5 Big-Name Organizational Culture Examples That Win the Talent War

By: Christina Zurek
puzzle with organizational culture piece missing
As the war for talent escalates, an intentional and consistent focus on the culture of your company is the best defense to protect your most prized team members.
Here’s a look at what five big-name brands are doing to build great organizational cultures—and what you can do to emulate their success.

1. Warby Parker

Since 2010, Warby Parker has carved a niche for themselves by offering no-nonsense eyewear at a low price. In a Business Insider interview, the company’s co-founders detail how they evolved a thriving company culture from small startup all the way to 1,000+ employees today.
The first step, co-CEO Neil Blumenthal explains, is viewing your culture brand not just as a logo, but as a point of view. It’s what makes your company unique, and every new hire has a different take on what it should be.
Accordingly, Warby Parker put emphasis on collaboration when determining what the core values of the company should be.
“We realized when we were 20 or 25 people…we hadn’t really articulated the criteria or the values that were most important to us as an organization,” said co-CEO Dave Gilboa. “We went through an exercise [where] people wrote down individual values that are important to [them]…We got over 200 different values which led to a bunch of discussions about which values were the same, which ones were different, which ones were critically important.”
Maintaining a great company culture is impossible if you can’t agree on the behaviors that drive the way work gets done at an organization. Warby Parker’s focus on honest and open communication to create that alignment was instrumental in helping them gain cultural clarity.
The Takeaway:
To build engagement and culture and truly embrace the future of HR, don’t brush aside input and feedback from your employees. Deeply consider what they have to say—that’s how you build autonomy and buy-in for the behaviors that drive success for your organization.

2. The Motley Fool

According to Gartner research, when employees feel like their well-being is supported, their discretionary effort can increase by more than 20%. And when it comes to employee wellbeing, financial services and investment company The Motley Fool has found that variety is key to encouraging healthy lifestyles.
The company’s “Chief Wellness Fool,” Samantha “Sam” Whiteside, explains:
“An employee well-being program is one that is inclusive of all wellness needs—it goes beyond just physical wellness and traditional programs. It includes fitness, sure, but it also includes mental well-being, nutrition, and eating more plant-based foods, opportunities to connect with your community, positive behavior change, and disease prevention as well.”
“It’s not just having free snacks or a pedometer challenge every few months. It goes beyond all of those things and really encompasses every facet that can make a person feel sound in body, mind and spirit.”
The Takeaway:
The importance of well-being is top of mind for many organizations, but what really sets this strategy apart is an understanding that employees need to be treated first and foremost as humans with a variety of needs that, when met, reinforce the value an organization places on them.

3. Salesforce

While ubiquitous in sales circles, Salesforce is also famous for its community giveback program.
This community giveback concept—dubbed the “1-1-1 model”—encourages companies to donate 1% of its yearly equity, 1% of its products and 1% of their employees’ time to community volunteer projects.
“The business of business is improving the state of the world,” said Marc Benioff, Chairman & CEO, Salesforce.
Since its founding, Salesforce has given more than $240 million in grants, 3.5 million hours of community service and provided product donations for more than 39,000 nonprofits and education institutions.
Outside of just Salesforce, this concept has been picked up by many other organizations who also recognize the importance of positively contributing to the communities where their people live.

The Takeaway:

Giving back to your community has proven to carry incredible benefits. Not only are you helping others, you’re supporting team building, gaining brand advocacy from the outside community and potentially attracting new employees.


4. Zappos

Online shoe juggernaut Zappos might be more famous for their culture than their products. In fact, alongside an endless selection of sneakers, they offer a three-day “culture camp” where they teach HR professionals how to build a culture like theirs.
The secret: Obsessive; maniacal; radical; WOW-worthy attention on customer service—no matter the cost. Since they first burst upon the e-commerce scene in 1999, Zappos has been unwavering in their focus on delivering the best possible service experience for customers. They have always been the first to let you know how they are “powered by service.”
In fact, the company has gone to extraordinary lengths to show their commitment, including moving from San Francisco to Las Vegas largely to build an in-house customer service team.
“I attribute most of our growth over the past few years to the fact that we invested time, money and resources in three key areas: customer service, company culture, and employee training and development,” said former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh in a Harvard Business Review article.
The Takeaway:
At the end of the day, people feel good about doing business with companies that treat their people well. And employees that are treated well do good work, which is why organizational culture matters. After all, the external reputation of your organization is inexorably tied to the hope and passion people have for your company on the inside.

5. General Electric

Giving your employees immediate performance feedback is a growing necessity in today’s connected world. To stay agile and attractive to employees, the 125-year-old General Electric needed to make this change too.
Not long ago, GE introduced a performance-development process centered around a smartphone app, which employees use to assess peers and leaders on an ongoing basis rather than in a once-a-year conversation. The move was part of a broader overhaul of the company to become more nimble and to streamline decision-making.
“The world isn’t really on an annual cycle anymore for anything,” said Susan Peters, GE’s former Chief Human Resources Officer who spearheaded the change. At the time, she remarked “I think some of it, to be really honest, is millennial-based…what we’re trying to do is to make a major shift in the company’s culture towards simplification and better, faster outcomes for customers.”
The Takeaway:
Research shows 78% of employees quit for reasons that could have been prevented if their employer had listened and acted to resolve underlying issues. It makes sense then that in-person and online feedback—an important method of offering individualized, manager-to-employee mentorship—must happen on a more regular basis. The result? Employees who know you care have a huge reason to stay.

How to Get Started Building Culture

Renowned author and management consultant Peter Drucker once said that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
Positive organizational culture, loosely defined, is the intangible attraction people and clients have to your company. And, if you want to win the talent war, it’s your secret weapon.
When your culture is designed to engage, motivate and align employees to work in tandem through a shared purpose, identity and intent, your people can withstand anything.
Christina Zurek
Christina Zurek

Christina is an experienced leader with a passion for improving the employee experience, employee engagement and workplace culture. Few things excite her as much as an opportunity to try something unfamiliar (be that a project, development opportunity, travel destination, food, drink or otherwise), though digging in to a research project is a close second.