How founders can build a great company culture

How do you think your employees feel about their work?

Do they take pride in it? Or do they wake up Monday to Friday filled with dread? 

If you don’t know the answer, you really need to find out. Because satisfied employees are more productive. And a key part of cultivating a happier team is establishing a clear company culture.

How do you do this? Let’s look at 12 expert techniques you can try.

1. Create a rock solid value proposition

You need to unite your employees and give them a shared goal to work towards. Define the difference your company aims to make in clients’ lives. Create straightforward goals you can communicate and measure.

One great example is Cleo, an AI-powered finance aid created in the UK with a simple mission: “Your AI pal that looks after your money. Budget, save and track your spending.”

It’s pretty concrete what this business aims to do and why.

Take a similar approach: condense your company’s purpose and benefits into value proposition that your whole team can get behind.

2. Encourage and facilitate team bonding

Bring your employees together, in individual departments or as a company, to break down barriers. The more familiar and trusting everyone is, the easier they’ll find working in close quarters five days a week.

This doesn’t have to involve the horror that is the traditional team-building exercise (trust falls, an obstacle course, or - god forbid - any kind of role play). Take a vote on potential activities and be generous with your budget to make workers feel valued.

3. Invite feedback and divergent opinions

Your workforce must be seen and heard. Invite them to submit feedback through regular surveys and suggestion boxes. Keep this process anonymous to encourage more responses and eliminate the fear of retribution.

The more brains you pick, the more ideas you’ll find to improve your workplace (and its culture).

4. Be a visible leader

Ever worked for a business where the manager stayed in their office all day and never bestowed their presence upon the humble employees?

Don’t be like them. Make yourself a visible leader and get involved with your team. Find out who they are, what their goals are, what changes they want to see. Ask for their advice. Welcome constructive criticism on current processes.

In short: think of yourself as a colleague rather than a boss.

5. Embrace gamification to motivate and reward staff

One fantastic way to develop your company culture is to implement incentives and rewards through the gamification of the workplace.

Use relevant tools and platforms featuring gamification elements (Hoopla and Badgeville are just two) to boost motivation. Track employee performance through visible data using:

  • Point allocation
  • Team leaderboards
  • Recognition badges
  • Achievements (e.g. ‘you’ve made 500 sales’)
  • Progress charts showing performance improvements

Offer rewards for meeting specific criteria, such as gig tickets or a gift card. Again: make the goals concrete, and the rewards personable where possible.

6. Document your company culture

Make a culture handbook for your business as a guide for all employees, at all levels. Explore the key aspects of your culture in detail and explain why they matter. Look at:

  • Core values
  • Essentials of a good customer experience
  • Ethical code
  • What it means to represent the business
  • How you expect employees to treat each other

Hand this document out to all employees. They’ll be able to refer back to it in the future and stay immersed in the culture.

7. Build a comfortable and practical environment

Anyone who’s worked in a bland office with white walls and no character (this writer included) knows how important a little bit of flair is. Research shows:

  • Blue helps workers focus
  • Green encourages calmness and efficiency
  • Yellow can stimulate creativity

Adding a few splashes of colour, comfortable seating, breakout spaces, games facilities, snacks and plants can all make your business a more enjoyable place to work.

Treat your team like people and not drones. Recognise their need to relax and be themselves.

8. Focus on positives rather than negatives

Every business has its weaknesses, but don’t dwell on them. Focus on your team’s strengths and achievements as often as you can to create a stronger company culture.

Congratulate workers on a job well done when they complete training or win new clients. Celebrate innovations as a company. Recognise individuals’ breakthroughs to boost their self-esteem and foster a culture of respect.

This can make your office a more enjoyable and rewarding place. Employees will feel more valued and inspired too.

9. Recognise employee aspirations

Do you believe your employees are living their best lives right now? Are you convinced they’ll never want another job?

If so, you’re in for a shock. Chances are, most of your team have aspirations beyond your business.

Integrate this into your company culture to build more trust and motivation: help workers develop the skills and knowledge they need to achieve their goals. They’re likely to be more invested in their role if they see it as a valuable step on their career path.

So why not bring personalised coaching and training into your company culture?

Consider using a quality assurance platform to measure performance and identify where employees can improve. Use this as a positive: develop a strategy for each worker and help them grow. They will become better employees over time and pick up new, transferable skills. Again, this makes them more likely to be strong match for future roles. And they’ll be more likely to stick around if they feel a sense of progression.

You can tie this into your gamification system too. Track their coaching and training progress using points, charts etc. Reward them when they hit goals and show visible improvements.

10. Offer flexibility to suit your employees’ needs

373K more UK employees work from home now than a decade ago. It’s easier than ever with so many productivity and project management tools out there.

Vestd is itself a remote-first company. We run retro and review sessions both remotely and in person every two weeks, either in Brighton or London, but otherwise the team generally work from home (or co-working spaces / coffee shops). It works very well for everyone who works here.

Offering employees flexible working patterns and hours suited to their needs is the progressive thing to do. If any of them have lengthy commutes, young children or other pressing responsibilities, letting them work from home can make their life much easier.

That means they’re likely to be more productive, passionate and loyal workers in the long run.

Bonus: this approach can really help you to attract the right kind of talent.

11. Learn from your competitors

Afraid of your best employees being snatched away by competitors?

Give them less reason to leave.

Try to find out how other businesses in your field treat their staff and how they reward them. Think about:

  • Their team-building activities
  • Their salaries
  • Their core values and ethics
  • The way they showcase their employees on their website

Take inspiration from the best and worst examples alike.

12. Share ownership in your business

Last but certainly not least, there are the joys of the Ownership Effect. People feel differently when they own a slice of the action, no matter how big or small.

Vestd is the modern way of sharing equity and launching employee share schemes. If you’re interested in giving people shares or options in a tax-efficient way then book a free consultation to understand how best to proceed.

Final thoughts

Developing a company culture that boosts productivity, satisfaction and loyalty isn’t easy. But following these expert tips should help to make it a little easier and build a formidable team you’re proud of.

Always keep these three points in mind when working on your company culture:

  • Your employees want (and deserve) to feel valued, respected and part of something special
  • Your business is nothing without the people running it
  • The stronger your company culture and the happier your workers, the more people will want to join your business

Every company culture takes time to get right, but put in enough (along with a healthy dose of commitment and passion) and you’ll see real benefits.