3 Steps Toward a Great Company Culture

Wouldn’t it be nice if establishing a company culture were as easy as creating a Facebook page? Fill out some basic information boxes, throw up some pictures, and—boom!—every employee is ready to work and succeed.

Unfortunately, company culture isn’t something you can create or edit with a few clicks of a mouse. Company culture is the sum total of how each of your employees perceives your operation, and there is no button to automatically change minds or hearts. Your employees will create a culture, with or without your input. But it takes time and the right tools to direct the company culture in the right direction, and it starts with planning out three steps: rewards, recognition, and retention.


“Where do you see yourself in five years?” is a classic interview question. The usual answer to this question is something like, “I see myself developing skills at your company, which is the best one on earth and the company of all my hopes and dreams.”

The honest answer is, more likely, “I hope your job improves my capacity to live, with an environment I can stand most days and compensation that keeps up with my standard of living.”

Yet another employee might be thinking, “In five years? I see myself taking advantage of these stock options, cashing out, and moving on as soon as I can. Looks like that’ll only take four years with your company, so by year five I’ll be long gone.”

Setting up a fair compensation package is the first hurdle to clear when developing good culture. Few things drag on employees’ performance quite like financial stress, and additional non-monetary rewards may not go very far when your employees are worried about making ends meet.

But as the second example illustrates, money is only the first step. If they’re motivated, your employees will find the money they feel they need, whether with you or with another company. When you find the right balance between an employee’s needs and the company’s ability to provide them, you’re setting the stage for the additional steps needed to create a shared culture, rather than a collection of employees collecting paychecks.


Every employee you hire has a hierarchy of needs. After meeting the basic needs of food, shelter, and a secure environment, your employee will look to fulfill emotional needs. At work, that means earning recognition for their contribution to your company.

Your employees want to enjoy the time they spend at work. They want to feel like their individual contribution matters. In a recent survey, we found that 94% of employees who received positive recognition for their contributions at work on a daily basis are very satisfied with their jobs. These are the kind of employees who go beyond their jobs and create a positive workplace for everyone.

Effective recognition strategies strike a fine balance between incentivizing individual success and praising teamwork. Different positions have different levels of visibility, and it might not be possible to give everyone company-wide recognition for a job well done. For example, awarding the Employee of the Month award (and accompanying cash prize) to a marketing manager for a record-breaking email piece may make the writers, editors, and designers who crafted the email feel ignored or undervalued.

Rather than rewarding a single employee on an arbitrary timeline, apply recognition (and financial rewards, where appropriate) in the moment. Combining company-wide incentives (like paid paid vacation) with regular feedback from managers helps send a powerful message: no matter who you are, we value you, and we want you to improve.


Let’s ask the question again from the other side: where do you see your company in five years? How you answer this question provides insight into your company values and the long-term principles that determine how your customers and your employees see you. Developing and communicating these values helps your employees visualize their future with your company, no matter what comes down the road.

BambooHR practices this in one of our core values: Be Open. When you’re upfront with your employees about what matters to them, from the company’s successes to its upcoming challenges, you encourage your employees to open up to their teams and their managers. Then when challenges or issues come up, your employees know that they have more options than voting with their feet.

Your company will have a culture, whether you guide it or not. Fine-tuning your rewards, recognition, and retention strategies will help you build your organization into what you want it to be.