How to Build a Culture that Employees Love
Welcome back to our latest Inside Ink on how to build a culture that employees love. Written by Ink Factory co-founders Lindsay, Dusty and Ryan (aka, LDR), this series explores the journey from fledgling startup to industry trailblazer. Follow along for honest thoughts on building and growing a mission-driven business in today’s world.
When we founded Ink Factory 11 years ago, our goal was to have fun and leave the world a little bit better than how we found it. Visuals allowed us to accomplish both. This became our purpose–it gave meaning to our work, and it’s what we began to build our culture around.
We quickly learned that building an awesome company culture takes intention and dedication. It also became clear that you can’t build (or spell) “culture” without “cult.” We get it: the word doesn’t have the most positive reputation. But in the workplace, enthusiastic devotion to an idea is ground zero for building a strong culture.
At Ink Factory, we’re as committed to our culture as we are to the visual experiences we create. Here’s how we built our culture–and how we keep it strong and positive 11 years on.
Build a culture employees love: 3 must-do steps
Culture is a living, breathing thing. Give it a solid foundation, and you’ll find it won’t crack or crumble as it grows and changes.
Set your purpose
To build culture, you need to give meaning to your work. Why do you do what you do? Answering this question is critical. It provides your company with a North Star for decision-making and boosts employee loyalty, engagement and pride. (Ready to find your “why”? We have a guide for that!)
Align on core values
A strong culture also is built on shared values. At Ink Factory, setting our values was a team effort. Early on, we all came together to identify what defines us and our work: create awesome work, value each team member, and have fun. We wanted everyone to feel empowered by the process, much like charting their career paths at Ink Factory.
To build a culture, enlist culture champions
As a small business, we’re very busy wearing many hats. We don’t want our culture to falter so we have a team dedicated to championing it. This new and improved team focuses on how we keep our core values in action inside and outside of work. From celebrating yearly birthdays and work anniversaries to professional development and our ongoing Racial Justice Initiative, this team makes sure we stay true to our values and that we all maintain the right work/life balance.
Work it: Tips to keep things positive, creative, and FUN
You’ve done the heavy lifting, now let’s have some fun! Here are just a few ways we nurture a positive work environment at Ink Factory.
- Express gratitude daily. People are the lifeblood of a business–celebrate them! We shoot love darts and shout “I love you’s” when teammates leave for the day. And drop coins in a jar to shine a light on someone when they go out of their way or do something noteworthy, which are then cashed in for fun team outings like happy hour or going out to lunch.
- Listen. Make time to learn about employees’ aspirations and help them set goals to achieve them. Provide constructive feedback and learning opportunities along the way. Our annual goal-setting and performance review cycles ensure this stays top of mind.
- Build social connections. Team Building activities are a must. Provide a mix of outings and innings to help everyone connect and have fun. We recently hosted a team retreat to Mexico, turning off for a few days to focus on development and team building.
- Prioritize work/life balance. Staying balanced takes work. We take a body movement break every day at 3 p.m., adhere to a 4-day workweek, and provide a safe space for team members to talk about mental health.
- Make a positive impact. Through our Racial Justice Initiative, we are removing barriers to learning visual communication. And in Avondale, where our HQ is located, we’re creating an augmented reality mural celebrating Spanish and Polish history and culture.
- Embrace lifelong learning. Outside input is critical to growing and learning. We established an advisory board to provide us with candid counsel, and our participation in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program is still paying dividends.
If you implement any of these, let us know how they work for your business. Or, tell us how you uniquely champion positive culture–we love trying new things.
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