birthday office

Creating a dynamic workplace culture is all the buzz right now. Based on everything you read, it’s easy to believe that great perks are synonymous with great culture. And while perks are nice, they do not create culture.

Culture is the collection of behaviors and norms that your company has adopted and reinforced to the point it defines actions of leaders and employees. Great cultures reinforce people over process and celebrate results.

After serving as head of HR for a nationally recognized best place to work, I’ve learned a thing or two about creating great workplace cultures. And while great coffee is a must, perks have little to do with it. Here are some of the little things that really matter.

1. People must come first. It’s a well-known mantra that happy employees equal happy clients. If you treat your employees well, they will in turn treat your clients well and everyone wins. Think of the last time you encountered great customer service (or poor customer service – this idea goes both ways). What did that experience do to reinforce your thoughts and perceptions about the company that person worked for? Enough said.

2. Transparent communication is critical. People need to understand the company’s vision and how their role contributes to the overall success of the organization. If people don’t know where they’re going, they won’t know how to get there. All oars must be paddling in the same direction, or the journey will be a lot more difficult. There’s almost nothing your people can’t (and shouldn’t) know. The more they know the better they can serve the business and your customers.

3. Define the behaviors that enhance your culture. What traits do your  employees possess? What do they do differently that you want to make sure you get more of? Identify it, define it, hire for it, and reinforce it through ongoing coaching. People will either buy in to what you’ve defined and created, they’ll either leave on their own or you’ll invite them to go. Either way, you’re better off.

I love my job

4. All you need is love. People want to work for companies where they can do work they love, with people they enjoy and have a whole lot of fun along the way. Training, systems and processes only get you so far. Clear expectations, communication, regular check-ins, and recognition are all critical components of effective management and leadership.

5. A paycheck is just a paycheck. Pay satisfies the basic need of safety and security. Beyond that, people want to know that they’re being paid fairly for the work they do. If they find their work meaningful and the work environment gives them the opportunity to do their best and be recognized for that, they’ll work for less. When pay becomes the driving force of engagement, it’s time for a pulse check.

6. Girls (and boys) just want to have fun. Every day. Create opportunities for people to work hard, and play harder. We spend more time each day with the people at work than we do with our loved ones. Encourage friendships at work,
give them opportunities to connect, create time for play, and celebrate when your team wins. Business is business, but it’s a whole lot more fun when you create an environment where you work with your friends and can let hard


Great culture is not hard to create. If you keep people at the heart of everything you do and every decision you make, the rest will fall into place. Start with the little things. They really do matter.