10 Ways to Foster a Great Corporate Culture

10 Ways to Foster a Great Corporate Culture

Corporate culture is important for small and large organizations alike.

When CEO Tony Hsieh was asked why Zappos was so successful, he said, “for us, our number one priority is corporate culture—once the culture is right, great customer service and brand building happens naturally.” This can be as true for a small team of people just as much as for a large company.

Corporate Culture Focusing on the How

But what exactly defines a great corporate culture? One could say it’s the quality of the “how” rather than the “what.” The product and service is the “what” and the culture and way of conducting business is the “how.” Case in point, although Zappos sells shoes, Tony Hsieh spends a lot of his time focused on things that have nothing to do with shoes such as teamwork, relationships, fulfillment, purpose, fun, creativity and creating an exceptional customer experience.

Creating a great corporate culture starts with breaking down barriers

Having spent over twenty years helping leaders build great corporate culture, I have prepared a list of ten sure-fire ways to give your culture a boost:

Boosting Corporate Culture

1. Have High Expectations

High expectations breed commitment. High engagement companies like Westjet, Google, Zappos and the Ritz may seen soft from the outside but they are cultures with very clear (and high) expectations of team members. People want to be on a winning team and research shows that the best leaders are viewed as “tough but fair.”

2. Give people a seat at the table

Before making decisions, ask the team for input. Listen to their ideas and give them serious consideration. High engagement and high involvement go hand in hand. When we surveyed people for the book Stepping Up, we asked people what keeps them from taking more initiative at work. Number one reason was: “leaders making decisions without asking for our opinion.”

3. Stay current—embrace change

Don’t be a dinosaur! The worst thing a company can do is stop growing. Don’t be complacent and never get too comfortable. Although change can be unsettling, it’s always more rewarding to venture into new territory because it stimulates creativity and energizes the work environment. Encourage and drive change.

4. Be transparent

Nothing will kill morale faster than withholding company information, especially if it involves changes in an organization. Naturally not every detail will be shared with every member of the team, but remaining transparent with major decisions will create a culture of trust.

5. Reward constructive irritants

There is a big difference between someone who complains and someone who critiques and pushes for change. People should feel supported for sticking their necks out and offering ideas, not be fearful of reprimand. Some of the best ideas for an organization come directly from employees, not management. Would you rather tame a wild stallion or kick a dead donkey?

6. Schedule team events and fun days and encourage individual expression

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Imbuing passion and fun into work produces the best results. Social events inside the office are equally, if not more important, than outside the office. Special fun days like dress-up, charity fundraisers, volunteering or contests lighten the mood and make it something to look forward to. Allowing people to decorate their workspace with their own personality also nurtures creativity and engagement. Depending on the nature of your business, you don’t have to be as wacky as Google or Zappos, but injecting a little fun will build a great culture.

7. Let employees make decisions

When people are given responsibility, they act responsibly. Employees are more likely to step up and get engaged and take more pride in their work when they are allowed to act like owners. Two of the most successful companies that empower their employees to make decisions are Westjet and the Ritz-Carlton. Both are renowned for providing their customers with an unmatched level of service.

8. Encourage and support personal growth and continuous learning

When people stop learning, they stop growing. And when they stop growing, they become complacent and get into ruts and routines. Your company will only grow to the extent your people grow. Provide resources such as workshops, ongoing training, and keynote speakers to keep people engaged and moving forward. They will feel more fulfilled and your company will flourish as a result.

9. Celebrate beginnings, endings, and accomplishments

It is customary to introduce a new member to the team and welcome them with open arms, but how often do we celebrate them when they leave? A powerful example of this is Apple. Every time an employee leaves, the entire team claps them out of the store for the last time. Talk about acknowledgment! Besides beginnings and endings, people need to be acknowledged on an ongoing basis for doing good work. Acknowledgment for doing a great job makes people feel valued.

10. Say goodbye to anyone that refuses to fit into the corporate culture

Despite your best efforts to include everyone in the organization, sometimes people simply aren’t a fit because of their personality, work habits or values. If the person refuses to change or align with the corporate culture, the best thing for everyone involved is to bid them adieu.

Regardless of your product or service, the degree to which your people are engaged will determine the success of your organization. Remember, the “how” of your business far outweighs the “what.”
Be well and do good work.



Dr. John Izzo has spoken to over one million people, advised over 500 companies, authored nine best-selling books, and helped some of the world's most admired companies. He has been a pioneer in creating successful businesses and emerging work trends for over twenty-five years.

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