The Secret to Building Company Culture

The Secret to Building Company Culture

Your team’s culture is arguably the most important thing a company can create. Research shows it’s the #1 reason employees stay with a company.

As the “Culture Czar” at ReWork, it’s no secret that I love driving and engaging in conversations around improving and evolving our culture to be awesome.

Just recently we were recognized for our great culture as one of the top 100 companies to work according to Outside Magazine. So, what’s our secret sauce?

As recruiters, we spend a lot of time thinking about hiring, culture, and fit. (It’s our natural obsession.) Here are four not-so-secret rules we’ve used to guide and develop our unique culture at ReWork:

1. We take our culture and values seriously. Even when it’s time-consuming.

Last year, our team reinvented our core values — an exercise for us, as a team, to define who we are and what we stand for. It took workshops, surveys, and several team members laboriously distilling information (think hundreds of sticky notes, survey responses, etc.). It wasn’t easy work, but it was meaningful, fun, and important. At the end, we emerged with six values that unite our team.

Core-Values-for-Blog

During new employee onboarding, we review each value and share a story of how our team lives them out. We make sure our new teammates know that this isn’t a list just framed on a wall — these are real values encompassed in our daily lives.

We continue to share open dialogue about how these values are, at times, in conflict with each other. An example: our value of “A Growth Mindset” (moving quickly, failing in order to learn) is often at odds with our value of “A High Bar” (holding the highest standards of ourselves and the services we provide). All team members are invited to discuss how to integrate each of our values and to what degree.

The framework we use to navigate this, called polarity mapping, is a vital element of our company. (Special thanks to StartingBloc who introduced this concept to us.)

2. We prioritize trust.

While team-wide values are vital, the kinetic energy of our team happens on a micro-level, in the one-on-one relationships between team members.

We’re often running activities to get to know each other fully (“A Whole Self”) and practicing how to have open, honest conversations (“Safe Place to Fail”). At our quarterly, all-team summits we’ve dedicated entire days to trust activities. These activities involve training ourselves to recognize when/if an “ick” develops among team members, providing space to disagree, and addressing trust issues head on.  

A lack of trust is often associated with micro-management — something no one likes. We find trust-building to be so important because it minimizes instances of micro-management, boosting our collective sense of autonomy and morale.

Trust is what enables our team to develop deeper connections that bond us as comrades, so we prioritize it.

3. When it comes to perks (like remote work), we choose to think abundantly.

Culture is not just ping pong tables, free snacks, and dogs in the office. It’s also about the intangible benefits that a team can provide.

Remote work is a great example.

The ReWork team is based all over the country (and Europe!) and we’re encouraged to be where we will thrive and flourish, both personally and professionally.

Our policy on remote work is this: each team member can travel and work remotely for up to 4 weeks of every year (in fact, as I write this, I’m sitting in Nusa Lembongan, a tiny island off the east coast of Bali!).

We’ve had experiences where our remote-work policy didn’t work out so well (productivity drops, serious internet connectivity issues, etc.). We could choose to use those instances to justify not issuing this perk, but instead we choose to learn how to better set up our co-workers for success in the future.

We also recognize that team members value perks differently. For example, I love the freedom to work remotely – it enables me to explore the country (and world!) while being a part of this amazing team. Others take a different approach — they take advantage of their flexibility to play an occasional 90 minutes of lunchtime soccer. We enable each others to press into perks that resonate and excite us most.

4. We’re dedicated to autonomy and development.

We provide the freedom for team members to explore new arenas. Of course, everyone is expected to prioritize their primary responsibilities, but we’re encouraged to test uncharted waters, discover new talents, and uncover additional interests.

For example, a former team member started as an apprentice, digging into data and analytics. Then he worked on the Search Team before finally finding his true fit on the Product Team. Because he was encouraged to pursue his interests and explore new topics within the company, he was able to find alignment in his role at ReWork. Win, win, win: good for the company, good for the team, and good for him.

Culture is a product of who is on your team — not company perks. You don’t need a lavish office or crazy budget; you do need to cultivate relationships, values, self-expression, and autonomy.

With a small company like ours, culture shifts happen on a dime (and frequently, too).

That’s why it’s taken time, intentional workshopping, and continuous hard decisions to do the right thing for our people. We’re on a mission to build not only a company that no one wants to leave, but also one that is based on the values of our team members.

And the benefit? A workplace where people are heard, trust is strong, and values matter. What’s better than that?


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