Picture this. A job seeker sees an open role at the business of their dreams. But when they look at the company’s reviews they see six words that convince them not to apply: the company culture here is toxic. Yikes.

Company culture is a powerful thing, even in today’s virtual world. In fact, Indeed and Glassdoor’s recent Hiring and Workplace Trends report predicts it will be essential in 2023. And with quiet quitting on one hand and a predicted difficult hiring year on the other, investing in your business’ culture is crucial if you want to stay competitive.

And yet, what feeds the culture of a company has changed—over the years, and through the generations. For example, 66% of Gen Z say more investment in mental health will improve it.

In this article, we’re going to define what company culture is, why it matters and a few tips you can use to improve it.

What is company culture?

Sprout’s Director of Employee Experience, Molly Jones, said it best: “Company culture is an amalgamation of organizational values, the environment created by leadership, communication style and general atmosphere of a company.”

An orange graphic listing the definition of company culture as the amalgamation of organizational values, the environment created by leadership, communication style and general atmosphere of a company.

The way company and business culture is viewed today has shifted. So much so that the concept as we knew it has reached meme territory.

And the answer to “What is company culture?” has become more complicated. Two years of hybrid or remote work and a renewed take on work-life balance has thrown the ball in the employees’ court. In fact, over half of employees would consider leaving their job post-COVID if they weren’t offered flexibility.

In short? Stocked fridges and foosball tables alone won’t cut it anymore.

Why is company culture important?

Has the company culture definition become more complicated? Yes.

Does it still matter? Also yes. In fact, it remains vital—even if the water cooler talk has gone virtual.

Here are a few key reasons why the culture of a company matters, and why it should be prioritized.

Company culture can impact reputation

If you have a great company culture, people will hear about it.

And if you have a toxic one, people will definitely talk about it.

From getting obliterated in BuzzFeed articles to driving talent away, bad work environments can hurt your business. According to LinkedIn, 40% of employees said colleagues and culture was their top priority when picking a new job.

But a stellar business culture is something employees want to post about (employee advocacy, anyone?). And that goes a long way—employees are 3x more likely to be trusted than a CEO when it comes to finding out what it’s actually like to work at a company.

A LinkedIn post from a Sprout employee showing photos of her and her friends at the company

Stellar companies retain stellar employees

With great companies comes great employees…not the best riff on a famous line, but you get the gist.

A strong company culture will be more attractive to strong talent. A toxic one will not only lose their competitive edge—they’ll also lose valuable people. Toxic work culture was part of the fuel driving the “great resignation,” according to MIT.

In a recent Sprout Social survey of 300 marketers, 67% agreed that company culture impacts their connectedness to a company. And more connected employees are more engaged employees.

A data visualization that shows that 67% of marketers polled agree or strongly agree that company culture impacts their connectedness to a company.

People want to stay at great companies. Period.

A great organizational culture boosts employee engagement

Working somewhere you love and doing meaningful work inspires the opposite of quiet quitting. It translates into higher employee engagement.

Engaged employees are the best advocates for your brand and for reinforcing company culture. And, it has to be said—they’re also great for business.

According to our recent data, a whopping 81% of marketers agree that engaged employees directly impact their customers’ experience with their brand.

A data visualization showing a smiley face graphic and showing that 81% of marketers agree or strongly agree that engaged employees directly impact their customers' experience with their brand.

How to identify the culture of a company

You can’t improve any of this until you understand where your business currently stands.

After all, company culture is much more than the text on a mission statement. As Molly put it, “It’s tangible in the company policies, rituals and benefits, and intangible in the sentiment toward the organization and the depth of individual and team connection.”

That being said, here are a few ways you can evaluate yours.

1. Talk to your employees

How do they feel about their employee experience? How do they think you need to improve company culture? What changes would they like to see?

Prioritize getting feedback from the people your business culture will impact most, and show that their opinion is valued and impactful. H&R Block did this when determining their return-to-office policy, turning to employees and designing their system around them.

Use surveys to keep feedback anonymous and detailed. Or tap focus groups for real-time feedback.

Whatever option you choose, Molly provided a valuable piece of advice: “Companies need to be specific about their asks and intentional with their questions.”

2. Look at company reviews and exit interviews

This tip speaks for itself…and so do your employees. A wealth of feedback about your company is just a Google search away.

Analyzing how past, and current, employees rank and review your company is a key way to get raw, unfiltered feedback.

Similarly, revisit exit interviews to uncover what past employees loved, and didn’t love, about your company culture. These materials exist for a reason—lean on them to start this process.

3. Determine the style of your business culture

Does the style of your company culture align with your organization’s vision and values?

For example, is your culture more collaborative? Hierarchical? Results-driven? Does it have a focus on fun?

There are many different types of business culture styles.

Part of identifying yours is understanding the style of culture your leaders want to establish, and whether or not the current way of work lines up to that expectation.

This could also extend to the ways your company communicates—do you have messaging platforms like Slack that enable real-time conversations? Or is your style more formal? How many meetings = too many?

6 tips to build a successful company culture

We’ve covered the “what.”

We’ve covered the “why.”

Now, let’s dive into the “how.” Here are six tips that will help you start to build a successful organizational culture.

Tip 1: Take a people-first approach

Molly sums this up best: “The evergreen aspect of a successful company culture is being people-first, prioritizing the physical and mental health of employees so they will show up as their best, most authentic and focused selves to work.”

But this also requires you to look at how you’re supporting your employees, and what else you can do. This might entail looking at growth or education opportunities you can provide.

This can also come in the form of rewarding and recognizing employees. Recognition shows your employees that they are valued, and their work is appreciated. After all, who doesn’t love a Slack shoutout and the occasional “good job” Starbucks gift card? (*Raises hand*)

As Molly put it, “Prioritize your people. If your employees are happy and healthy, they will be so proud to do the work in service of the organization.

Pro tip: An easy way to start celebrating employees and the work they do day-to-day is with a meet the team social post series.

A Sprout Employee featured in an employee spotlight Instagram Reels series

Plus, they’re super sharable—from an employee advocacy side, more than half of people are most likely to share employee updates on social.

2. Revisit your core values, and how they’re practiced

People want to work for companies that share their values.

From expectations of your work environment, to the perks you offer your employees, your company’s core values can be a guiding light for your company culture—as long as they’re practiced as well as preached.

Revisit the values you’ve set for your company, how they’re practiced and determined where you could be doing more.

Let’s take flexibility, for example. According to LinkedIn, workers are 2.6x more likely to report being happy when they can choose their location and schedules. And flexibility can create more equitable work cultures.

Work with your leaders and hiring teams to consider the flexibility you offer. And if not all teams can take advantage of flexible work schedules, consider how to even the playing field.

And visit your DEI initiatives. How diverse is your workforce compared to your statements and goals? Have you been prioritizing diversity in social media, leadership roles and opportunities?

It goes without saying: diversity enhances company culture. The workforce will only be getting more diverse—the post-Millennial generation is the most diverse generation. Create a culture where people of diverse backgrounds, perspectives, cultures, ages and more can feel welcome.

3. Make leadership accessible

Leaders are imperative to enforcing company culture—83% of employees say leaders are responsible for creating and shaping an organization’s culture, according to Quantum Workplace.

“Make sure leadership is accessible. Invite them to team meetings, feature them in internal communications like company newsletters or All-Hands, and ask them to join important customer calls.”

Involve leaders in the work of identifying and improving your culture. And find ways to make them more visible to employees. As Molly suggested, “Invite them to team meetings, feature them in internal communications like company newsletters or all-hands, and ask them to join important customer calls.”

This doesn’t just go for the C-suite. As the old saying goes: People don’t leave companies. They leave managers. And 50% of employees experience culture most strongly through their manager’s approach to performance.

Leaders at all levels must be empowered in order to shape your culture as a whole. Ensure they’re aligned, and involved in the process. And if they’re not well practiced in the type of environment you want to build, identify where you can provide training.

4. Engage your employees on social with employee advocacy

The voices of your employees are instrumental—not just in building your company culture, but also in getting the word out that it’s stellar.

Start an employee advocacy program. On the one hand, this wins you points internally by showing employees that they are important to your company’s marketing strategy, and that their voices matter. And employee advocacy incentive systems never hurt, either.

A LinkedIn post from a Sprout Employee posting about how Sprout was once again voted one of Glassdoor's best places to work, highlighting an example of employee advocacy.

On the external side, when employees post positively about their company, you build trust with future talent, consumers and beyond. According to our recent data, both marketers (81%) and consumers (66%) agree: brands posting about their employees positively impacts customers’ view of their company.

Streamline this process and make it even more collaborative with a specialized platform. Sprout’s Employee Advocacy Software, for example, makes it easy to curate content for employees to easily share across their own social channels.

Sprout's Employee Advocacy platform where you can see how posts are curated for employees to share.

5. Create a culture of feedback

Remember those employee surveys and focus groups we talked about? Those don’t have to be one and done.

Instead, create a culture of feedback.

A system of feedback sets you and your org up for success by adjusting what isn’t serving your teams. And it sets your employees up for success by showing them what is expected in your work environment.

For example, regular one-on-ones where you can help your team members develop, get and give feedback openly creates a safe space for two-way transparency. It also shows employees your commitment to helping them grow.

Regularly audit your company’s rituals, communication channels and team meeting cadence—are these items helping or hindering your culture? Open yourself up to feedback, and to adjustments.

6. Set goals, and measure your progress

As with anything, what gets measured gets done.

Building, improving or simply gut-checking your organizational culture isn’t a “set it and forget it” process. Nor is it simply writing new company values and quietly updating the website.

Set goals to improve your organizational culture. Do you want a more diverse environment? A stronger corporate culture with more active leaders? More employee retention? Greater employee happiness? Employees to post more on social media about your company?

Define what you want to accomplish, and set SMART goals to measure your end goals. Then measure your progress. Create a check-in system—with yourself and other cross-team stakeholders—to determine where you’re at in the process.

Build a better company culture, build a better company

How we work, where we work and what it means to feel connected to our work has changed quite a bit.

But what hasn’t changed is the need to create an effective organizational culture that makes your company a great place to work.

Start boosting employee engagement and connection today. And while you do, use our article about employer branding strategy as a guide to build your company’s reputation inside and out.