ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to Create a Successful Company Culture

Updated on June 10, 2012
A Nike sweatshop.
A Nike sweatshop.

There are dozens, if not hundreds of books, blogs, articles and manifestos written about creating company culture. They inform us that company culture is paramount to a successful startup, that it's defined during the earliest stages of planning, and if you screw it up you're...well, screwed.

They may very well be right.

But establishing an effective company culture is a creative endeavor, and by very definition, any list of rules must be flexible. In other words, one size doesn't fit all. Listening to what employees have to say about the culture at their jobs—all in successful startups—can show what employees value and respond to and give insight into creating a company culture that does everything it's supposed to do: Attract the best and brightest workers, encourage creativity and dedication, and foster teamwork and innovation, all of which helps drive the company to success.

On the website Quora.com, several pages ask employees of successful startups to describe what it's like to work for their company. By studying their remarks, a clear picture emerges of what makes a positive company culture, at least from the employees view.

Hire the Smartest People Who Fit

It's always recommended that startups try to hire the smartest people they can. Seems like a no brainer. A smarter person will do their job better, providing the job is challenging to them. But there are other benefits with having a company staffed with highly intelligent overachievers, and that is they inspire others around them. In fact, each employee who answered the query put great importance in being surrounded by highly intelligent people. Coworkers were described over and over as “smart, trustworthy, capable, creative people, driven to achieve something.” It's also important to strive to hire the right personality types for your business.

Matt McDonald, an alum of McKinsey and Company, a global management consulting firm, says that being surrounded by overachievers leads everyone to delivering at full potential, and often leads people to working quite happily until 11pm. “The people are exceptional,” McDonald said. “The talent is obscene to the point of being a joke. You can't swing a dead cat without hitting an Ivy League graduate. There are Rhodes scholars all over the place. And add to all the brains and accomplishment, they tend to be extremely nice and polished.”

Grant Autonomy

Autonomy is another recurrent theme among employees, being given responsibility, authority, and the flexibility needed to work towards goals set by both the company and by themselves. By having direction and an absence of micromanagement, employees feel empowered to solve difficult problems with elegant and simple solutions of their own design.

Rebekah Cox, Product Design Manager at Quora, a website that connects users questions with the people who can answer them, believes the autonomy she has been given has brought out her best. “This freedom, I think, has allowed me to do some of my best work ever—something that is extremely rewarding and satisfying,” she said. “Every employee gets to enjoy a certain level of autonomy on the projects they work on and it's pretty awesome.”

Painting by Michael Maier
Painting by Michael Maier

Balancing Work and Play

Allowing employees to have lives outside of work, as well as having play options at work, is a philosophy adopted by many, if not most, of successful startups. That includes Pinterest, the wildly successful online pinboard. On the one hand, giving people time to keep their personal lives in order allows more focus at the office, and play or diversions at the office give employees much needed time to recharge their batteries, or simply engage in some activity that spawns creativity.

“There's balance in people's lives,” Tracy Chou, Pinterest software engineer said. “It's healthier and more sustainable long-term; plus how can we build a site about sharing interests if we don't have interests outside of work? Of course it's very important to get things done, and at work we're productive.”

Justin Edmund, Product Designer, added: “The Foosball table is wonky and falling apart, but that's what makes it so much fun. No Pinterest Foosball game is complete without merciless trash talking and lots of laughter.”

Again, play seems to have more than just the benefit of giving workers a break in their day. The respondents talk of being excited to go to work each day, not just because of the challenges they will face, but because they know it will be fun, and that's how you attract and keep workers.

The Perks

And of course there's perks. Oh yes, the perks: Catered breakfast, lunch and dinner, free snacks and beverages, in-house ping pong tournaments, fitness rooms, field trips, company oversea trips and anything you can imagine. And that's just what you will be called on to do: Imagine. How will you create a company culture? You may not be able to put a basketball court on the top floor, but ask what can be offered?

Silvanus Lee, self-described interwebs surfer at Dropbox, the online file storage and share platform, describes Dropbox's perks enthusiastically, but note how he mentions them as a precursor to tackling big challenges. “Not gonna lie, Dropbox is a pretty exceptional place. Beyond the free breakfasts, lunches and dinners daily, the sick new 85,000 sq feet office (right across the SF Giant’s ballpark) and the kickass perks (onsite gym, shuttle service, fully-equipped jamming studio, whiskey Fridays, unlimited Dropbox storage.), it’s the culture, the creative energy, and the opportunity to tackle amazing challenges that makes working at Dropbox so awesome.”

Remember, creating company culture is not about just giving things to employees. It is granting them freedoms, responsibilities, and little (or big) extras that in turn, inspire them to give their very best. So as you are determining what your company culture will be, ask yourself:

  • How will I ensure that I hire the smartest people who fit?

  • How will I grant autonomy to employees?

  • How will I allow employees to have a life outside of work?

  • What perks can I give?

If you can find solutions to—and then incorporate—these four tenets, you'll be well on your way to creating company culture that promotes employee satisfaction and company success.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Christoph Reilly profile imageAUTHOR

      Christoph Reilly 

      6 years ago from St. Louis

      Thanks for commenting, leann2800

    • profile image

      leann2800 

      6 years ago

      Good practical advice, thanks for sharing

    • Christoph Reilly profile imageAUTHOR

      Christoph Reilly 

      6 years ago from St. Louis

      fpherj48: Thanks so much. Glad you stopped by.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 

      6 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      christoph...Excellent work! All information and facts, not only useful, but VITAL to the purpose. Sadly, all too often we are aware of the "less than successful" creations and attitudes...that eventually cause more of a mess, as they go along.

      Greed as well as shabby management, from the top down...the old trickle effect, works both ways! All these talented geniuses with the fabulous attitudes need the compensation & mega benefits they are worth.

      I'm not sure why some execs don't GET THAT!

      Great Hub, Christoph.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)