How to Build Great Company Culture from Day One

welcome note at desk


If you’ve ever had to hire someone before, it’s likely that you didn’t make your decision solely based on their one-page resume. It probably wasn’t what you discussed in that first, second, or even third interview, either.

As important as those facts and figures (and skills and references) are, seasoned hiring managers know that while many candidates can do the job, far fewer can fit into a new team seamlessly. So, you read between the lines—looking for communication skills, a sense of humor perfectly balanced with a sense of discretion, and signs of how each candidate handles herself under unexpected pressure.

But once you find the star hire, how do you plan ways to help keep them long-term?

Here’s how to ensure that your company culture creates exactly the kind of environment that your next hire needs to thrive.

Emphasize Transparency from the Start—Yes, Even in the Interview Room

Read a few interviews with leaders of top companies, and you’ll quickly notice a pattern. Strong companies value honesty and transparency above all else. From Buffer’s company-wide open salaries to Patagonia’s transparent supply chain to Everlane’s social media-first hiring process, there’s a direct correlation between open door companies and satisfied employees—plus, customers like it, too.

Even if you can’t enact radical changes within your company (salary transparency is a big step!), you can make the hiring process as clear as possible. Tell candidates what they can expect from each interview, give them a hiring time frame, and consider inviting other team members to final interviews so the candidate can ask questions and get to know individual personalities. It will pay off long-term.

Build a Culture Around Kudos, Not Complaints

Your employees need to hear that you (and the company) appreciate them. Still, there’s a fine line between supporting your team and feeling like you’re playing the lead in a cringe-worthy episode of The Office.

Consider using some more informal (and authentic) ways of building a culture praise into your company. If your team uses Slack, starts a #major-props channel where anyone can point out a colleague’s good work. Or consider a nomination process for a “team member of the month” that you announce in your all-team meeting—maybe with a prize that looks a lot like a coffee shop gift card for the winner (okay, exactly like). As long as you get creative with it and make it a group effort, it won’t feel cheesy—just heartfelt in the very best way.

Plan Regular Feedback Loops to Stop Problems Before They Start

You should have annual reviews but also most (if not all) of the following:

  • quarterly check-ins and/or reviews
  • one-on-ones between managers and direct reports
  • an anonymous weekly survey to see how everyone’s feeling at work
  • transparent goal setting brainstorms
  • transparent “month in review” and “year in review” meetings where your CEO briefs every employee on upcoming projects, including part-time staffers

If you work for (or run) a larger company, you may also want to consider planning initiatives for in-house resource groups for parents, women at your company, persons of color, etc. (Nike is a great example.) Note: these diversity and inclusion groups should be managed by employees, not upper-level management.

And while we have your attention: annual team retreats don’t hurt either if you can make the budget work.

Consider Inexpensive Benefits That Offer Feel Good Results

Even the smallest startup can plan programs that contribute to a unique and powerful company culture. Consider starting an annual volunteer day with your team or offer a couple of additional paid days off that employees can use to volunteer for a cause of their choice. Cater lunch once a month or plan a quarterly happy hour. Invite interesting professionals to give a talk at a regular lunch-and-learn. Buy interested employees baseball tickets in the nosebleeds for a team bonding event. Even the smallest investments in perks will pay off.

Make Time for Professional Development and Play

Yes, during the workday. Consider ways you can encourage your team to learn new skills that will help evolve their work. Offering reimbursement for classes or conferences is the ideal option, but if you’re working with too tight of a budget, consider some alternatives like letting employees spend one afternoon a week on studying a new topic or skill. By giving everyone a free space to think about their work differently, you’ll begin to cultivate a company culture that’s founded on ownership and growth. Speaking of…

Make Sure Every Person Owns Something

Even the front desk receptionist or entry-level customer support associate. By giving every person on your team a project they’re fully responsible for, no matter how small, you also hand them ownership of a part of the company. Do it from day one, and they’ll grow with you.


For more tips on building a strong company culture, download our white paper.