How to Build Company Culture from Grass Roots

How to Build Company Culture from Grass Roots - Zest e-Biz

In Tony Hsieh’s (CEO of book, called “Delivering Happiness”, he talks about customer service being the number one priority for their online shoe sales company. But he also stressed that building a good company culture was even more important to ensure great customer service.

One initiative they did was to ask all employees to write about the company culture in less than 500words. They compiled everyone’s responses and created a book that was given to potential new employees as well as existing employees. They decided to print people’s comments UNEDITED (except for grammar) to gain a complete picture of the company’s culture – potentially detrimental to their success. In 2010, 5yrs on from when it was first circulated they still update and re-publish this book known as the “Company Culture Book” annually.

Reading this I thought to myself this is all very well for a dynamic entrepreneurial company that has grown from only a small number of people. There is no way that something like this would work in the company I work for.

Have you ever had the same thought?

A lot of websites, textbooks and companies focus on IMPROVING ORGANISATIONAL CULTURE using techniques such as assessing the current company culture, comparing it to a benchmark or ideal culture, then making changes and embedding a new culture. The cycle is a time consuming process and relies heavily on the people managing the process being in touch with their workforce and understanding what really MOTIVATES them… rather than prescribing a culture that employees must follow.

Instead of taking this big picture approach, I’ve focused on a few things I do day-to-day at work to help build our team culture.

5 Tips for Building Company Culture from Grassroots:

  1. EMPATHISE. When someone snaps at you, or you don’t get the response you were after, put yourself in his or her shoes. Try to understand why they may have reacted that way. It’s highly likely it wasn’t because of what you just said or did. Based on this, you might find you get a better result approaching them in a different way.
  2. COMMUNICATE. Keep people in the loop. Whether they’re directly affected of even if they’ve just shown interest. People feel included and valued when you give them regular feedback.
  3. RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS. From opening the door for others, keeping the milk out if you see the next person making a coffee to complimenting someone on the way they look if you notice a difference or positive change. Even the smallest things can make someone else’s day.
  4. TAKE INTEREST. Actively listen to what others do and say. When you ask someone “how’s it going?” or “how was your weekend?” pay attention to their answers and get to know them for who they are, not what they do.
  5. INITIATE BREAKS. Suggest going for a coffee or taking a break with someone and consciously make an effort to talk about things other than work. Use these opportunities to get to know your colleagues better at the same time as taking time out.

Don’t always expect your team leader or boss to develop your team culture because everyone can influence those around them!

Most importantly – HAVE FUN! Check out this trailer from The Pike Place Fish company in Seattle:

3 thoughts on “How to Build Company Culture from Grass Roots

  1. Oh I yearn to work for a company that embraces a great culture and actively encourages their staff to improve it! I’m so tired of the yearly surveys that must cost thousands to run, then half baked attempts to decipher the results and Implement changes to the culture. I get particularly miffed when a large portion of the staff mark something at the low end of the scale and it is brushed off as “that’s to be expected as the shop floor are very negative”. Then nothing is done until next year when we go through it all again!! Probably one of the reasons I quit and went travelling for a year!!

    1. Hi Tracey – hope you find that travelling opens up options and angles to help you return to work where there is a great culture 🙂 Or that you win lotto and can travel forever! 😉

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