5 Elements of a Strong Company Culture That You May Be Overlooking Jonathan Herrick Quick—describe what your company’s culture in one quick soundbite. If you ticked off something about the relaxed dress code, team bowling nights and a flexible work schedule, that’s a start. But company culture goes way beyond Casual Friday. And if you want to build a strong company culture as you grow your business, it’s important to look beyond the most visible aspects to intangible factors that play a powerful role in shaping your workplace environment. Here are five questions to ask yourself about elements of a strong workplace culture that sometimes get overlooked. Is your business part of a larger ecosystem? Many employees today want to make a difference at work. Much as they may love their jobs, it’s more inspiring for them to see themselves as part of, say, the world of conscious capitalism or tech startups, than simply as an employee. If you have made an effort to connect with other like-minded businesses—whether at in-person events like conferences and coding hackathons or via digital communities— celebrate that part of your culture and make it known to potential recruits. Does your team know where you stand on mistakes? At some point or other, every employee will make a mistake. By setting a clear tone on how to handle wrong turns and errors, you’ll help your team choose the right approach for your company. In technology startups, it’s not uncommon to celebrate failures that lead the team to “pivot” in a fresh direction. If you work in tech, embracing life’s messiness may help you build a strong culture of innovation. However, if you run a firm in a field like accounting, where clients prize accuracy, celebrating errors may not be the best way to go. Rather than encouraging team members to “fail fast,” an accounting firm might instead want to build a culture that applauds people for going the extra mile to check their work or ask their colleagues to help them troubleshoot it. Have you created a high-performance environment? Do you recall how some of your grade school teachers placed a premium on quiet and orderliness, while others prized a noisy classroom, where kids moved around the room and interacted all day? As you probably discovered, both approaches can foster a great learning environment, depending on the circumstances. A buzzing classroom may be fantastic for a music lesson but not so great for introductory algebra. The same holds true in the workplace. If you have found, for instance, that your team thrives in an open office space where the conversations are free-flowing, embrace that idea. Set up a casual seating area where employees can hang out and discuss their ideas. Similarly, if your team needs to concentrate intently to get their work done, set aside some rooms where they can go if they need to hunker down in quiet. By taking inexpensive steps to tailor your environment to an environment where your team performs at its best, you’ll build a stronger culture. Have you considered key stakeholders outside of the company? Smart business owners realize their employees have a life outside of work and consider the impact of their decisions on employees’ families and significant others. Asking your team to work until 11 pm at the last minute to meet a deadline may seem like your only course of action in some situations, but often, if you look back at these scenarios with 20-20 hindsight, they might be avoided with some advanced planning or temporary staffing help.The more you recognize that employees have other commitments beyond work, the more loyalty you will find among your team. Employees whose families resent the hours they work or who feel constant guilt about not spending time with their loved ones will not be likely to stick with you long. Are you proactive about workplace harassment? Most company owners don’t like to think about the possibility that one of their employees could be harassing others in the office, but as current headlines underline, no company can afford to simply hope for the best. Even the smallest businesses need to get in front of this issue, or they could see a harasser harm their culture and face potential legal costs if a problem erupts. There is no easy solution, so a good first step is talking with your HR team about the best practices you should be using. Be sure to consider both in-person harassment and new digital forms that can be just as disturbing to the victims. Ideally you’ll never have to apply your harassment policy to someone who is abusing others, but once you have it in place, the great workplace culture you are building will be a lot more secure.