How to Cultivate a Great Corporate Culture

It’s more than just pool tables and bean-bag chairs

In a world where a great corporate culture might seem to be as easy to create as dropping an amenity or two around the office, it’s time to have a serious conversation about how to create a culture that people want to be a part of.

Consider this, we spend as much as 60 to 80 hours per week within the walls of our companies. The culture and environment that permeates the office, comes home with us and affects the way we interact with everyone from the gas station cashier to our kids. The cost of having a negative company culture can impact everything from employee attendance and health, to the bottom line.

A study from Harvard shows that the costs of having a negative work culture can be massive. They estimate that health care costs at high-pressure companies are as much as 50% higher than they are at other organizations. They also showed that 550 million workdays are lost per year because of high stress in a work environment. In addition, more than 80% of doctors visits are attributed to workplace stress. All in all - a negative workplace culture is literally bad for your health.

To counteract that kind of negativity can be a huge task but it can also mean the difference between the life and death of a company and its people. The only way to change it is to change the company culture. To do that you have to know why people work, what they want to get out of their work, and what you can do to impact how they work.

First, consider why people work. A study by the Harvard Business Review last year was based on a study from 1985 that has since been updated. It showed that people work for six reasons—play, purpose, potential, emotional pressure, economic pressure and inertia. In general the first three reasons tend to increase employee performance while the latter three hurt it. The first three are also what are known as direct motives, while the last three are indirect motives. The study shows that environments that maximize the first three reasons for work and minimize the latter three, create a positive and productive work environment.

The best way to maximize a positive culture in a company is to focus on your employees and work to engage their first three reasons for work—play, purpose, and potential. That doesn’t mean that you need to put table tennis into every break room and offer up free on-site laundry - though these things can help. What it does mean is that you need to do the work to make them feel like family.

I have been a part of U.S. Money Reserve since 2003 and CEO of the company since 2015. I have lived and breathed this culture for more than 13 years and have always considered it to be an extension of my family.

One of the ways that I believe we can encourage a more positive company culture is to focus on those individuals who make the conscious decision to choose right over wrong, everyday. Those who lift others up, who are selfless, and put others first, are the people I respect the most and who motivate me to continue to put them first. By putting an emphasis on caring and compassion at all levels of the business hierarchy, people are willing to put in the work to make our business successful.

I also believe that a company’s success mirrors my children’s successes. I am not only elated but incredibly proud of their work. When employees feel sorrow and pain, I feel it too. What I want for my family and what I want for the company are not separate --- I want them both to have a long, successful and happy life.

To help get this kind of community into a company culture, the example has to start at the top. I believe in living what I preach. By showing empathy and going out of our way to help our employees, top-level executives create a sense that everyone matters. That’s crucial to lifting employee morale and turning a negative culture around. A study out of the University of Michigan’s CompassionLab shows that it’s also crucial that, even in tough times, leaders demonstrate compassion towards employees as it helps the company develop resilience in tough times.

Just like when you take care of your family you have to be willing to make sacrifices to take care of your employees. I believe that this is also a crucial step to ensuring that your company culture is positive and strong. A study out of New York University’s Stern School of Business showed that if a leader is self-sacrificing for their employees, those employees are more loyal and committed. That in turn means that they are more likely to be more committed to going out of their way to help their fellow employees.

As a leader you also need to be willing to hear people out—just like you listen to your children if they had a bad day at school. A study out of Harvard showed that leaders who encourage staff to speak up about questions or problems that may arise yields better performance both individually and for the company as a whole. Just how you want to encourage your children to try new things, you should encourage your employees to try new things and experiment. It fosters an environment of learning and individual empowerment that is ultimately good for the company culture and for the bottom line as whole.

Sure, adding a few on-site perks like gyms and in-office slides can help give off the perception of a great company culture but what it ultimately comes down to is how leaders treat their employees. I strongly believe in the idea that those I work with, and for, are an extension of my family. I believe that business does not make the people, but people make the business and to be successful we need to create a fantastic corporate culture.

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Angela "Angie" Koch is CEO of U.S. Money Reserve, one of the largest private distributors of U.S. government issued gold, silver and platinum coins. Angie oversees every aspect of operation, while setting culture and pace for the entire organization. With a proven background in business planning, strategy, mergers, acquisitions, and operations, Angie has an in-depth understanding of how to run a successful business and is credited with creating the analytic and KPI structure at U.S. Money Reserve. Believing strongly that the people make the business, Angie has positioned U.S. Money Reserve to be a trusted precious metal leader that always puts their customers and employees first.

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