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Stop Trying to Make Culture Happen

Lauren Bogacz

Company culture is one of the most defining facets of a business. For example, everyone knows Google is famous for its creative work environments and nap pods in the office. When a company’s culture is great, its employees thrive in it and share what they love about their job with others.

Here at Walker Sands we’re all familiar with the concept of a great company culture. The most important facet of our culture, however, is that we don’t force it. Our culture has developed mostly organically with a bit of structure from management. For example, we have a number of different Kaizen groups that focus on anything from book clubs to getting a life outside the office. Employees voluntarily join Kaizen circles where their interests lie, having the opportunity to work with people across teams while sharing their strengths.

When a company culture is encouraged but also allowed to flourish on its own, it truly embraces the strengths and passions of its members. The approach isn’t one-size-fits-all, but here’s how we’ve encouraged the development of our own culture.

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Promote a Collaborative Atmosphere

When coworkers are able to work together to gain fresh insights or approach a project from a different angle, they learn to promote one another’s strengths, ultimately delivering better work. This also helps with problem-solving. If employees feel comfortable confiding in one another, they’re more likely to seek the advice of their peers to independently handle challenges without involving management.

At Walker Sands, we make it a priority to consider our fellow coworkers and teams within the office as resources. Everyone has their own area of expertise and we lean on one another to collaborate, whether on daily tasks or major projects. We also distribute a weekly newsletter called the “Sandbox” where there’s a section for us to submit virtual high fives to our peers who have supported us throughout the week, be it on a personal or professional level.

Get Involved With Your Community

Volunteer projects benefit the recipients, but also improve culture. Projects outside of client work bring together employees who might not work together regularly. These connections will then extend into the office, enhancing your culture.

We have a committee within the office called One Step Forward that plans volunteering opportunities. Last summer a group of us spent a weekend afternoon in a local food pantry, helping them to sort and organize contributions. This past holiday season, our office held a competition to see which team could bring in the most toys for a local children’s charity. These events don’t necessarily have to be community service oriented either. A group of Walker Sands employees took part in the annual Santa Shuffle 5k in December and made a day of it by getting brunch after. These events help people to get involved with the company, community and one another outside of their job title.

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Celebrate in Both Little and Big Ways

One of the most important ways for a company to promote a great company culture is to let employees know their hard work is appreciated. What better way to do that than to celebrate? Acts of celebration don’t necessarily need to break the bank. While annual outings and holiday parties are monumental events, small acts of fun throughout the year go a long way. Whether it’s a spontaneous happy hour or ordering pizza during lunch hours, these are things employees remember and appreciate.

At Walker Sands, celebration is not hard to come by. While our annual Chicago Cubs game outing and holiday party are events we count down to, the smaller, day-to-day acts of fun are also important. On a day the weather was characteristically brutal this winter, our president ordered in pizza for those of us who braved the commute into the office. On Valentine’s Day, each person had a brown bag with their name on it in the kitchen and coworkers were able to write and leave each other valentines throughout the day.

Culture can be nurtured but not forced. In reality, if you provide your employees with the tools and opportunities they need to let their strengths and passions shine, it will develop on its own. One of the most important areas we’ve seen this practice benefit is within client work. One of our teams recently called upon another to launch a new community website. By calling on coworkers who had previously mastered the process, that team was able to deliver a better overall product to their client. From brainstorming big ideas to cross-checking media lists to ensure we don’t overwhelm reporters, organic  cross-team collaboration like this is what teamwork is all about and differentiates successful office culture.

What do you think promotes great company culture? Tweet us @WalkerSands!