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

Christina Zurek
Christina Zurek

Employees experiencing a great organizational culture

Culture is the organization’s immune system,” author Michael Watkins once said.

And if it’s the immune system of your company, the sicknesses it fights off can be debilitating: turnover, disengagement—telltale signs of the talent war’s impact.

As this competition for talent escalates, intentional, consistent focus on the culture of your company is the defense you need to protect your most prized team members.

Take a look at what these 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 podcast 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."

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 create an environment that people want to participate in every day.

2. The Motley Fool

As one WorldatWork report finds, as healthcare costs rise, employers have little choice but to shift attention to the collective health of their employees. 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.

Each month, the company’s “Chief Wellness Fool,” Sam Whiteside, creates a different challenge or theme to excite staffers.

"April was called 'Active April,'” said Whiteside in a Mashable interview. “We wanted to challenge them to make one meeting per day an active one. There were pushups during meetings and people walking around the office. It's about trying to make every month different from the month prior. It keeps engagement up because people get tired of doing the same things.”

The Takeaway:

The importance of wellness is top of mind for many organizations, but what really sets this strategy apart is an understanding that employees need to be challenged in new and different ways, both for fun and professionally.

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.

Outside of just Salesforce, this concept has been picked up by Atlassian, Google and other tech heavy-hitters.

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 recognition 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: intense, ceaseless focus on customer service, no matter the cost. In fact, the company made the move 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,” says 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. 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.

GE is abandoning its formal annual reviews and its legacy performance management system, relics from the Jack Welch “rank-and-yank” days, in favor of a less regimented system of more frequent feedback.

“The world isn’t really on an annual cycle anymore for anything,” says Susan Peters, GE’s head of human resources. “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, towards better, faster outcomes for customers.”

The Takeaway:

One study finds that most employees leave their companies because of a lack of career development opportunities. So it makes sense 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.

Related: Check out WorldatWork’s 2017 Seal of Distinction recipients list for more examples of companies that have a great organizational culture and provide outstanding work environments for their people.

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.

Learn more about why building a winning organizational culture matters—and six factors to make it a success.

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.