Company Culture: More Than Its Walls and Its Employees

This summer, I had my third intern experience at a third-year tech start-up in the departments of human resources and marketing. I moved away from home, I commuted to work every day, and, surprisingly to me, I had the privilege of working directly with the company CEO on some of my assignments. I worked hard this summer, and I learned a lot. I felt valued in the workplace, and I felt like I was contributing to projects and ideas that mattered, and would be used or implemented even after my internship was over. Thanks to the engaged employees and the company culture I was able to be an important part of the workforce.

My summer of interning with Relus Technologies left me feeling confident enough to walk into my future job one day and truly make an impact in the workplace. Upon returning to my senior year of college, I realized that some of my classmates that also interned this summer did not have a similar experience to mine. Their tales were rather dismal. Common words uttered by my peers when describing their summers in the workforce included boredgopher, and even ignored.

Why should a company care about its culture?

While reflecting on these contrasting experiences between myself and classmates, I realized that something wasn’t aligning with the company that I worked for and the companies my peers were employed by — the company culture. Over time, company culture has become a focus of internal company initiatives to improve employee retention and overall happiness, and therefore productivity.

By definition, company culture refers to the “beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company’s employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions.” Often, company culture is implied, not expressly defined, and develops organically over time from the cumulative traits of the people the company hires. Company culture can be difficult to scale. It takes a lot of effort to get everyone on the same page, working toward a common goal, and the bigger the company, the more challenging it can be to develop a culture that thrives and benefits all those involved. Nevertheless, companies are scaling their culture every day, and they are receiving major attention (and an overflow of job applications) for investing in something that is attracting candidates who are interested in more than the work that needs to get done.

Company culture goes beyond employees. It is in office building itself and can also be absorbed by company walls and floors.

Company culture is changing the structure of the office

Workplace structure and team building exercises aren’t the only things revamping the modern company — even the furniture is moving. A big concept that is catching on is the opportunity for free-thinking and idea molding in a collaborative space that goes beyond the desk with a monitor. During my time at Relus Technologies, all employees, including interns, had massage chairs, foosball tables, ping pong tables, and comfortable seating in front of giant white boards. Having these spaces at our disposal gave us a change of scenery, time to think, and the ability to collaborate between departments. Studies have shown that companies that promoted collaborative working and thinking were 5 times as likely to be high performing. Pretty promising, right? Not only does doing away with cubicles and bringing in communal lunch spaces foster good employee relations, it also encourages the often forced committees of employees from different departments to think fluidly and devote effort to consistent, inclusive goals throughout the entire company’s organizational structure.

Millennials want a company culture they can relate to

My personal experience with a sustainable company culture during my summer internship provided me with activities and leadership structures that contributed to my personal development in the workplace:

  1. Top-Down Approach: Employees were encouraged to work together across departments to come up with the best solutions, regardless of any type of hierarchy. During July, I worked directly with the Founder and CEO of Relus Technologies to develop the presentation for the company’s quarterly meeting.
  2. Fostering Collaboration: The overall structure of the office area of my summer internship fueled me to reach out to others and collaborate on different projects. Areas of open seating, large whiteboards, and communal lunch areas allowed me to show my creativity to others without feeling intimidated or under pressure.
  3. Personal Accountability: Relus Technologies implements untracked, unlimited vacation time into its work scheduling structure, and I believe this allows employees to hold themselves accountable for the work that they need to do without feeling guilty for taking days off to go on a vacation or to devote to personal health and well-being.
  4. Friendly Competition: At Relus Technologies, employees (and not just those in sales) were encouraged to compete against each other in order to incentivize everyone to try their best. Even the most mundane tasks were made fun and exciting if a gift card or a good parking spot was at stake.

The culture of the company that I worked for was a huge part of what made my job enjoyable. Now, as I go to search for a career and apply to companies big and small, I want to know a little bit about who they are before I even apply. I want to know that I will be treated as an individual who can make an impact — an individual that matters. Other individuals in the workforce, especially millennials, want the same thing, in one way or another.

Millennials have adopted practices of shopping for jobs, and factors such as vacation time, flexible work environments, and social activism have come to the forefront of concerns of these millennials as they pick and choose where to be employed after they are extended job offers. Companies inevitably change over time, adapting to what the market and workforce demands. A positive, inclusive company culture is becoming one of those demands. Culture takes effort, but it pays off in the long run. Employers who establish goals of a better culture may just see lower turnover rates and more applications of go-getters ready to contribute to what they have started.

Jordan Burrell – Content Creator

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