More Than Fun & Games: How to Change Company Culture in a Meaningful Way

The average person will spend around 90,000 hours at work during their lifetime. This adds up to approximately one third of a person’s life. It’s no surprise, then, that the time we spend at work has a huge impact on our quality of life.

Enjoying positive office culture has obvious benefits — increased employee satisfaction, for example. There are other benefits of positive work culture that are less apparent and equally important though. Creating a positive and exciting company culture might improve your office environment in more ways than you realize.

happy team photo.

At Blue Compass, we are proud of our company culture. We strongly believe that laughter is a great indicator of a healthy work culture, and a day in our office is full of light hearted banter and fun office pranks. Since our start in 2007, our leadership team has worked diligently to shape our culture into what it is today.

In Central Iowa, Blue Compass is known not only as an award-winning digital agency, but an excellent, positive place to work. We’re sharing some of our favorite company culture ideas, including examples of organizational culture and why a positive work culture makes a difference.

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What is Company Culture?

Company culture is complex, and it can be difficult to define. Broadly defined, company culture includes any element that influences the social and psychological environment of a business.

Many factors contribute to a company’s organizational culture, including the company’s visions, values, systems, assumptions, expectations, beliefs and processes. Company leaders can shape culture, but each individual in an organization contributes their own personality, preferences and habits, which is why recruiting team members that are a good fit for the company is essential.

What Company Culture Isn’t

While it’s difficult, at times, to define what company culture is, it’s easy to define what it isn’t. In recent years, there has been some confusion between cultivating good company culture versus offering attractive office perks. More companies are offering extras such as free drinks, game rooms, catering, gym facilities and other amenities. However nice they might be, perks are not the same as culture.

Blue Compass team members playing games.

Workplace perks can be great additions to a company’s organizational culture, but they shouldn’t be offered as a substitution for a positive atmosphere where employees are included, encouraged, uplifted and fulfilled. Cultivating a good culture needs to start with these goals in mind, and any additional amenities can be added as extra enhancements to the workplace experience.

Why is Company Culture Important?

Having a good company culture positively impacts many different facets of business operations: talent attraction, talent retention, employee satisfaction, productivity and more. On the flip side, a bad company culture can have a negative effect on these areas.

The bottom line appears when business leaders ask themselves: Do people enjoy working here? Would they rather work here than somewhere else? Do they feel connected to and fulfilled by the company and its mission?

If you consider these questions — or even ask your employees directly — and aren’t satisfied with the answers, it’s time to consider what you need to do to improve the overall organizational culture.

Top 8 Examples of Organizational Culture

At Blue Compass, our team is made up of website designers and developers, along with digital marketing experts and account managers. We exist to provide businesses with a clear digital direction by serving as an extension of their team.

While our business is centered around creating award-winning websites and results-driven marketing plans for our clients, the Blue Compass team also prioritizes cultivating a strong, positive company culture. We want Blue Compass to be a place where people love coming to work every day — or, in recent months, where people love connecting with one another even while working from home.

Quote about working at Blue Compass.

Over the years, we have grown to become a resource for effective and positive company culture examples in Des Moines and the Midwest. We’ll share some of our favorite company culture ideas to inspire you as you figure out how to change your company culture for the better in your workplace.

1. Cultivating Culture During the Work Day

The first of our company culture ideas involves figuring out how to promote positive culture during regular workdays. Things like team lunches, late afternoon snacks, coffee breaks and happy hours show your employees you value their hard work and their time. Brief, casual events provide the perfect opportunity to give employees a little bit of social time during the work day, which can also lead to office friendships and comradery that boost organizational culture as well.

When employees feel like there’s no margin for short breaks during the workday day, it can lead to feelings of burnout. One 2018 survey revealed up to 38% of employees in North America don’t even feel encouraged to take a break for lunch. Some fear they will be perceived as less productive and less dedicated if they take a break.

By encouraging employees to take breaks, you’re not only creating the space they need to be productive, but you’re showing you trust your employees to manage their own daily schedules appropriately. Building trust is an essential part of building a positive organizational culture.

Aerial view of cheese, crackers and snacks.

One more benefit of scheduling social events and breaks during the work day is that it shows you respect your employees’ evening and weekend time. While it’s fine to occasionally schedule social events and parties outside of work hours, be sensitive about asking people to participate in events during times they would normally spend with family or friends.

2. Making Space for Culture

The physical office space can make a difference when developing strategies for how to change company culture. Although your business may not be in a position to make big changes to the office floor plan, there are small changes that can encourage positive work culture.

Designate space for employees to gather, and make those spaces comfortable and relaxed. Ideally, these shared spaces should feel different from the area where people do their work. Invest in comfortable furniture and simple amenities like a nice coffee maker or toaster oven. Make a plan to keep the space clean and inviting for all employees.

At Blue Compass, our team loves gathering in the Compass Cafe. We often eat lunch and snacks together, and we sometimes reminisce about our past with old photos and videos on the screen while we eat. This space is big enough for our whole team, so no one ever feels left out.

Team lunch in the Blue Compass cafe.

3. Volunteering Together

Not only is it great for the community, but volunteering is a great way to encourage positive company culture, and it’s a great team building activity. We recommend planning group volunteer events during the workday to avoid asking employees to use their own time to participate. We also recommend adjusting employees’ schedules to accommodate this extra time. This helps people feel like they’re free to fully join in without worrying about falling behind on their work.

The Blue Compass team does a number of volunteer projects each year, ranging from all-day events to brief, one or two-hour time commitments. One of our favorite volunteer projects is working with Rebuilding Together, a local Des Moines non-profit organization that works to renovate and restore homes for people with disabilities, elderly homeowners, low-income families and others in need.

Blue Compass has teamed up with Rebuilding Together every year since 2015. We enjoy spending a day working hard together in order to provide home improvements for people in our community. We also partner with nonprofits like DMARC and Meals from the Heartland, two local organizations committed to providing food for hungry people in Des Moines and around the world.

Volunteering with your team demonstrates compassion and empathy and shows everyone that you care about the community and not just the company’s bottom line. Another way some companies encourage employees to volunteer is to provide paid Volunteer Time Off (VTO), time set aside specifically for volunteering. Find something that works best for your business and try it out to see how it fits with your culture.

4. Recognizing Employee Accomplishments

One of the key benefits of positive work culture is talent retention, and regularly recognizing and praising employee accomplishments is an important part of that equation. When people feel appreciated for what they do and are recognized for their work and efforts, they’re more likely to feel satisfied at work.

There are countless ways to recognize employees, so we’ll just name a few:

  • Write notes or leave a card to celebrate someone’s contributions to the team.
  • Publish a blog post full of personalized notes and compliments for team members (Blue Compass leaders did this on Employee Appreciation Day in 2018!)
  • Create social media posts celebrating work anniversaries and promotions.
  • Encourage employees to share shout-outs for one another at team meetings.
  • Show leaders your appreciation on Boss’ Day.

Showing appreciation and recognition for employees doesn’t have to be a big deal, and it’s one of our favorite examples of organizational culture that can make a positive impact on your workplace. 

5. Offering Opportunities for Growth

When it comes to effective company culture ideas, offering growth opportunities is a no-brainer. Encouraging employees’ professional development not only shows your team you’re willing to invest in their career, but it also helps make your team well-rounded and capable of taking on new tasks and projects.

At Blue Compass, one of our top company values is continually growing our expertise. This means we take advantage of opportunities such as conferences, workshops, webinars and other educational resources. Our team members regularly attend events where they hear from industry leaders, and they always bring back practical insights to apply to day-to-day processes and client projects.

Drew Harden giving a presentation.

We also encourage our team to share their expertise with local businesses and industry professionals during luncheons, webinars, workshops and more. These speaking opportunities and presentations are excellent opportunities for our team members to hone their presentation skills, and we always look forward to partnering with local businesses to share digital marketing tips and advice.

6. Sharing Traditions, Inside Jokes and More

Shared experiences, jokes, quotes and memories are all fun examples of organizational culture that can occur naturally in the right environment.

Blue Compass culture is built on traditions, inside jokes and shared memories. For example, team members are known to hide in odd places in order to pop out and scare one another. We also have favorite holiday office traditions we observe each year in November and December, such as our office holiday party and a white elephant gift exchange.

Sharing traditions and inside jokes with new hires is an essential way of maintaining company culture as you grow. This requires you to recognize and identify unique traditions and let new people in on the jokes. We recommend taking time to repeat classic stories, explain funny quotes and show memorable photos and videos to new team members soon after they join. This helps them feel included and up to speed, and it also gives current team members the opportunity to relive a funny or embarrassing moment.

Here’s what happens we we start reminiscing on old videos that showcase the Blue Compass team.

Team members watching a video together.

On our 10th anniversary, we shared a fun blog post containing lots of classic Blue Compass memories. Our Blue Compass culture blogs are a great resource for anyone interested in learning more about our culture, including potential new clients and potential new talent.

7. After Hours Activities

Getting team members to participate in after hours activities is more a result of what can happen when you have good culture than a way to get it. But, we still recommend limiting your requests for employees to participate in activities that take place outside of business hours. This shows people that you respect their personal time, and it shows your willingness to use business hours to build community and strengthen company culture.

Whenever possible though, make after hours activities optional so that no one feels obligated to give up their own time to participate. At Blue Compass, team members occasionally meet up for a happy hour after work to enjoy appetizers and drinks, and we also participate in a local recreational sand volleyball league or bike nights for more opportunities to spend time together. We try to make sure everyone is invited, but no one is required to join.

Blue Compass team members drinking beer together.

Events like company holiday parties or family picnics are an exception to this recommendation. For these events, you typically want everyone to attend if they are able, and providing a meal, drinks, snacks, games and other things can really make the event fun for everyone.

If your company culture is good and your team is naturally social, they may plan their own after hours events. Encourage this, but limit the number of obligations for your team outside of office hours — even if they’re intended to be fun events. Social events planned outside of the regular work day can be a great way to build company culture, but they can also make employees frustrated if they feel forced to participate in work-related activities on their own time.

8. Inviting Furry Friends to Work

In 2019, an estimated 7% of all workplaces allowed employees to bring pets to the office. Studies have revealed numerous benefits of having pets in the workplace, including decreased stress and increased engagement and collaboration. Overall, evidence shows that workplaces with pet-friendly policies experience the benefit of attracting and retaining happier and healthier employees.

At Blue Compass, our office is pet-friendly. Several team members regularly bring their dogs with them to work, and we love our four-legged "assistants." Our clients and visitors love our office dogs too! Dogs make the office feel more relaxed and fun, and dog owners appreciate the flexibility of bringing their pets to work.

If you’re not ready to go all-in on allowing pets in the office full-time, consider designating pet-friendly days or visiting hours to test the waters. You can also designate pet-free zones for people with pet allergies or aversions. In our experience, the benefits of having dogs in the office greatly outweigh the inconvenience of the occasional barking or messes.

 puppies at the office.    dogs playing.

Benefits of Positive Work Culture

There are many benefits of a positive work culture. When company culture ideas authentically and properly, businesses will enjoy lower turnover rates and increased employee satisfaction. A Columbia University study showed the turnover rate at a company with a positive culture was as much as 34.5% lower than a company with poor culture. Companies with good culture earn a reputation as a great place to work, and they attract top talent far easier than companies without that reputation.

Another reason why company culture is important is that it influences interactions with clients and customers. Positive culture extends beyond the office walls and into every professional relationship between your employees and your customers. Clients notice when a team is happy, collaborative and positive, and they’ll likely be drawn to your company when your great organizational culture shines through.

Quote about company culture.

The true value of positive work culture is, in some ways, immeasurable. However, at Blue Compass, we attribute much of our business success to our positive culture. Our office is truly a pleasant place to be, and our team members enjoy coming to work every day (just ask them). We encourage and support one another, and we are productive and motivated to achieve great results for our clients.

How Does Company Culture Affect Performance?

Some leaders are understandably wary about encouraging team building activities and social events that might take away from time employees spend working during the day. However, these culture-building times can actually make employees more productive because they’re happier, more relaxed and more committed to the company.

On the flip side, negative company culture has a negative effect on performance. When the overall office environment is negative, team members are less motivated and less committed to organizational goals. Negative culture can cause higher turnover rates because employees feel demoralized and disinterested. Rather than waiting for the culture to improve, they may seek employment elsewhere.

If you want to see an increase in employee buy-in and overall organizational morale, take a good look at your culture, and see how you can implement positive company culture ideas to improve the workplace environment.

How to Change Company Culture

When you start really figuring out how to change company culture, it can feel like a monumental task. It’s worth noting that this sort of organizational change doesn’t happen overnight. It requires time intentionally spent looking at examples of organizational culture and deciding where there are opportunities to take steps towards positive change in the workplace.

At first, changes can be minor and incremental. Ideally, you can start building positive culture naturally, focusing on encouraging positive things you’re already seeing. The more naturally your culture develops, the more likely it is to be successful and lasting.

One good place to start is by taking a look at your organizational values. This goes beyond the buzzwords that may be printed in your employee handbook. Positive workplace culture needs to be built upon solid values and practical ways you can display those principles throughout the office environment and infrastructure.

Company values displayed on a wall.

No matter how you start to improve your company culture, one thing is certain: change needs to start with the leaders in the company.

How Do Leaders Create Organizational Culture?

Fostering a more positive organizational culture within your company won’t be instantaneous. Along with implementing some of your company culture ideas, leaders may need to do some additional work, such as:

  • Seeking out resources and consulting with successful business leaders. Check out this blog full of insights about starting and leading a small business written by Blue Compass President, Drew Harden if you're interested.
  • Creating a clear plan for improving the workplace culture. Changes won’t happen unless you’re working towards a new goal, and with a step-by-step plan, you can celebrate small successes and accomplishments along the way.
  • Making sure all members of the leadership team are on the same page. Company leaders and managers should be united in terms of cultural vision and expectations.
  • Identifying individuals who have a negative impact on culture. Sometimes, one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch. If there’s anyone on your team who perpetually has a bad attitude, gossips and creates drama, it’s time to address those issues.

Change always starts at the top. Company leaders have the privilege and the responsibility to positively influence organizational culture.

Maintaining Company Culture During Growth

It takes effort  to keep culture alive and get new hires on board with your vision. Maintaining company culture during growth requires intentionality and focus, otherwise your great culture could diminish with turnover or expansion.

Your hiring process has a huge impact on the way your culture grows or diminishes as you add more team members. It’s essential to make sure each new person who joins your team isn’t only qualified for the position, but is a good fit for the team and the overall organizational culture. This means taking time to really get to know applicants over the course of multiple interviews.

Quote about team talent.

At Blue Compass, we ask questions not only about applicants’ work experience, but about their pastimes and preferences. We want to know their personality to make sure they will get along well with our team.

Once we hire someone, we continue getting to know them. During someone’s first week in the office, we often gather in the Compass Cafe and ask questions. Each person on the team gets to ask the new person one question, and we enjoy learning about our new team member’s family, hobbies, pets, interests and opinions, musical tastes, travel experiences and more.

Employees enjoying a break together.

Experience Blue Compass Culture: Join Our Team

Company culture is always changing and shifting within an organization. Shaping culture requires continued care and consideration in order to make sure things don’t become stale and stagnant. Improving organizational culture can take some trial-and-error in order to find out what works best for you and your team.

At Blue Compass, our leadership team does a great job at coming up with new ways to make team members feel included, valued and appreciated. Blue Compass would be a totally different company if it weren’t for the way our leaders intentionally work to make our culture great.

If you’d like to be a part of our amazing Blue Compass culture, check out our open positions. We love adding positive, hard working people to our team.