Company culture is a hot topic for nearly every business. Everyone wants to create a productive, collaborative and inviting work environment where all employees follow shared values and work toward a common goal.
However, it's important to remember that culture is not necessarily a top-down creation. Instead, a successful culture is developed and maintained by the workers who live it every single day.
We asked a group of entrepreneurs to share how they encourage their teams to participate in building the company culture. Here are their top recommendations.
Get employee input on the hiring process.
While a hiring manager should always have final say over who joins the team, it could help to allow employees of all levels to participate in the hiring process. Ismael Wrixen, CEO of FE International, recommends letting some of a candidate's future teammates sit in on an interview, as this can help you find people who will fit in well with your other employees.
"Our company has a real familial feel, and team members often socialize outside of work," Wrixen explains. "Considering how people will mesh with the team once they are hired has always been an important consideration."
Create a space and environment that allows for breaks.
Company culture-building can sometimes feel forced, says Jessica Gonzalez, CEO of InCharged. To make it more organic and natural, Gonzalez believes the best thing to do is to create the space and environment for it.
"Some companies get a pingpong table, some get a keg of beer," she says. "It doesn't really matter the details, but you have to give your employees permission to take breaks and blow off some steam with their co-workers. That's where culture and connection will be built."
Encourage them to educate each other on internal standards.
New team members will likely have questions about why your company is run a certain way or why certain standards exist. In these scenarios, more tenured team members should be comfortable and confident in relaying the underlying reasons, says Firas Kittaneh, co-founder and CEO of Amerisleep.
"This empowers everyone to take responsibility for maintaining brand standards," he adds. "When team members reinforce company values among themselves, then you're able to solidify brand beliefs among all employees."
Let them plan company outings.
Leila Lewis, founder and CEO of Be Inspired PR, says a strong team ethic is vital to her business. One way she achieves that is through company outings and experiences that have been suggested by her team members.
"This allows my team to define their relationships on their own terms, outside of the office," Lewis says. "Some of our most memorable and successful outings have been ideas that came from my employees. Now I try to put together quarterly surveys where my team can submit ideas."
If you want your employees to build a great culture of their own, don't intrude on the process, says Solomon Thimothy, president of OneIMS. While he oversees all processes on his team (including culture-building), he only gets involved when his staff needs him, rather than constantly micromanaging.
"Connect people with each other, define your expectations, set the deliverables and leave them alone," Thimothy says. "People don't need to be managed -- they are fully capable of organizing their workflow better than you'll ever do."
Plan activities that reflect your shared values.
According to Beth Doane, managing partner of Main & Rose, your internal brand should reflect your external one. She recommends bringing your team together around a shared set of values and then doing activities to cement and reinforce that brand.
"As a social good-focused firm, we love doing activities that give back -- hiking, volunteering, cleaning up the environment," Doane adds. "It's fun and it gets the whole team involved in our mission."
Ask for their ideas and suggestions.
If you really want your employees to help build the company culture, all you have to do is ask them for their input. Chris Christoff, co-founder of MonsterInsights, says he is open to suggestions from team members on how to execute more efficiently or perform better.
"Opening the invitation to new ideas fosters a positive company culture because it shows employees their voices are heard and their opinions matter, because they do," Christoff says. "It creates a relaxed, trustworthy environment where everyone respects what each other has to say."