At some point around the turn of the century, when cubicles were on their way out, the open-office was on its way in, and always-on work was building, the conversation around corporate culture shifted from how we spend our time in the office to how we enjoy our office life. No one works 9 to 5 anymore, and the importance of a work environment in which folks are comfortable living as they work cannot be underestimated. No one wants to live in his or her office, but, since most of us spend a lot of time there, it is really important for companies to remain focused on how to optimize employees’ experiences at work.
There is no doubt that a positive, engaging, and energizing company culture is critical to the attraction and retention of great employees. My company, RingCentral, moved office locations recently to the beautiful hills of Belmont, CA, where we can offer employees even more reasons to feel good about our shared workplace. At our new site, we’ve created environments in which we can be around each other in different settings, formal and informal. Within a shared gourmet café serving organic and sustainable food and within a gym, our paths can cross socially, and not just over conference tables. Many companies in Silicon Valley are feeding their employees meals as a perk these days, and I think that is a positive trend in corporate culture. Not only does it save employees time and money, it also boosts morale; at long last, there actually is such a thing as a free lunch! This doesn’t prevent employees from brown-bagging or going out, of course; it’s just a nice option to have that makes us all feel good and feel like we have one less thing to worry about in a packed business day. The same is true of the gym. Plenty of us have external gym memberships, and now we have an option on-site if we want to squeeze in yoga at lunchtime or half an hour on the elliptical trainer between work and driving our kids to sports practices.
Beyond on-site benefits, we’ve found it important to offer off-sites too, that engage us on a social as well as on a business-level. For example, for our top sales folks, called our “President’s Club,” RingCentral’s leadership recently spent four days on vacation in Hawaii with these folks and their families. We’re all busy people with social and family lives of our own, but, as leaders, taking the time to say “thank you” to the folks who’ve helped the company to grow by leaps and bounds is extremely important. It sends a message to employees that they matter at a personal level. This improves morale, retention, and, ultimately, growth.
Positive corporate culture isn’t just about perks and fun events though; it’s also very much about inclusiveness and results. Considering and treating staff as stakeholders in a company and not just as employees in a hierarchical relationship is extremely important. My company includes staff in a regular meeting cadence through quarterly all-hands meetings in which executives openly discuss quarterly results and plans. These meetings are important to every employee’s sense of being part of a team that is included in major company conversations. As well, every quarter, new employees come together for orientation at our headquarters in Silicon Valley. They meet executive leadership as well as people from each department to get a sense for the full team with whom they work, whether their home base is in the UK, in China, in North Carolina, in one of our other offices, or at home. Employees who don’t work at our headquarters are no less important than those that do, and we want to make sure to send all staff, new and old, a clear message that we’re all on the same team regardless of work location. Our team-building continues quarterly department by department, too, with each team encouraged to plan off-site activities, like the marketing team’s recent cooking tour in San Francisco.
Building and maintaining corporate culture like this isn’t something needed only when companies are in early-stage, high-growth modes. Especially as companies get bigger and bigger, blending different teams – like engineering and marketing, for example – becomes more and more important. The more that different parts of the company understand each other, the better for everyone’s success. RingCentral is now over 18 months post-IPO, has more people, and is more global than ever, and we are focusing on corporate culture in even more exciting ways. We wouldn’t be where we are today without the support and commitment of our outstanding employees. Keeping them, which means keeping them happy, is important. Establishing and growing a company is one thing; keeping it growing and cutting-edge takes a different level of commitment from those who brought it to success in the first place. All leaders who are passionate about positive company culture can and should work hard to pay attention to what we each need in order to bring our best selves to the jobs at hand, from perks and rewards to daily mindfulness of our employees as stakeholders in our company.
What does your company do to build and to improve its corporate culture?