Create a Company Culture That Reflects You

December 04, 2019
By Jean Nakanishi
iQ staff in costume.

We were thrilled when Pacific Business News named our own Jean Nakanishi, VP of operations, a Workplace Champion in the small business category at the Hawaii’s Best Workplaces awards. Here, Jean shares a thing or two about creating an award-winning office culture.

What makes a workplace great? Every person might have a slightly different response — the people, the perks, the environment, the free snacks. Regardless of the answer, it usually ties back to office culture, the often unspoken elements of an organization that define the experience employees have at work.

Internal culture is like a company’s personality. Some workplace cultures are fun and casual, while others can unfortunately be toxic and demanding. How you define and build your office culture reflects the work you do, the values you live by, the people you employ and the customers or clients you serve.


Build your best culture, not someone else’s

Every organization is different. What works for Zappos may not feel right for your office. The point is not to emulate another company’s culture but create one that reflects what your organization values most.

A great place to start is with your mission, vision and values. These statements are more than just fodder for your website’s About Us page, they’re the foundation for your organization. They answer key questions about your brand: What you do, why you do it, how you do it and where you see yourself in the future. From there, build a workplace culture that conveys the what, why and how to your employees.


Allow employees to self-select

The best thing about having a strong workplace culture is that it often helps job candidates self-select. An employee who thrives on structure or likes to work independently might think twice before applying to a company that boasts a casual, collaborative environment. So don’t try to be someone you aren’t. Define your company culture and convey it clearly, and you will attract employees with the same values. They’ll be more likely to stick around if they know what they’re getting into.


Beware of “culture fit” hiring

You may have heard that hiring based on culture can result in a lack of diversity. Choosing an employee based on whether or not they will “fit in” may have the unintended consequence of creating an office where everyone has the same interests, thought process and blind spots. Be aware of this bias and consider candidates that can bring new ideas to the table while also feeling comfortable and happy in the culture you have.


Choose perks carefully

Trendy perks like a ping pong table, beer on tap and video games may seem like a great way to create a fun work environment, but before you invest in bells and whistles, consider what will bring the most value to your employees’ lives. Great health care benefits, professional development opportunities and FSAs may not be as sexy as an office bar, but they’ll provide your employees with long-term well-being. Flex time, unlimited vacation and paid family leave shows your organization cares about work-life balance.

Find inspiration in what your company is passionate about. An outdoor recreation brand might be all about rewarding its employees with a free national parks pass, while a tech company would probably want to give its employees cool gadgets that make their work easier.


“Organizations can create a more positive culture by valuing the whole employee.”


Culture is not an excuse to treat employees badly

There is a fine line between healthy competition and a cutthroat work environment. You may expect your employees to give their all, but it doesn’t mean they should have to answer texts at two in the morning. If you say you have a “work hard, play hard” mentality, consider what that really means. Are your employees constantly stuck in “work hard” mode with zero time to relax? A negative work culture often equates to low engagement, low productivity and high turnover.

Above all, organizations can create a more positive culture by valuing the whole employee. Your employees are more than who they bring to the office. They have families, hobbies and obligations outside of work. Acknowledging that their free time, their kids and significant others, their passion projects matter are all part of building an organization people want to be a part of.