Company Culture

How to build a winning company culture that drives success

company culture-1

Company culture has always been a thing, but it’s only fairly recently that employers cottoned on to the fact that they have to define their vibe by more than the kind of magazines they provide in the waiting room or the music playing in the canteen.

So, what changed?

Well, for one thing, Gen X, Z and the whole Millennial gang joined the workforce, and for another - the internet happened. 

These days, job seekers have the ability to use online platforms like Glassdoor to check up on the reputation of potential employers even before they set foot in the interview room. This is a big deal for businesses that rely on top talent to drive operational success. After all, if word on the street is that things aren’t all that peachy behind closed doors, there’s all the more reason to keep cruising Bizcommunity and LinkedIn. 

By way of example, check out these comments listed on the profile of a high-profile company in the South African banking sector: 

“Friendly colleagues, but there is still a lot of old-school thinking left and salaries are not always market-related.” 

“I received good support from my line-manager and team, but growth opportunities were limited and staff skills development was not a priority.” 

“The company is innovative and customer-centric, but top management is continually restructuring and there is a lot of work to be done on managerial skills.”

Jikes, right?

Sounds like a pretty dispiriting place to spend your working hours. If you were a hotshot financial maven trying to decide where to ply your trade, would you be heading to this company for an interview?

We’re guessing that’s a hard no. 

So what is a forward-thinking HR director to do to ensure that the business’ organisational culture does not become a hurdle in the acquisition of top talent or cause needless (and expensive!) employee churn?

Here are a few top tips to get you started on fostering a healthy, happy corporate culture that will attract the right kind of employee in 2020 and beyond: 


1. Know what you stand for

Determine what your company's values are and keep reevaluating it as your enterprise grows. Start each year by discussing company values and goals with your team and rope everyone in. When you have certain values to live up to, it becomes easier to identify when someone or something is veering off course, and to steady the ship as you go. 


2. Employ the right people

Once you know what your values are, be sure to employ people who are aligned with these goals. According to recent findings by Universum SA, South African companies have a major retention problem, partly due to mismatched expectations in areas like career development, the ability to do meaningful and creative work, how innovative an employer is, growth prospects and ethics. 

According to Winani Ndlovu, research manager at employer branding specialist Universum, this can be avoided by being clear about your vision and mission from the start. “What companies should be doing better is to articulate up-front what the employee relationship is going to look like. So, when talent joins, they come in for the right reasons: they know what the business stands for, they know what their role looks like, and they have the right expectations from the word go,” says Ms Ndlovu. 

READ MORE: 5 Companies with a great company culture (and how they did it)


3. Mind your manners

One of the first things we are taught as kids when we first learn to speak is to say please and thank you. It’s pretty strange that these elementary ground rules often fall away in grown-up settings, don’t you think? Like, it’s a major thing to apologise to your buddy about not waiting your turn at the playground slide, but when we make our way into the working world it’s somehow totally fine to speak over a colleague in a meeting or take credit for someone else’s work? Haikona. Not so much. The same rules apply, it’s just not observed in certain settings. Companies with a positive culture make a point of calling out rudeness and having upper management lead the way by setting a considerate tone. 


4. Give props where props are due 

Recognise and reward achievements big and small. When a person’s contribution to the company is celebrated in a significant way, it creates a culture of appreciation that spills over into every aspect of the business. However, it is important that a rewards program should be designed in line with company values and goals to ensure that it doesn’t simply consist of a string of gift cards being handed out at random intervals, but rather serves to inspire the type of behaviour that will benefit the overall growth and development of the enterprise. 

READ MORE: 32 Awesome employee appreciation messages to boost company culture


5. Don’t let things simmer

Provide your workforce with regular, constructive feedback. Annual performance reviews are all good and well, but don’t let things simmer needlessly - if an employee exhibits behaviour that is counter to your company culture it should be addressed timeously and constructively. Similarly, employees should feel free to bring up any issues they encounter in the course of their dealings with their colleagues, management etc. When the lines of communication remain open and there is regular opportunity to check in with one another, a positive company culture tends to follow. 


6. Treat your employees like humans

It can be easy to treat employees like numbers, especially in large, multinational companies that employ thousands of individuals. However, if you want to foster a strong culture that encourages open employee communication, upper management and HR has to lead with empathy and humanity. Yes, productivity is key in any business, but life happens and teams should be nimble enough to accommodate members who may need unexpected time off due to illness, parental responsibilities or the opportunity for further study. Instead of doing things ‘by the book’, judge each case (and employee) on its merits and find a way to inspire others to do the same. 

Now you know!

Once more for the folks at the back? Here are the handy crib notes about the things you need to know about reviving your company culture in 2020:  


  • Determine what your values are. 
  • Employ individuals who feel aligned to these values. 
  • Place a focus on considerate interaction. 
  • Recognise and reward a job well done. 
  • Provide regular, constructive feedback. 
  • Lead with empathy and humanity. 

Following these tried and tested guidelines will pave the way for a happy work environment where employees feel empowered to achieve their career goals and bolster the growth of the company at the same time.

In the meantime, if you would like to get the ball rolling on addressing recognition and reward in a sustainable way, we recommend that you take a look at our at our SaaS-based employee recognition platform. This wonderful tool has been designed to slot into existing processes with ease - try it out  for FREE and get a taste of the good vibes generated by great company culture. Simply click the button below to get started 👇.

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