Why work environments matter
Air hockey tables. Catered lunches. On-site car washes. Office perks like these have become almost expected from corporations seeking to attract and keep top talent. Tech giants such as Google and Facebook may be to blame for this uptick in “cool” corporate culture—showing employees that working at creatively designed office spaces provides more than just a paycheck.
While cool perks certainly entice employees stuck in drab cubicle-farms, it’s more than just office perks. Bo Bothe, president and CEO of brand experience firm BrandExtract, stresses that a great company culture is more than just being cool. “Culture is more about belief than fun things to do. It’s kind of like when you were a kid and got a new toy, or when you watch a movie you love 100 times. There is a point where the joy runs out.”
Bothe speaks from experience with his own company and clients. “We know that culture takes more than cool amenities. Those amenities are great as long as they’re true to the company brand, mission and values.”
Bothe posits the hypothetical scenario in which “a company brings in lunch for you every day; he also expects 110 percent utilization and works you like a dog. Is that culture, or is that just a way to keep you in the office? It’s an important thought for companies trying to establish healthy cultures.”
Now that’s not to say these fun and light perks can’t boost employee morale. It’s just that Bothe says culture is much more. “The day-to-day actions of employees, leadership, and the organization as a whole have a much greater impact on both the culture and the bottom line. If playing ping pong is the way to get the best ideas out of staff and relieve stress, that’s great. But, long-term, how the organization treats and respects its team members is a better gauge of the overall culture.”
“The day-to-day actions of employees, leadership,
and the organization as a whole have a much greater impact
on both the culture and the bottom line.”
— Bo Bothe, President & CEO, BrandExtract
In the words of Mitzi Perdue, widow of Perdue Farms’ Frank Perdue, “Culture is ‘the way we do things,’” she says. “‘The way we do things’ is something that supports gaining and keeping the trust of all the stakeholders.”
From “associates” (employees) to suppliers, vendors, the community, and family members, stakeholders includes everyone. “Trust is essential because people like to work with people they trust and customers like to buy from a brand they trust,” Perdue says.
She recalls how she saw her husband handle the family business. While Frank passed 14 years ago, his practices in defining a healthy company culture at Perdue are as important as ever in today’s world obsessed with shiny perks and the “cool factor.”
“Frank was a big believer in the importance of a company’s culture,” Perdue says. “He told me one day, and I wrote it in my diary, ‘Values are at the heart of a culture, and part of a leader’s job includes creating the culture.’”
The presence of values at a company’s core is essential. Bothe says every company has a “culture”—the difference is some are intentional, and some are not.
“We’ve worked with many companies that have a strong culture,” Bothe says, “but for the most part, they do it by hiring the right people, leading in a way that exemplifies their core values and mission and provides their people with the means to express themselves productively.”
Perdue says that the earmarks of a great culture are when people are aware of the company’s values at all levels. “That means from the top executives to the most recent hourly recruit, top leaders are aware of the importance of precedent; leaders are aware of the power of where they focus their attention; leaders reinforce the culture; and leaders put enormous effort into showing people that they’re valued and important.”
There is no questioning that people—from the lowest-level employees to the highest-level executives—are what define a company’s culture. It’s not just ping pong tables or bring-your-dog-to-work days.
Most importantly, it’s how leaders set this precedent. “Frank Perdue made sure that the company values were more than just slogans stored somewhere in a binder,” Perdue says. “In his life, he created tens of thousands of handwritten notes to different associates, checking up on the factors that he felt were important.”
If associates didn’t respond to these notes within a few days, Frank’s executive assistant would follow up. It was important for him to know whether or not the company’s values were being upheld in his associates’ eyes.
Another example of company culture that works is Bothe’s own company culture, which has a lot of rituals. For example, it has “the bird,” a ceramic bird that team members give to one another weekly based on who displayed the company’s core values in a significant manner. Additionally, BrandExtract’s team does quarterly service projects together. To check employee satisfaction, it has regular staff check-ins and uses OfficeVibe weekly.
There is no questioning that people—from the lowest-level
employees to the highest-level executives—are what define a company’s culture.
It’s not just ping pong tables or bring-your-dog-to-work days.
At the core of everything are the people. “We’ve worked with many companies that have a strong culture, but for the most part, they do it by hiring the right people, leading in a way that exemplifies their core values and mission, and provides their people with the means to express themselves productively,” Bothe says. “It takes open communication, trust, and alignment to strengthen culture.”
From the top of the ladder to the bottom, each team member plays a vital role in your company’s success. Ensuring each employee feels valued can go a long way in establishing a culture that actually inspires top talent to perform even better. A strong leader starts the trend, and company activities, incentives, and processes can cement your culture of cool into a long-lasting tradition.
Because ping pong tables are cool, but happy employees are even cooler.