How to create the best organizational culture

Written by: the Officevibe Content Team
Updated on: Published on: July 31, 2014 |  Reading time: 10m

Lots of autonomy, transparency, and trust. I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve been able to speak with leaders from the greatest companies in the world for Officevibe’s CultureTalks series. I often ask the people I’m speaking to how they hire, how they onboard, and what they do to promote engagement at their company.

I’ve learned so much from these people, but one thing I find cool is that there seems to be a lot of common themes across all of these companies. There are a few common words too, like autonomy and trust that I seem to hear over and over again.

I don’t think this is just a coincidence.

These companies seem to “get it”. If you want employees that are productive and engaged, you have to treat them right, and you have to help them grow. Creating a sense of “team” and camaraderie is incredibly important to your company’s success.

Let’s look at some of the bigger companies I’ve interviewed, and what they have to say about how they create an amazing organizational culture.

1. Zappos

Zappos is realistically the leader in creating an amazing place to work, and I was so honored to be able to interview someone from there.

Let’s look at a few of the key highlights from our discussion.

Work really happens, and work happens without anybody busting out the whips to say get back to work. It’s an organization that is really aligned around a purpose. We hire and fire with the culture in mind so that we’re all moving towards that purpose of delivering great experiences.

This is a really important point.

There are so many managers out there that like to micromanage, and “bust out the whip” when there is a perception that work isn’t being done.

This isn’t a way to treat your employees, or any human for that matter.

They’re also very driven, towards one unified goal.

If you don’t have people who are enjoying your business, customers or clients, you don’t have a business to come back to tomorrow. Everything comes down to people.

You can watch the full video here if you’re interested:

Building an Amazing Company Culture With Zappos

2. Rackspace

Rackspace is a leader in the cloud computing space, and actually was one of the biggest companies I got to speak to.

The cool thing about Rackspace, that might not be applicable to every company reading this, is that they’re very successful, so they’ve invested a lot into some cool initiatives to help engage employees.

For example, up until August of this year, I was a smoker. I was reimbursed for all of my quit-smoking cessations by Rackspace. They’re trying to ensure their Rackers are healthy.

“Rack Gives Back is one of our initiatives from the Rackspace Foundation. People often volunteer their time. We get a couple of days off a year where you can actually go and volunteer your time to help the community, and help put playgrounds into schools, or painting schools, or just getting involved in the neighborhood and being a good corporate citizen.” “We have a university system where Rackers can go on their own will. Whatever class they want to take is free. Every day there’s probably 10, 15 different courses being taught where you can continue to educate and teach yourself.”

They’re also very focused on team building.

Generally, every team has an allowance it’s given every month to be able to go and do something socially as a team. I think it’s important. We work hard, we play hard. You’ve got to let off that steam.

You can watch our full discussion here:

Customer Driven Culture With Dave Sims From Rackspace

3. Wix

Wix is a very cool product, and a very cool company.

Wix is headquartered in Israel, which is called Startup Nation, and is known for their entrepreneurial spirit.

So, it makes sense then, that there would be a lot of autonomy among their employees.

We’re a big company, I mean, by many standards. But, one of the things that makes the culture the most exciting is that it’s remained a really self-managed, entrepreneurial flat organization.

When I asked about the hiring process at Wix, they do tests to see how the candidate would react to different situations.

“So at Wix, the test isn’t about having the right answer.It’s about understanding how a person is going to think and problem solve through a test. And really, we all go through tests everyday at work. We’re asked to produce things, we’re asked to deliver products, we’re asked to brainstorm about things. And what we’re really looking to find is people who can work through that process in a way that’s going to be beneficial to our larger corporate culture.”

One of the coolest things they do in the onboarding process is make everyone, no matter what department you’re in, learn more about the product.

This is so important, because it gets everyone deeply immersed into the company, and all employees can talk intelligently about the product.

“I was asked to go in and really, not just dive into the company culture, but to dive into the product. And to really understand the user experience of using our tools to do something.So I actually was asked to build a website, and then show what it looked like, and talk about the struggles I had with it, or the delightful moments I had with it.”

Watch our full chat here:

Employee Autonomy With Eric Mason From Wix

4. Treehouse

This was one of the coolest interviews I did, simply because of how successful Treehouse is, while still maintaining a flat company and only working 4 days a week.

“So the idea is, ‘Hey, can we get five days of work done in four?’ And so we basically presume the best of our employees. We believe it’s possible and that we let them be more efficient and say, ‘Hey, we think you can do five days a week in four, you know, by just being smarter and working faster.’”

They also got rid of managers, and work in a completely flat organization.

And wait a minute, what if we just removed everybody. What if we all just were doers instead of, you know, having this layer of tellers?

When I asked how having a flat organization affects their hiring, he told me that they also do Hiring by Auditions, meaning tests (like Wix).

“What we do is we try to get folks that do a project and we pay them for that and then we see what they actually do and how they integrate with that team, and that helps a lot. “

Not surprisingly, when you treat your employees with respect, and you promote a good work-life balance, employee retention is very high.

“I mean, when you work a four day week, and you don’t have a boss and you get paid really well and you know you get your medical and dental benefits, I mean, it’s just like gosh, where else can you go?”

Check out our full discussion here:

Flat Hierarchy With Ryan Carson From Treehouse

5. Netflix

Netflix has such an amazing company culture, and their slideshare was called “the most important document to ever come out of the Valley” by Sheryl Sandberg.

Again, their culture is focused on autonomy.

“The way we describe it is it’s our freedom and responsibility culture.And, that really relies on us finding top performers and hiring you know, the best of the best. And we’re able to have, you know, these very high-talent-dense teams of rock stars who don’t necessarily need to be micromanaged or told how to get their job done and you know, and still able to make such a huge impact. So it means that we do have to hire people who are extremely…not just talented and have the right skill set for our role, but are passionate about what they do and who really want to make an impact.”

Netflix is famous for having an unlimited vacation policy, meaning employees can take vacation whenever they want, it’s unlimited.

To a traditional manager, this might sound nuts, and something that would be abused by employees. Luckily, I asked them about that.

I think it comes back to the people that you hire and making sure that you have employees that have great judgment.

Check out our full discussion right here:

Freedom And Responsibility Culture With Allison Satterlee From Netflix

6. Telus

Telus is one of the biggest telecommunication companies in the world, and has over 40,000 employees.

I honestly thought at first that it would be an incredibly corporate environment with a pretty bad culture, but I was wrong.

Telus is doing a lot for their employees, and this was a cool interview, because a lot of times we think that great company cultures can only happen at Silicon Valley startups, but that’s just not true.

Telus has been really creative about the way they onboard new employees, putting them through a virtual world that lasts 90 days where they get to “explore” Telus – the people, the systems, the vernacular, etc..

A lot of companies make a huge mistake when onboarding new employees

I’ll tell you what I don’t like, and it’s not that I don’t like it at TELUS, it’s what I don’t like anywhere. And it’s jamming people into a room for three days of doughnuts and PowerPoint. I mean, you couldn’t have a more horrific indoctrination or onboarding experience as a new employee to an organization. I mean, that’s just soul-sucking.

They trust and empower their employees to make decisions, and it’s really worked out for them.

“Over here, because of the TELUS leadership philosophy, our values, our attributes, our fair process, our belief in the customer, and, thus, our belief in the team member to address a customer’s issue … you know, we’re not interested in call handle times. If it takes a long time to handle a problem, well, guess what.Our people are empowered to do so. And they’re empowered to fix it in the right way where they might actually have to do something that they might not have done before, and that’s okay because we trust our people to do what’s right to put our customers first.”

I’d really recommend watching the full chat here, this was an incredible interview:

Culture Of Engagement With Dan Pontefract From Telus

7. Hubspot

Hubspot is arguably my favorite company (after Officevibe of course), and it was really intersting to learn more about how they did things there.

One of my favorite things is in their hiring process, they don’t rush to fill positions, something I knew Google did.

“There’s no time that we’re looking to fill a job. We really focus on getting the right person in the door as opposed to trying to meet an arbitrary deadline to get a position closed, which may mean that jobs stay open for a while until we find the right candidate.””I’d say, in general, we’re looking for people who are self-motivated, curious, and constantly learning.”

One of the coolest things they do in terms of onboarding, is have the new employee improve the onboarding process based on his/her experience.

“As the new person becomes more tenured, they are responsible with improving the process for the next person who’s new to the team.”

Check out our full chat here:

What does it take to have an amazing organizational culture?

Any other examples of companies that get culture right? Let me know your thoughts on twitter @Officevibe.