With a few quick keystrokes, it’s easy to find a plethora of articles with lists of the companies known for great corporate culture. What’s more difficult is finding a roadmap to become a company on that list.
Often, the first step in building company culture is convincing the C-suite that it will have a positive impact on profits. Culture is about more than just enticing great talent, it’s also about keeping the great talent you already have. When companies have poor culture, nearly half of employees start looking for a new job. Considering it can cost up to 150% of an employee’s annual salary to fill a vacant position, there’s significant financial value in keeping your existing employees engaged and content.
Building trust energizes company culture
When trust is high in an organization employees innovate more, exhibit lower levels of stress, and are more productive. It’s important to create opportunities for employees to have fun together and to share bits of their personal lives.
Get the White Paper: Company culture is forged with strong workplace relationships.
Creating bonding opportunities doesn’t have to be a huge costly initiative. We’re not suggesting you buy a ping pong table or find the budget and time for a team-building day at an amusement park if that’s not feasible. When coworkers have opportunities to get to know one another, they form positive relationships, which can reduce conflict and competition between departments, leading to greater productivity. When they know more about a coworker’s interests and expertise, they know who to seek when they need assistance outside their own department.
Creating physical spaces is an obvious way to bring people together, but it’s not the only way to encourage new connections that cross departmental boundaries. Encouraging interactions through smaller internal events, knowledge sharing activities, or digital platforms can be easier to implement while still providing valuable ROI.
Here are some of our favorite, and almost free, company culture ideas, complete with extra tips on how to take them to the next level if you’re feeling bold.
1. Host an informal potluck day
Family gatherings almost always involve food, so why should work be any different? There are tons of food holidays you could choose to celebrate like Pi(e) Day (March 14) or National Cookie Day (December 4). Make sure to plan a week or two in advance and notify all employees so have ample time to plan to participate.
Take it up a notch: Make it a competition! Host a chili cook-off or even a Great British Bake Off inspired pastry day. Have everyone vote for their favorite submission and award the winner a small prize or take a photo of them with their winning creation. At Bonfyre, we host a monthly Great Bonfyre Bake Off and celebrate winners in our Bonfyre community and on our Instagram account.
2. Build an internal lending library
Add a bookcase to a common area and ask employees to contribute books that inspired them or taught them something. Make it inclusive by encouraging both business and non-business related materials. DIY books, novels, and biographies are all great conversation starters.
Take it up a notch: Ask your graphic designer to create some company book labels in the style of old library cards, with lines that can be signed by employees when they finish reading a book. This way coworkers can see who has read it before and strike up a conversation at lunch or know who to seek out when they need a subject matter expert on a specific topic.
3. Schedule regular dedicated learning time
Most of us loved show and tell in school; this is the adult version! Let your employees take turns presenting about a topic they enjoy. Create a simple sign up sheet so your in house experts can share their knowledge with interested coworkers during a designated time. Again, to make it as inclusive as possible, encourage non-business related topics like introductory cooking or knitting lesson.
Take it up a notch: Make it a regularly scheduled lunch and learn. Set up a monthly schedule and provide lunch to all attendees to maximize participation and impact.
4. Gamify large projects
Every now and again an organization has a large, ‘all hands on deck’ task that must be done. Inventory day or other routine and sometimes tedious tasks are ideal for this initiative. Make it more enjoyable by making it into a game. Assign cross-departmental teams in advance to encourage collaboration between members who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to work together. Also, make sure every team has one in-team expert that can answer questions during the process so you don’t have to interrupt the flow of events.
Take it up a notch: Make it a friendly competition between teams and award a prize to the group with the most accurate results. A catered lunch or delayed start morning are great incentives to do your best work. If the task allows, you can even build a collaborative playlist to enjoy during the process.
5. Establish a bring your dog to work day
We’d be remiss if we left this fun trend off our top five company culture ideas. This one requires a few more guidelines than most of the others, but the payoff is worth it. Most pet owners consider their pets family, so allowing them to visit work and meet the team can bring a lot of joy to the entire office. We recommend doing a bit of research on pet policies and writing some ground rules before introducing this initiative. Determine in advance what day pets can visit, limit pet visitors to a manageable number for your workspace, and consider using an empty office as the designated “dog office” if you have an open floor plan. If some coworkers are allergic or simply uncomfortable with the arrangement, offer them the opportunity to work from home on “dog days”.
Take it up a notch: Take photos of owners with their canine companions during the visits. Feature these photos in a digital community, on a slideshow or community board in a break room. Allow employees who can’t bring their pet to work to submit their own photos too. After you’ve acquired several, ask employees to vote on which owner/pet pair look the most alike.
With imagination and a minimal investment of time, you can implement one or all five of these fun company culture ideas. If you’re new to these types of culture initiatives, try one or two during the next quarter. Don’t forget to solicit feedback on the initiative after each event. After a few simple additions to your strategy, your culture will feel energized and employees will be suggesting their own ideas for the next fun event.