From Amazon To Buffer: 8 Company Culture Examples To Learn From

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From Amazon To Buffer: 8 Company Culture Examples To Learn From

As an HR professional, you’ve often heard about company culture examples in meetings or company strategy sessions. But why is company culture so influential in how we build businesses? 

First, company culture plays a crucial role in shaping the success and longevity of an organization. It’s about creating a positive workplace atmosphere and fostering a sense of community, shared values, and purpose among employees. Therefore, companies must prioritize building and maintaining a strong and positive culture. 

This article will explore a few real-life examples of companies with excellent company cultures, what makes them stand, and some examples of bad culture and what they could do differently. 

What is company culture?
The essential role of HR in defining and supporting company culture
5 Good company culture examples
3 Examples of toxic company culture

What is company culture?

Company culture, also known as organizational culture, refers to the shared values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that characterize an organization and shape how people interact and work towards common goals. It is the collective personality, if you will, of an organization and influences the overall employee experience. 

The importance of company culture within an organization cannot be overstated because it substantially impacts various aspects of your business, such as sales, profits, and employee morale. In addition, it is essential to mention that bad company culture will have a negative impact on the points just mentioned. 

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In PwC’s Global Culture Survey, 3,200 leaders and employees across the globe were surveyed on how company culture drives success. They found that “66% of executives and board members believed culture was more critical to employee performance than the organization’s strategy or operating model.” 

Let’s dive into a few benefits of a strong company culture: 

  • The correlation between work culture and engagement. Studies have demonstrated a positive correlation between a healthy work culture and increased employee engagement, improving productivity and profitability. In fact, a study by the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick discovered that “happy employees were 12 percent more productive than the average worker.” In contrast, discontented employees are 10 percent less productive. The same study showed that businesses with happy employees outperform the competition by 20 percent. 
  • Attracting talent. Research has also shown that a strong company culture can be a powerful recruitment tool to attract qualified candidates. For example, an online survey conducted by Glassdoor found that 77 percent of surveyees would consider the company’s culture before applying. 
  • Employee alignment with company culture. TinyPulse found that staff who do not align with or don’t like their company culture were 24 percent more likely to quit, taking productivity and knowledge with them. 
HR's Essential Role Developing Company Culture

The essential role of HR in defining and supporting company culture

HR is critical in developing and maintaining a solid company culture that attracts and retains top talent, increases employee engagement, and ultimately contributes to the organization’s success.

But how can HR achieve this? 

Defining and communicating the company values and vision

Your company’s values, mission, and vision are the foundation of your company culture. They provide clarity and direction for your organization, guiding decision-making at every level. These elements define your company’s purpose, beliefs, and aspirations, and create a shared sense of identity and purpose among employees. 

When clearly articulated and effectively communicated, your values and vision become the cornerstone of your culture, shaping employee behavior and promoting unity and alignment toward your common goals.

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Ensuring a good cultural fit with new hires

Finding the right fit is crucial when bringing new hires on board. Cultural fit enables potential employees to determine if your company’s values and work style align with their own. By hiring individuals who are a great cultural fit, your company can strengthen its culture, leading to increased employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention. 

It’s essential to prioritize cultural fit to build a team that works well together and achieves your organization’s mission.

Providing training and development programs

Continuing to reinforce the company’s values and beliefs is essential in entrenching your company culture. HR can reinforce these values through training and development programs, by incorporating them into the content of the program. 

Additionally, by bringing employees together in training and development sessions, HR can foster a sense of community and belonging. Encourage open communication among employees to help build collaboration and trust. This will also help to build a culture of transparency and respect within the organization. 

Leadership development programs can also be an effective way to promote the company culture by developing a pipeline of future leaders who embody the company’s values and beliefs. These leaders can then serve as role models and ambassadors for the culture, helping to spread it throughout the organization.

Measuring employee performance

To know if your company culture positively impacts your workforce, measure employee performance against the culture and values. These data points will also inform you whether you need to improve the company culture.  

Additionally, ensuring diversity and inclusion within your organization and across teams fosters an environment of respect, acceptance, and equality among employees. It creates a sense of belonging and empowers employees to bring their authentic selves to work. By promoting diversity and inclusion, companies can tap into a broader range of perspectives, experiences, and ideas, leading to innovation and improved decision-making.

5 Good company culture examples

1. Evernote

Evernote, a productivity app company, prioritizes employee wellness and mental health with employee benefits. For example, their “Flexible Time Off program” encourages employees to take vacations of five days or longer and is supplemented with a $1,000 vacation stipend. They also have company-wide Wellness Weekends to get everyone relaxed and rested for the coming week. 

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Key learnings

Evernote shows that prioritizing employee wellness above profit can lead to a happier workforce. Providing resources and support can also help employees feel valued and supported.

HR tip

Prioritize employee wellness by providing resources and support for physical and mental health in your perks, such as mental well-being support through companies such as BetterHelp or providing gym membership. 

2. Credibly

Credibly is a fintech company that provides small businesses with access to capital. They have a strong culture of collaboration and transparency, emphasizing empowering employees to make decisions and take ownership of their work.

They highlight employee autonomy through one of four company values, “everyone has a voice and should use it. There is no such thing as rank when discussing what is right for the business.”

Key learnings

Credibly’s culture shows that empowering employees to make decisions helps drive a positive work environment where they feel valued. It is so essential that they have added it to their company values. In fact, Credibly was rated by Energage as one of 2023’s Top Workplaces in the USA.

HR tip

By providing opportunities for your team to speak up freely, give feedback, and have decision-making power in their work, you will create a culture where employees will feel valued for their opinion and will, therefore, stay longer in your organization. 

3. Sweetgreen

Sweetgreen is a fast-casual restaurant chain that specializes in healthy salads and bowls. Their culture is centered around sustainability and community, focusing on using locally-sourced ingredients and partnering with local farmers. Additionally, Sweetgreen invests in the community with its Sweetgreen in Schools program. It helps children access healthy eating, nutrition, and farming education. According to their Co-founder, Nathaniel Ru, all of their business decisions are driven by a strong mission

Key learnings

Sweetgreen’s culture shows that creating a solid mission and focusing on sustainability, community, and education can help create a sense of purpose for employees in their day-to-day work. These purpose-driven companies have become very popular in recent years because they prioritize a goal outside of profit that betters the community or environment. 

HR tip

Your company’s mission and values do not need to focus on sustainability or community, but finding a purpose beyond profit can drive more potential employees to your business and helps the employees understand why their work is important.

4. Buffer

Buffer is a social media management platform allowing businesses to manage their accounts from a centralized platform. The company has been fully remote since its inception, with employees located all around the world. 

Buffer strongly emphasizes work-life balance and encourages employees to take time off when needed. In addition, they offer a “no questions asked” vacation policy and unlimited sick days, which contributes to employee well-being and happiness. They believe this so much that they require a minimum of 15 days off yearly

Key learnings 

Buffer’s remote work culture is a prime example of prioritizing employee well-being in a virtual work environment. By offering unlimited vacation and sick days, Buffer shows that they trust their employees to care for their needs and balance their work with their personal lives. If you want to learn more about their company culture, they have released an article titled: What Our 3 Biggest Successes and 2 Biggest Failures Taught Us About Company Culture. 

HR tip

Your organization doesn’t need to go fully remote to support a strong work-life balance for employees. Providing flexible work hours, hybrid working methods, unlimited vacation days, or other benefits that allow employees to prioritize their personal lives will also make them happier in the long run.

5. Gravity Payments

This credit card processing company has a unique pay policy where all employees earn a minimum salary of $70,000 annually, regardless of their role. This policy has created a sense of fairness and equality among employees and has helped reduce turnover. Additionally, they value a culture of candor, where feedback is essential for improvement within the team. 

Key learnings

Gravity Payments shows that fair, equitable, and transparent pay policies can increase employee satisfaction and loyalty. Providing a purpose beyond profits can also create a positive company culture. Transparent feedback is also an excellent way for your business to improve teamwork. 

HR tip

HR can review pay policies and ensure they are fair and equitable. They can also create a sense of purpose through the company values and missions beyond financial goals.

3 Examples of toxic company culture

6. Uber

Uber has been known for its toxic culture of harassment, bullying, and discrimination. There have been numerous reports of sexual harassment and discrimination towards women, which ultimately led to the resignation of its CEO, Travis Kalanick.

The company’s toxic culture stems from its aggressive growth strategy, which, unfortunately, prioritized success over employee well-being. As a result, Uber had an extremely high employee turnover and, back in 2017, was thought to have lost as much as $20 billion in revenue due to their toxic culture. 

Key learnings

HR must establish a zero-tolerance policy for harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Create a safe and supportive environment where employees can report harassment and discrimination without fear of retaliation. Discrimination and harassment in the US are against the law and can lead to costly lawsuits if your company doesn’t do enough to prevent it. 

HR tip

Implement regular harassment and discrimination training for all employees, establish a confidential reporting system, and conduct anonymous employee surveys to monitor the company’s culture and identify any toxic or illegal behaviors.

7. Wells Fargo

This major American bank was involved in a massive scandal where employees created fake accounts to meet sales targets and earn bonuses. 

The pressure from upper management to meet these targets led to a toxic culture of fear and intimidation, where employees were threatened with termination if they didn’t meet their quotas. While illegal to do so, the toxic culture was so pervasive that many employees didn’t feel comfortable reporting the acts to legal authorities. 

Key learnings 

It cannot be overstated how important it is for your team to prioritize ethical practices and transparency in the workplace. In the case of Wells Fargo, they were required to pay out three billion dollars to settle their illegal practices – a very costly problem that would have been circumvented if they had a positive and safe company culture. 

HR tip

Implement regular employee ethics training and communicate whistleblower protection policies within your company. Additionally, anonymous employee surveys can be used to monitor the company’s culture and identify any unethical practices. 

8. Amazon

Amazon has been criticized for its cutthroat and stressful work culture, where employees must work long hours and meet tight deadlines. There have been reports of employees experiencing burnout and high turnover rates due to the intense work culture. The company has also been accused of union-busting and anti-competitive practices.

Key learnings

Amazon is experiencing attrition at such a high level that it is estimated they lose $8 billion annually for Amazon and its shareholders due to the cost of finding a new employee and for that new team member to reach a high level of productivity. It’s essential to create a culture where employees feel valued and supported and where their well-being is prioritized over profitability. 

HR tips

Measure data such as burnout rates and employee turnover to analyze your company culture and take steps to rectify if your data is indicating high levels of burnout or turnover within your organization. 

Key takeaways

  • Company culture plays a crucial role in shaping the success and longevity of an organization by creating a positive workplace atmosphere and fostering a sense of community, shared values, and purpose among employees.
  • A strong company culture can positively impact various aspects of the business, including sales, profits, employee morale, and attracting talent. In contrast, a bad company culture will have a negative impact.
  • HR is critical in developing and maintaining a solid company culture that attracts and retains top talent, increases employee engagement, and ultimately contributes to the organization’s success.
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