The Culture Commandments: How to Build An Unbeatable Company Culture

How do you measure a company culture? Is it in the number of office traditions you have? The number of team lunches you’ve shared, or the number of karaoke songs played at the annual Christmas party?

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November 18, 2020
The Culture Commandments: How to Build An Unbeatable Company Culture

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The word ‘culture’ regularly pops up in the list of abstract office buzzwords alongside ‘deep dive’, ‘think outside the box’ and ‘hit the ground running.’ We all know how a business culture feels, regardless of whether it’s right or wrong. But it’s hard to measure, and even harder to put into words.

So how do you actually nurture a company culture beyond the mandatory weekly Zoom call, or via emails that start with the classic ‘I hope this email finds you well’?

A strong company culture should be achievable for every kind of workplace - even if you’ve gone remote.

Culture shouldn’t be an enigma, something that can only be achieved when every single one of your employees has reached enlightenment or discovered the meaning of life.

“But it’s 2020!” you whisper from your laptop screen. “Surely every business is going to struggle to keep company morale high?”

We can’t deny that even the most robust of company cultures can get shaken when a global pandemic bursts onto the scene. Our own Kubix culture efforts were cut brutally short when Lockdown 2.0 arrived, rather like an unwanted guest at a party. But instead of resting on our laurels, our team decided to step up and put a new culture plan into place. And as we started to reap the benefits of our efforts, we decided to share our top tips here for you - the Culture Commandments, as we called them. By following a few of these, you can get your team connecting - virtually or in person - like never before.

Number One: Thou Shalt Have Crazy Ideas.

Sometimes the best company culture ideas come from the most unexpected places. Gather your most eager colleagues together and throw all your ideas onto the table, no matter how crazy they may be. Enthusiasm is key at this stage. Whilst your director’s idea of fun might be a night of tequila shots and dancing until dawn (unfortunately none of the Kubix directors put this one forward), you might also need to cater to those who love early nights and morning workouts.

We certainly didn’t waste our time debating how to bring some of the crazier ideas to life. One particular conversation went something like this: “A three-legged race? With social distancing?” *Hits head against the desk*

Start to whittle these ideas down until you’ve got some real golden nuggets on your list. Some of ours included a virtual awards night to celebrate the year’s achievements, a Christmas quiz (okay, okay, we didn’t quite think outside the box with that one), and The Big Kubix Workout. Whilst your culture shouldn’t be defined by monthly events, they’re a great way for pulling the team together outside of the daily routine. Variety is the spice of life, so don’t be afraid to mix it up.

Number Two: Thou Shalt Mimic A Musketeer.

No, we don’t mean wear a feather hat and swing a sword at every opportunity. We mean the simple but effective motto followed by all good musketeers: All for one, and one for all.

Every workplace is going to consist of extroverts, introverts, and some people who sit in the middle. Some people take to Zoom calls like a duck to water; others miss smaller face-to-face interactions and would happily sit through a meeting on mute. The key to an unshakeable company culture is to remember that everyone matters. Every person - from the company directors down to the newest interns or apprentices - has a part to play in a business. Social leadership can come from anyone, no matter where they sit on the imaginary corporate ladder. If your latest bright spark is keen to take the reins, then let them. Be inclusive. This can’t be stressed enough. Culture isn’t something you can force down people’s throats like some magic medicine, and the last thing your teammates want when they’re extremely busy is to be told to drop everything and get involved with yet another ‘culture initiative’.  

Some of your team will always get more involved in events and socials than others, but you should always allow everyone the chance to make their own suggestions. Ask questions about what people would like to get out of the workplace, or give people time to type something beforehand if they’re not comfortable expressing themselves on a chaotic Zoom call. Even your loudest, most confident employee might enjoy the option of a suggestion box. If some of your team members are quieter than most, then make time to find out what would make them happier at work. Above all, make sure that everybody feels heard, no matter what type of role they do day-to-day.

Number Three: Thou Shalt Think Big, AND Small.

Mapping out your company culture is a bit like planning a party, but sometimes it’s important to go back to basics. Consider the day-to-day runnings of your organisation. How can you lift the mood in the simplest of ways? This might be a question of buying a speaker to play daily tunes, or even collating an office playlist so that anyone working from home can listen to the same music. Do a monthly yoga session. Order food online together and share a virtual lunch. Decorate your workplace in colours and fabrics that will make your team feel at home, and go mad with plants and creative lighting. It’s no surprise that the biggest brands in the world like Google and Facebook have breathtakingly beautiful offices. They know that the best creative ideas spark from creative places.

If your team is still stuck at home, then send out a questionnaire to check that they have everything they need to kit out their working space to the max. If your colleague is sitting at a tiny kitchen table on a wobbly chair, then you have the chance to do something about it! Send them a proper office chair and desk so that they can work more effectively. The smallest gestures can often have the biggest meaning, so don’t neglect your day-to-day culture boosts in favour of the big events that take more planning!

Number Four: Thou Shalt Always Stay Appreciative.

How often is it that your workplace sends you a big fat ‘thank you’ for all your hard work? Culture is about valuing your team and giving something back. Some thank yous are simple. You might decide to start handing out free mince pies as soon as December arrives. Or you agree that every week, you’ll pick a ‘People’s Champion’ and vote for somebody who’s gone above and beyond in their role.

Before lockdown, our team ran The Great Kubix Kake-Off, a weekly bake-off between two colleagues as they battled it out for the ultimate taste test. Whilst virtually these sorts of events have to be slightly different, you can still show your staff that you’re thinking of them whilst at home. Treat each staff member to a special gift box or voucher delivered directly to their homes. For lockdown birthdays, send out cake deliveries to make their days extra special. These gifts don’t have to cost money, either. You could give each staff member an extra afternoon off every December for Christmas shopping (online or off), or get your senior managers to send small cards out to their teams with words of encouragement. Lockdown has distanced teams like never before, so never underestimate the power of a quick pick-me-up for boosting morale.

Number Five: Thou Shalt Do Good.

When you’ve got a hard-working team, it’s all too easy to become bogged down by daily tasks. Here at Kubix, we can end up guilty of this too! November is always our busiest period, with Black Friday and Christmas sales looming as the biggest e-commerce events of the year. Our team comes together more than ever to pull off not just one, but seventy marketing campaigns (yes really), so it’s hardly surprising that most of our conversations are about work.

An easy way to pull your staff out of a rut is to think outside the working environment and provide a motive to bring everyone together. Get your team feeling good by doing good. This might be a Macmillan coffee morning, a 10k running challenge to raise money for charity, or a local litter pick (socially distanced, of course). Our team opted for Movember, and within two days had raised hundreds of pounds for charity. Our Movember crew went live on Facebook for their weekly shave-a-long, and enjoyed an evening of silly dances, facial hair discussions and plenty of jokes. It was certainly a very different way of spending a weekend, but by the time Monday rolled around, the Movember mood was infectious!

Bringing people together to focus on something other than work reminds your team that there’s more to life than their growing inbox or next meeting. And the results are well worth it.

Number Six: Thou Shalt Laugh When Things Don’t Go To Plan.

If you’ve ever worked for a company and rolled your eyes at the latest event designed to boost team morale, you’ll know that sometimes even the best-laid plans can fall a bit flat. But don’t be disheartened! Mix things up, try different styles of events, and don’t expect every person on your team to love every single calendar entry. You can’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s okay. Not everyone will want to do a Zoom karaoke night, or a virtual bake-along. But the important part is that some people will. So long as a few people come away from each culture event feeling happier and more connected than when they arrived, then you can give yourself a pat on the back and call it a success.

Our agency has had meals out that have been awful. The food was cold, everybody was tired and nothing quite went to plan. Likewise, some of our 2020 Zoom games have gone down like a lead balloon. But when you have a team that all wants the best for each other, you can soon find the funny side of every culture ‘flop’. Not to mention the stories that last for years to come.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your company culture can’t be either.

Small, consistent efforts to include people and make them feel part of something - from the oldest staff members right to the new starters - will go a huge way to boosting your team morale. Remind your staff why they’re there, what they’re working towards, and you’ll have a team that together can achieve anything.

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