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A company’s culture is like its DNA – it shapes everything from how decisions are made, to how employees interact, to the overall work environment. Studies show that organizations with positive and productive cultures outperform their peers on metrics like revenue growth, profitability, retention, and customer satisfaction. So how do you build a culture that brings out the best in your people? This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know.

Why Culture Matters

Let’s start with why company culture deserves attention in the first place. There are many proven benefits:

  1. Increased employee engagement and retention

Employees who are happy and aligned with their company’s culture are more engaged in their work. According to Gallup, highly engaged teams show 21% greater profitability and have 41% lower absenteeism. Engaged employees also stay at companies longer – reducing costly turnover.

  1. Improved productivity and performance

Research shows that positive company cultures lead to more productive employees and teams. For example, the University of Warwick found that happy employees are 12% more productive.

  1. Ability to attract top talent

A study by Deloitte found that culture is a major factor candidates consider when choosing where to work. A supportive and engaging culture is key for recruiting and retaining star employees.

  1. Shared sense of purpose

When values and mission are clearly defined and lived, employees have clarity on goals and expectations. This alignment gives people a sense of meaning and purpose in their work.

  1. Increased innovation and creativity

Companies like Pixar and Google are known for cultures that spark creativity. When employees feel empowered to think outside the box, they generate more ideas and innovations.

  1. Enhanced company reputation

A well-defined culture influences everything from customer interactions to brand image. It’s why companies like Zappos and Southwest have such devoted customers.

Defining Your Ideal Culture

Once you understand the potential upsides, the next step is defining what an ideal culture looks like for your company. Start by asking:

  • What are our core values and purpose? Are they clearly articulated?
  • What do employees value most? Consider conducting anonymous surveys.
  • What are our competitors and industry leaders doing? Research best practices.
  • What behaviors will support our business goals and strategies?
  • Is leadership aligned on the kind of culture we want? Get consensus from managers.

With those perspectives, you can begin to paint a picture of the optimal culture. Think through the behaviors, attitudes, norms and rituals you want to see.

Elements of a Positive Culture

While each company culture is unique, they tend to share common components:

Trust and Transparency

High trust cultures are psychologically safe – people feel comfortable speaking up and taking risks. They require open communication, sincerity, and transparency from leadership.

Recognition and Appreciation

Acknowledging employee contributions through praise, rewards, and celebrations makes people feel valued. Recognizing “culture carriers” reinforces desired behaviors.

Wellness and Work-Life Balance

Promoting physical health, mental wellbeing, and appropriate workloads demonstrates care for people. Flexibility and paid time off also support balance.

Diversity and Inclusion

Fairness, respect, and appreciating individual differences makes for a welcoming environment. It requires removing barriers and unconscious biases.

Feedback and Accountability

Giving constructive feedback helps people improve and grow. Blanchard research shows 96% of employees want feedback but only 65% say they receive it.

Learning and Development

Continuous learning through training, mentorship and experiential opportunities shows investment in talent. It keeps skills competitive.

Collaboration and Teamwork

Breaking down silos and encouraging inter-departmental cooperation builds relationships. Make sure remote employees don’t feel disconnected.

Empowerment and Autonomy

Enabling people to have ownership over decisions and work processes leverages their expertise. It also builds trust and engagement.

Purpose and Mission Alignment

Connecting day-to-day tasks to the “why” behind company goals gives meaning to work. Celebrate milestones towards vision.

While an exhaustive list, these elements provide a strong foundation. Assess how well your current culture aligns.

Building and Sustaining Culture

Company culture develops organically over time, influenced by leadership, policies, environment and employees. While you can’t force a culture, you can encourage one through conscious choices.

Communication is key – talk openly and consistently about culture. Share stories and celebrate people that embody desired values.

It starts with leaders – they set the tone through their own behaviors. Make sure management models and rewards cultural priorities.

Align processes – interrogate HR practices, performance systems and operations to see if they reinforce or undermine culture.

Start at the beginning – emphasize culture from the recruiting stage to set expectations. Onboarding is also essential.

Equip your people – provide ample training and mentoring to help embed cultural knowledge and skills.

Promote from within when possible – it signals a commitment to developing talent versus bringing in outsiders.

Mark milestones – whether work anniversaries, product launches or company growth, recognizing wins brings teams together.

Make creativity a habit – build in mechanisms like hackathons or innovation days. Have leaders model inquisitiveness.

Listen and evolve – conduct stay interviews, roundtables and surveys to get input. Be willing to tweak approaches.

Track relevant metrics – look at turnover, satisfaction, productivity and other health indicators tied to culture.

It’s a continuous process. The companies renowned for culture – like Southwest Airlines – still work diligently to nurture it.

Overcoming Obstacles

While positive culture lifts organizations up, it’s not without challenges:

Resistance to change – ingrained legacies and “how we’ve always done things” mentalities hamper evolution. Bring resistors along slowly.

Geographic dispersion – maintaining cohesion across physical distance is hard. Use rituals, visits, videos and digital platforms to connect remote teams.

Mergers and acquisitions – blending cultures is tricky. Seek common ground on values and mission. Make integration highly collaborative.

Resource constraints – culture initiatives compete for bandwidth, budget and people. Embed into operations versus making supplemental.

Lack of buy-in – misaligned leaders reject culture as “soft.” Quantify benefits and make the business case. Culture and performance go hand-in-hand.

It takes work, but overcoming hurdles is worth the substantial payoff.

In Summary

A positive, productive culture delivers tangible returns, from financial gains to talent retention. While culture is complex, these fundamentals help guide the way:

  • Define your aspirational culture and make sure leadership is united behind it.
  • Focus on traits like trust, recognition, inclusion and purpose that create bonds.
  • Weave culture-building into everything – communications, training, systems and more.
  • Address obstacles head on through change management and stakeholder education.
  • Make it a living process, not a one-off project. Use feedback and data to improve.

Exceptional cultures don’t materialize overnight, but are carefully crafted over time. With a sound vision and commitment to nurturing your people, you can build something great.

Additional Resources:

Relevant Books:

  • The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle
  • Work Rules by Laszlo Bock
  • The Power of Company Culture by Chris Dyer


  • Creative Culture by Daniel Coyle
  • The Corporate Culture Podcast

Online Courses:

  • Building a Positive Workplace Culture (LinkedIn Learning)
  • Crafting Company Culture (Coursera)


  • Denison Consulting
  • Eagle Hill Consulting


  • Culture Amp
  • Know Your Team

Collaboration Tools:

  • Donut
  • Bonfyre

Take the first step by auditing your current culture using the Denison Culture Survey or Know Your Team. Then bring leadership together to align on a cultural vision for the future. With intention and commitment, you can make it a reality. Reach out for help developing a comprehensive culture strategy – we’re ready to partner with you.

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