Culture Shock: 5 Simple Steps to Building a Great Place to Work.

December 17, 2019

A great company culture starts with authenticity and personal relationships.

Tear down the cubicles, buy a treadmill desk, ask your CEO to wear jeans and there you have it – a great culture. Wouldn’t it be nice if it were that simple? Well, I have news for you, my friends: it’s not. Somewhere between the beer fridge and the flex schedule, I realized there’s a lot more to this “culture” bit than meets the eye.

After almost two decades in the workplace, I’ve worked in cultures that I love and others that I loathe. SingleStone is definitely the former. In fact, we’ve received the Best Small & Medium Workplaces by Great Place to Work and Fortune Magazine for three years running. It’s a huge honor, and it reinforces that we must be doing something right around here.

So how do you go about creating a great workplace and a culture that people love? When I think about how we got here, it really boils down to a few simple things:

Do you.

So many organizations do culture right – from giants like Google and Zappos to smaller firms right in our own backyard. Each has its own personality, preferences and practices. While imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery, it’s important to remember that you never look as good in someone else’s t-shirt. Figure out what works for your team and what doesn’t. Go ahead: take the best ideas out there, but make them your own.

Talk to your team. Then listen to them.

A great way to understand what could work and what won’t is to ask your team. And don’t just ask them, listen to them. Really listen. Ask hard questions and insist on candid responses. Consider asking what you should start, stop and continue. It’s an easy technique that helps you identify the things that are holding you back. Your people want to engage, they want their voices heard, and they have incredible ideas. This has been one of my greatest lessons during my career with SingleStone and we’re a better firm for it.

Get personal.

Form sincere, meaningful relationships with your team. One of my favorite things about our SingleStone team, and our culture in general, is the care and concern we have for each other. Sure, we can drive each other crazy, but we always go the extra mile to help one another be successful. This requires trust, and vulnerability and it’s a whole lot easier than it sounds, but it’s powerful and it counts. 

Work must be meaningful – and that begins with the relationship you have with the person sitting next to you.

Speaking of trust, consider the way your culture approaches where and when teams work. We believe that people work and learn differently, so as long as our consultants are meeting the needs of their teams and our clients, we don’t prescribe where or when they work. We trust them to do their jobs without someone looking over their shoulders. The bottom line: sincere and trusting relationships matter. 

Be relentless when hiring.

Our hiring mantra since 1997 – and one that’s served us incredibly well – is that we hire for three things: attitude, aptitude and skills. In that order. Attitude is paramount. To be successful here, you must have a passion for learning, service and excellence. We don’t have room for egos or for leaders that lead from behind the closed door of a corner office. Aptitude is a close second. We want a quick study with insatiable curiosity. We move fast and we need our team to keep up. We rank skills last not because they’re unimportant, but because we believe they can be developed. If you have the right attitude and learn quickly, we can teach you all the things.

Learn to let go.

Even the best ideas and the most brilliant decisions have an expiration date. Just because something worked twelve months ago, doesn’t mean it’s going to work today. Be open to change and to failure. Embrace being a work in progress — the best cultures usually are.

Sound hard? We agree. Sound impossible? We don’t think so. The old adage is true though: nothing worth having comes easy. So, if you want to build a culture that enables people to learn, grow and do their best work, roll up your sleeves. Then buckle up, hold on and enjoy the ride.

Tricia Rhodes

Chief People Officer
As our Chief Employee Experience Officer, Tricia is the champion of our corporate culture. She has been key to creating a company where people are encouraged to contribute, rewarded for trying new things, and supported when taking risks.