A driven entrepreneur with more than a decade of experience in the software development field, David Semerad grew his mobile and digital app development company, STRV, from a small startup in 2004 to a thriving company with more than 100 employees servicing four offices on two continents.
Company culture is a vital part of any successful business model. Happy employees equal happy clients. This is not a new phenomenon -- it's business 101. But in today's competitive global marketplace, maintaining a thriving (and happy) office environment often gets pushed to the bottom of a CEO's to-do list.
When I launched STRV, a mobile app and web development studio, more than a decade ago, I didn't give much thought to company culture. There were just five of us crammed in a tiny shared office space with one toilet, working round the clock to make ends meet. I didn't have the time (or, let's face it, the cash) to plan elaborate team-building retreats or Friday-night mixers.
Today, my "little" studio now has more than 100 employees in five offices, actively working on projects for top U.S. startups. Company culture, I can assure you, is one of my top priorities. It should be yours as well, regardless if you're a seasoned chief executive or just starting out. Improving your company's culture doesn't have to break your budget, but investing in your employees will certainly improve your bottom line. I guarantee it!
Here are eight tips that will help you grow your company's culture:
Validate the Achievements of the Company as Well as the Individual Employee
If something good happens at the company -- a project wins an award, the sales team lands a big client, an employee is promoted -- spread the word. Your office's internal message boards are a good place to start, whether it's through Slack or old-school flyers throughout the office. Highlighting the achievements of your company and employees sends a positive message, not only to your team but also to your clients (and potential clients), so make sure to broadcast good news on all your public social networking networks as well!
Personalize Your Employees' Birthday Gifts
Everyone likes to be remembered on their special day, even if they don't want to admit it. Cake, flowers, balloons -- take your pick, but make sure it's a consistent part of your social calendar. We use Slack, which automatically sends out birthday well-wishes on our #social channel. CEOs should also make time to personally wish his or her employee a great day. The good cheer is followed up with a cake with our company logo and a personalized message to the birthday person as well as a gift certificate to popular restaurant chain for later use.
Create Welcome Kits/Care Packages for an Employee's First Day on the Job
The first day of any new job is always stressful. Make sure to have a detailed onboarding process in place. Personally greet each new employee and ask them what they are hoping to get out of their new job. A welcome kit is also a good idea. Ours includes an employee manual, a guidebook to how our company operates as well as a number of fun sundries like a company "superheroes" t-shirt, water bottle, laptop sleeve, stickers and pens.
Draw People From Different Departments Together
Find ways to bring people from other departments together. Sure, team-building events would certainly fit into this category. But I suggest introducing a more regular one-on-one program. At STRV, we have "Lucky Lunches," where two team members are picked to go to lunch together at random during a weekly drawing. Several lunch "dates" are set up each week, and the tab is picked up by the company. This really helps facilitates cross-department company culture.
Set Up Interoffice Sports Clubs
As the old saying goes: the company that plays together, stays together. There is no better way to encourage team spirit and boost employee morale than through interoffice sports clubs. We have a number of different sports channels open on our company Slack, including #running, #badminton, #soccer and #trx, and routinely participate in city marathons among other events.
Send Thank-You Notes -- Lots of Them
They're simple and effective. If someone does something nice for you, say always say thanks. We prefer to say it with chocolate. Our office coordinator oversees this, typing up thank-you notes and wrapping them with chocolate pieces. The gesture will certainly brighten anyone's day.
Host Company Q&A Sessions
This should be a no-brainer. It costs nothing but helps facilitate an open company culture through honest dialogue between employees and management. I try and organize Q&A sessions on a monthly basis and encourage my employees to ask me anything. From salaries and HR issues to long-term company goals and business strategies, nothing is off-limits. I have received invaluable feedback and insight from my employees during these sessions. It really is teamwork at its best.
And Regular "Happy Hours"
Yes, I'm talking about mixed beverages. This might sound as stereotypical as watercooler gossip, but really who wouldn't want to unwind after a long day at the office with a drink or two on the company dime? Treating your team to regular happy hours on, let's say, a Thursday or Friday night will no doubt score you brownie points but will also reinforce that work doesn't always have to be about, well, work.