you don’t have a great place to work, people will leave for greener, less stressful pastures.

A frustrating roadblock you might encounter is your hiring plan or lack thereof. As the very first step in the employee journey, it’s paramount to have a plan for prospective employees, where they fit into the company and a pathway for their experience with your organization. Additionally, it is important to have a process for how current employees are involved in the hiring process. Will senior non-management employees be included in the interview process? Will prospective employees be shadowing them before signing an agreement? It’s critical to have this ironed out as your company expands and grows its team members. 

Another roadblock that pops up often is upper management. If they are bottlenecks when it comes to decision making, there can be delays in the progress of your new plans. Your C-suite need to be on board with your company values, visibly leading by example and involved with strategic programs. Buy-in needs to occur from the top down. When there is a change in management or culture, schedule meetings to advocate for employee needs during times of change and get plans put in writing for how the company culture will be maintained.

5. Create Team Goals

Across the board, employees change jobs at least four times every ten years. With every change, there is a threat to the culture you’ve worked so hard to entrench. The best way to combat this is through practical use of goal setting. Goals look to the future and give people something to positively anticipate. This helps with retention and team loyalty. Small thinking can hinder forward momentum in a growing organization. Goal setting is a great way to break out of the box and start thinking bigger. It also helps bring people together during times of change.

Goals shouldn’t be pre-made cookie cutter objectives handed down from management. Instead, give employees the ability to make their own goals. To get the best level of engagement from your team, make sure the goals are socialized throughout the organization to increase accountability for reaching them. Goals should be flexible to account for fast-paced changes within the industry, transparent so employees can see what is expected of them and how their goals fit into big-picture company objectives. It should also be simple enough for employees to create goals.

6. Cultivate Leaders

Surely one of the most popular goals your employees have is to get promoted, right? Building the future leadership of your organization is a wise investment. To do it right, you need to ensure VPs aren’t just promoting their friends. When your organization has a high trust environment around how promotions are handled, workers are twice as likely to put forth more effort and envision a long-term future with the company. 

Doing this right means having clear criteria surrounding promotions, and enabling the entire team to see each promotion as a win for the whole team. Get critical buy-in on promotions by celebrating it with the entire team and taking a mentorship approach toward those who did not get the promotion. Remain open to hearing the true aspirations of your employees, encourage them to work toward their goals and nudge people to apply for things even if they don’t think they’re ready as it will be good practice for future opportunities.

7. Prepare for the future

You’ve put the right things in place so that your employees are planning for a long-term future with your company, but what about the future of your company? Do you have the right tools in place to stay ahead of your competitors? There is a lot forward-thinking required to launch digital automation within a company and to have the best solutions in place. Digital automation is another game changer when it comes to creating a strong company culture.

To plan for your journey of digital transformation as an organization, your IT department needs to stay on top of every tool, software subscription, and platform the company has in use.They need to make sure they are up to date, in step with industry trends and getting the most ROI bang for your buck. Make sure there is a 5-year plan in place for all systems great and small regarding upgrades, changes, and additions to the suite of solutions you’re utilizing. It’s beneficial to know what a digital workspace is and what it isn’t. Ultimately, it’s about empowering employees to be more productive and creative from wherever they are.

Getting to this point requires fostering an environment where continuous learning is championed above all else. There are so many new platforms and solutions emerging to serve workplace needs, many of which will eliminate or automate certain tasks and boost efficiency. To ensure future solutions can be easily adopted throughout your organization, it will be advantageous to instill a sense of curiosity when it comes to trying new things rather than dread. Learning new things through experience, over time and in bite-size chunks helps with retaining new information. Building this process and mentality into your company culture will help prepare your workers for the technology of the future.


When there’s a waiting list to join your department or team, you know you’ve created the right kind of culture where people want to work. When company values are resonating with employees, and they can be seen in action, you know you’ve created the right type of high-trust environment. When your company mission gives people strength and motivation, you know you’ve got a winning framework. If you can get started or make progress on the above seven keys to success, you’ll be well on your way toward a stronger company culture.


    1. “Leaders answer what is company culture.”, https://transparency.kununu.com/leaders-answer-what-is-company-culture/
    2. “How values based leadership transforms organizational cultures”, https://www.inc.com/brent-gleeson/how-values-based-leadership-transforms-organizational-cultures.html
    3. “United Scraps new bonus plan after employees react angrily”, https://www.travelweekly.com/Travel-News/Airline-News/United-scraps-new-bonus-plan-after-employees-react-angrily
    4. “The Key To Creating A Great Company Culture (Hint: It’s Not The Perks)”, https://www.forbes.com/sites/erikaandersen/2017/05/09/the-key-to-creating-a-great-company-culture-hint-its-not-the-perks/#7f867a8e6efa
    5. “Making Team Incentives Work”, https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/compensation/pages/team-incentives-work.aspx
    6. “Tips for Incorporating Employee Development into the Work Culture”, https://hrdailyadvisor.blr.com/2015/09/16/tips-for-incorporating-employee-development-into-the-work-culture/
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    8. “How to Improve Work Culture Using Goal Setting”, https://www.highground.com/improve-work-culture-using-goal-setting
    9. “How You Promote People Can Make or Break Company Culture”, https://hbr.org/2018/01/how-you-promote-people-can-make-or-break-company-culture
    10. “Preparing for future tech”, https://www.hcamag.com/opinion/preparing-for-future-tech-236697.aspx