When you think of thriving businesses, you might think of businesses who earn lofty annual revenues and whose names are known far and wide for their top-of-the-line, products and services. But there’s one key element in a workplace that can make even the small, growing business truly thrive—strong company culture.

Company culture is essentially the personality of a business, and it largely defines the environment in which your employees work. Building a strong company culture, though an internal effort, has a big impact on the perception of your business through the eyes of your customers, other businesses, and the public in general.

IronEdge Office Halloween Party

Several elements contribute to creating a great company culture, including not only what you do on-the-clock but also what happens outside work hours. Your company culture includes your mission, your values, your expectations and goals, your work environment, relationships, and more.

What Businesses Can Do

Company culture will likely differ in key ways from one business to another. For instance, Google has created a culture that is based largely on an informal atmosphere, notably including ‘TGIF’ meetings. On the other hand, Hubspot strives to build a culture of individual creativity among their employees, offering them several free educational programs and tools.

Whatever company culture you decide to create, your efforts should focus on bringing your employees together to collaborate in a way that makes them feel valued and needed. You’ll know you’ve built a great company culture when your employees not only work harder, but they are also fiercely loyal to your business.

Here are five things you can do to build a company culture that fosters productivity, collaboration, and loyalty:

1. Hold Activities and Outings Outside of Work

Part of building company culture is helping your employees feel a sense of community with each other. You can strengthen team relations as you find ways to bring your team together outside of work to de-stress and have fun.

Ironedge Group Family Night at the Houston Astros Baseball Game

By planning activities outside of the typical work environment, you let your team know that you care about and want to get to know them as people, not just as subordinates. Activities could range from attending a baseball game or an amusement park to going out for ice cream or bowling. You can even up the ante by encouraging your employees to bring their family or close friends along to enjoy the activity.

Activities that are especially useful in creating company culture are those that lead to team building. Escape rooms have become popular for work teams because the members must all work together to solve the puzzle and escape the room. Teams that are unable to work together won’t solve the puzzle, so communication is essential.

The purpose of these kinds of activities is twofold: to have fun, which your employees will thank you for, and to foster relationships among your team, which will ultimately boost productivity and collaboration at work. In these ways, planning activities outside your regular work environment can be highly beneficial to the success of your business.

2. Take Time to Let Your Employees Know You Care About Them

Celebrating the 10 year anniversary of IronEdge’s VP of Client Experience.

It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day tasks of a hectic work schedule, but have you ever considered planning ahead and taking time out of your day to let your employees know you care about them. Whether it’s a quick note to an employee letting them know you appreciate their hard work, or a more elaborate event to celebrate your team, taking time to appreciate your staff will go along way in building a positive culture.

Take for instance our client, Titan Gas and Power’s celebration of Customer Service Week. Every first week of October the employees at Titan Gas and Power takes time out of their week to celebrate the importance of customer service and of the people who serve and support customers on a daily basis. It’s their way to thank you for every customer interaction that is handled professionally and sincerely.

“Customer Service Week is a work week filled with activities, prizes, food, and overall gratitude from the entire company,” says Vice President of Operations, Yara Abdur-Rahman. “And in the spirit of gratitude, we always do our best to include ALL employees in many of the festivities during Customer Service Week because we’re thankful for every employee’s role, and because we recognize that we all provide some level of customer service to each other in our business flows, processes, and daily interactions.”

3. Encourage Community Involvement

Of course, fun-filled activities aren’t the only way you can bring your employees together as a team. You could also explore opportunities for your team to get involved in the local community.

Getting involved could be anything from helping build housing to managing a fundraising activity. Getting your employees’ input on which local projects they’d most like to be a part of can make them feel personally connected to the cause. No matter how you choose to give back, make sure your team understands how their involvement can make a difference.

A total of 50 IronEdge employees and family members volunteer in the Portwall Warehouse at the Houston Food Bank

One of the major benefits of community involvement is that it gives your business a chance to show that it’s more than just a number-crunching machine. Instead, you show that your company is made up of real, well-intentioned people who care about getting involved in causes that matter, especially local causes.

Another benefit is that your team members are provided with a way to engage and work together to achieve a goal. They can also feel more satisfaction in their jobs knowing that they are contributing to important local projects and initiatives.

4. Create an Employee Rewards Program

Reward programs have long been an established option for motivating employees. Through reward systems, you validate and compensate employees for their hard work to show that they are an important part of the team. The reward doesn’t have to be monetary; however, there is research to suggest that a financial reward is one of the most effective ways to drive employee productivity.

One option worth considering is providing employees with a percentage of the net assets that have been gained in your company that month or over several months. By giving a percentage of the business’s profits to your employees, you show them that they have a direct impact on the success of your company. This encourages them to work harder and more collaboratively, because lower quality work means lower profits and lower bonuses. This is a great way to get your business thriving in a way that makes both you and your employees feel good.

5. Promote a Safe Work Environment

As mentioned, a key element of business culture is always going to be the work environment. It is crucial that employees feel safe when they come to work, both mentally and physically.

Creating a safe work environment does not simply mean you properly address safety hazards and ensure your workplace is up-to-code. You should establish a code of conduct that protects employees from the harmful behaviors of others. You should also have experienced HR representatives to whom employees can report violations of the code of conduct.

The specifics included in your code of conduct will depend on the policies that you believe are necessary to maintain a safe work environment. However, they should actively tackle issues including sexual harassment, bullying, and discrimination. Many businesses are now adopting zero-tolerance policies for behaviors like these to ensure that their employees feel totally secure at work.

6. Hire the Right Employees

Once you’ve built a strong company culture, the last thing you want to do is hire employees that don’t fit well within it. Even one employee who won’t contribute to strengthening your culture could damage or even destroy that culture, impacting the success of your business.

IronEdge Employees at Bowling Night

You should therefore only explore candidates who you determine are the right fit for the culture. This could mean that you are looking for employees who hold the same values as the company or whose personalities are compatible with the personalities of other employees. It could also mean you only interview candidates who demonstrate experience in or a desire to volunteer and participate in community involvement opportunities.

Many companies even institute a new-hire probationary period of about three months so they can let the new employee go without consequence if he or she ends up not fitting in with the company culture. It’s important to protect your culture at all costs, even if that means passing on a more experienced candidate to find the right fit.

How Does This Benefit Your Business?

There are several benefits to investing time and money into building a great company culture.

By bringing your team together inside and outside of work and helping them feel safe and valued, you create a culture of loyalty that is invaluable to your business. In addition, establishing rewards programs and other incentives helps increase motivation and job satisfaction, and multiple research studies have shown that satisfied employees provide greater levels of output.

Further, as your team grows more unified, they become more willing to take responsibility for both your company’s successes and its failures. This kind of atmosphere makes for a great space to collaborate and find innovative solutions that may never have been reached in a work environment with a weak company culture.

And last but certainly not least, great company culture is a huge job perk, so building your culture helps increase employee retention and attract top talent to your business. It also leads to a more positive overall perception of your business and greater levels of success in your industry as you become known for treating your employees better than other companies do.

However you decide to build your company culture, remember that culture is about making work more than just work. It’s about striving to achieve higher goals and purposes, coming together as a team, and treating your work as a cause worth fighting for. By focusing on company culture, you can grow your team into a force to be reckoned with.