Nowadays, employee satisfaction is no longer just about salaries and pension plans. Appealing to the modern workforce requires an investment in the social and professional inclusion of employees.
However, when considering the allure of a competitive salary versus communal ping pong tables, it can be difficult to pinpoint which aspects of a workplace are most significant in achieving a positive employee experience.
But first, what exactly is company culture?
ERC explains, “Culture is the character and personality of your organization. It's what makes your business unique and is the sum of its values, traditions, beliefs, interactions, behaviors, and attitudes.”
Although culture as a construct can seem ambiguous and elusive, behavioral scientist and TEDx Speaker Dr. Pragya Agarwal asserts that “The leadership, strategic organizational directions and management [of a company] influence the workplace culture to a huge extent.”
So, which factors should a company prioritize when establishing their culture?
To answer this question, PublicRelay conducted a study based on Glassdoor's Best Places to Work 2020 reviews to analyze employee feedback for the top ten companies. According to our data, the following dimensions of culture appeared to be most significant.
Elements of a Strong Company Culture
Overall, we found that a strong company culture is characterized by fun, friendliness, and flexibility; and less affected by work/life balance and office politics.
Fun and friendly workplace
“Fun” and “Friendliness” were the two most frequently cited positive cultural subcategories across all ten companies. In particular, “fun” appeared to be the most significant, with employee reviews that described the top ten companies as having an enjoyable environment with regular social events that create opportunities to connect with coworkers.
Similarly, these companies also ranked positively in “friendliness,” a metric that is arguably linked with company values and social inclusion.
In addition to descriptions of coworkers who are “pleasant to work with” and have a “positive attitude,” employees who rated a company positively on its friendliness also cited experiencing a sense of inclusion from both management and fellow employees.
While office happy hours and free lunches may promote “fun” and appreciation, the value of a positive company culture goes deeper. This is highlighted by Great Place to Work’s assessment of company culture, which posits that “the secret to attracting and holding onto the world’s best talent isn’t about the perks—it’s about relationships.”
Flexibility and collaboration
Employees also lauded the top ten companies for their flexibility and opportunities for collaboration.
Workplace flexibility, such as the ability to work from home or set one’s own schedule, is strongly correlated with autonomy. Houston Chronicle highlights the theory that higher levels of autonomy are associated with an increase in employees’ sense of ownership over the quality of their work, and, in turn, greater job satisfaction.
This theory applies to both individual employees and to teams, the latter of which is a strong facilitator of collaboration.
Work/life balance and employee experience
Over 57% of reviews mentioning work/life balance were negative across the top ten companies. For example, more than 60% of Bain & Company’s reviews mentioned work/life balance. Although 85% of these were negative, Bain & Company earned the number two spot in Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work 2020.
An explanation for the interplay between the cultural dimensions of “fun” and “work/life balance” is aptly captured by one employee review of Bain & Company. The overall positive review claims that the company had achieved a “Work hard, play hard mentality,” one whereby the positives outweighed the negatives.
Office politics generally result from poor office professionalism. Though 82% of Glassdoor reviews regarding office politics were overwhelmingly negative, mentions only accounted for 6% of all reviews across the top ten companies.
Why is Culture Important in a Company?
Culture is important in a company because it promotes a positive workplace environment, which is vital to attracting top candidates. It also drives employee engagement, increases job satisfaction, reduces turnover and improves overall company performance.
According to ERC, “The biggest mistake organizations make is letting their workplace culture form naturally without first defining what they want it to be.”
Though culture may feel less tangible than other aspects of the workplace, a company can construct their culture with intention. By establishing values that emphasize positivity, social inclusion, and opportunities for connection, companies can take the reins on their workplace culture and drive a positive employee experience.