Culture Club

6 Components Of A Positive Company Culture

The OfficeShould work be fun? Here, the owners of a hyper-successful consumer products business share their six components of a positive corporate culture – and why your company should adopt them to remain competitive in the war for talent.

Corporate America simply isn’t the 9-to-5 desk-oriented place that it used to be. The combined effects of technology enhancements and generational shifts have ensured that. Since Don Draper’s day, workplaces have become more casual, more connected, more innovative and more flexible. But have they become fun? Maybe so – or at least, that’s what the latest crop of employees hope to find when they settle into their new cubicles.

According to a recent report from management consulting firm Accenture, 60% of college graduates from the class of 2015 said they would take a pay cut to work for a company that had a “positive social atmosphere.”

Most employers, though, don’t actually need to see the results of a study to know that a positive, even fun, company culture is a deciding factor for young people who are entering the job market. And since millennials now account for the largest share of the U.S. work force, those employers had better take this generation’s expectations seriously – even if they themselves are members of the ‘it’s called work for a reason’ camp.

Don’t worry, you won’t have to install a basketball court or bowling alley in your office (although those aren’t bad ideas) and actually, injecting a little more fun into your organization will benefit everyone. In fact, it’s a myth that productivity improves when company cultures are rigid, serious and businesslike. The reality is productivity improves when people enjoy being at work and enjoy the work they’re doing, regardless of the decade in which they were born.

Here are six components of a positive company culture. If you want to improve your employee retention rate and create an environment that’s attractive to new hires, these are definitely steps you should take to transform your organization.

Ramp Up the Fun
While going to work might not ever beat a day at the beach, time at the office should be enjoyable. After all, your employees might spend more time there than at home. When possible, allow staffers to work in highly collaborative teams and make group work areas available. Give these teams clear goals and celebrate when they’re accomplished. You might even want to introduce a little friendly competition.

Beyond that, strive to create a fun environment. At Barefoot Wine, we designed colorful work spaces with natural light and playful graphics. We let employees choose their titles and encouraged wine-related names. That puts some interesting decisions into employees hands and creates lighter work environment.

We also gave plenty of time off, celebrated birthdays, and didn’t mind a little silliness as long as the work got done. All of this helped our people to stay fresh and involved, and it kept morale high.

Respect Everybody
Yes, your new millennial hires might be the lower-ranking employees on your company’s totem pole. But that doesn’t mean they can be treated dismissively or viewed as a cost. No one, regardless of age or experience, will enjoy coming to work if they aren’t treated with respect and viewed as an asset.

A good way to show employees respect is to create a know-the-need culture instead of sticking to a need-to-know policy. The key to this is to practice transparency and involve all employees in company decisions.

Share company challenges and ask the entire staff for solutions. Your people are full of intelligence, ideas and passion, and you may be surprised by the ideas they come back with. And, of course, be sure to recognize your people for an outstanding performance and acknowledge their accomplishments publicly.

Practice Philanthropy
A 2014 report by consulting firm Achieve revealed that not only do millennials think it’s important to give back to their communities, but 57% would actually like to see their employers offer more company-wide volunteer opportunities.

Indeed, it’s a good idea for your company to stand for more than “just” the mercantile value of its goods and services. It’s not a bad thing to want to make money in business, but all of your employees, regardless of their age, will be proud to work for a company that’s committed to a better world, not just a better product. Another positive outcome of this approach is that employees will tend to share information on social media about your company’s philanthropic endeavors – and that kind of word-of-mouth can result in valuable marketing for the organization.

From the start, we aligned Barefoot with several social causes including local parks, civil rights and environmentalism, which we had felt strongly about long before creating our company. Even when we didn’t have cash to spare, we still donated bottles of wine and encouraged our employees to volunteer for our partner organizations on company time. Knowing that their work was governed by a higher set of principles gave our employees a higher sense of purpose and increased their engagement, morale and loyalty. They were truly proud to say that they worked for Barefoot Wine.

Offer Flexible Schedules
If your company has a rigid attendance policy, you should ask yourself a very simple yet important question: Why? Thanks to technology, many of today’s jobs don’t require employees to be in the office, at their desks, from nine to five. And the flexible culture is something that today’s youngest workers value over nearly everything else.

A recent survey conducted by research firm Millennial Branding found that 45% of millennials will choose workplace flexibility over monetary compensation when they’re deciding on a company to work for.

Employees feel positively about companies that give them time to live their lives outside of work when possible. Set up deadline-based timetables rather than strict work schedules, and allow for home office work as much as possible. This will help your people save gas and commute hours. Think of it as paying for performance, not attendance. At Barefoot, we found that when we trusted our people to do what we asked them to and left the when and where up to them, they were more focused and productive. They thought like entrepreneurs, not clock-punchers.

Always Show Appreciation
When your employees work hard on your company’s behalf, they deserve your thanks and appreciation. Don’t take it for granted when they put in extra hours, land a coveted client, or turn out an incredibly well-thought-out proposal, for example. Make sure they know that you have noticed their efforts. For that matter, don’t even take it for granted that they show up every day. As the economy continues to improve, employees have an increasingly wide array of potential employers to choose from.

A great way to build team spirit and nurture a positive culture is to send out written acknowledgments or make an announcement when a person does something that positively affects business. At Barefoot, we did this on each employee’s anniversary. Not only does saying thank you make individual employees feel appreciated, but it causes the whole team to gain more respect for their coworkers.

Foster a Family Atmosphere
Accenture’s report also revealed that only 15% of 2015 grads prefer to work for a large corporation. Rather, today’s employees want to be known and treated as individuals, not merely as human capital or just cogs in the proverbial machine. They value kinship, shared values, and being part of a supportive group that has one another’s best interests at heart. They want to feel proud of their tribe and look forward to the company of the group with whom they spend the majority of their waking hours.

The reason for many of the above steps is to create a workplace family. It’s an organization that looks out for each other. And, it’s a group of people that are motivated and productive because they’re connected to the goals of the company and the overall objective of each project.

In addition, we recommend setting up a mentorship program. When a new employee comes on board, try to match him up with a more experienced worker who can advise, teach, challenge and encourage him. Mentoring relationships are a win-win because they guarantee that valuable institutional knowledge is passed on while knitting your team more closely together.

Accenture’s report points out that 70% of the graduates surveyed are still being subsidized by mom and dad – but don’t assume that they’ll be willing to settle for less in the workplace for the sake of a few more bucks once they’re on their own. By that time, your competition will woo them with higher salaries and a positive company culture. Now is the time to get in front of the curve and attract the folks you need to build your company.

Shouldn’t work be fun anyway? Isn’t that when we all do our best work? Isn’t that the fertile ground that allows the best solutions and disruptive ideas to grow? And isn’t that the basis of company loyalty?

With the right people in the right environment, your company will be more likely to hit its numbers and be able to provide those increased salaries when mom and dad pull the plug.

– Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey are coauthors of The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways to Engage and Empower Your People. The duo also founded the Barefoot Wine brand. For more information, visit

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