Experience is everything. It doesn’t matter if you’re shopping at the grocery store, going to a rock concert, eating at a restaurant, or working as an employee. We all want to have a great experience regardless of what we’re doing. So how can a company deliver great employee experiences? Well, we believe that it starts with your culture.
Building company culture through employee experiences
Company culture is so much more than the core values hanging on the wall or the swag worn by employees. Yes, those things contribute to the culture, but they do not encompass it. Company culture is built through experience. You cannot simply convince an employee that you have a great culture by telling them about it. Actions speak far louder than words. The experience you create is what will sell an employee on the culture.
So what are the key actions that are necessary to create the experiences your employees crave? Start by giving employees intellectually stimulating work. Surround them with high-quality people. Excite them with activities and events. Show them you care about their happiness and wellbeing by providing perks, benefits, and rewards. When woven together, these elements combine to create memorable employee experiences that only reinforce the culture you’re trying to build.
Because these actions lead to impressive results, many companies are spending more time on culture and employee experience. This is becoming a key selling point when recruiting new employees. As companies become more generous and get more creative with their culture, the expectations of employees will continue to rise. Businesses that cannot deliver a great experience will not be able to compete for employees or customers in the future.
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Building a great culture at your company
The good news is that just because one company offers something, doesn’t mean your company has to do the exact same thing. Your company, your culture, and your employees are different. Treat them that way. Try and build something unique, something that is important to you, and something that strengthens your brand.
Below, we’ve compiled some highlights of the way five companies go about creating a unique culture and employee experience. You’ll notice that each of these companies does different things, but more importantly, they do things that matter to them.
As you think about building culture and creating better employee experiences in your company, you shouldn’t feel any pressure to copy or mimic the perks, benefits, or activities you read about in this article. Rather, use them as inspiration to come up with something that fits your business.
How Patagonia builds culture through employee experience
You might know them for their warm jackets, premium outdoor gear, and their firm commitment to quality, but Patagonia’s company culture might be even more impressive than the products they sell.
Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard is not what you’d call a “classic” businessman. From the beginning, Chouinard set out to build a company that embodied a lot of who he was–an outdoorsman, an environmentalist, and a surfer. He also did not build the company to focus solely on profits. Since 1986, the company has been donating a portion of its revenues to environmental projects. And though Chouinard is now 82 years old, the company still exhibits many of the qualities and characteristics he instilled in it at its founding in the 1970s.
Here are a few highlights that demonstrate Patagonia’s commitment to building company culture through great employee experiences:
- When Patagonia conducts a job interview, they don’t do it in the traditional sense. While the vast majority of recruiters start at the top of the resume and work down, Patagonia hiring managers are trained to start at the bottom of the resume and work up. They find that the bottom section, often where candidates list off their interests, activities, passions, and hobbies, is the most valuable. They look for candidates who will add to their company culture by embracing outdoor activities.
- Founder Yvon Chouinard penned a book in 2005 titled “Let My People Go Surfing.” Since then, Patagonia has been famous for its “Let My People Surf” policy. The company headquarters are located in Ventura California, just a few blocks from the beach. When the waves are rising, company employees are able to grab their boards and head to the beach to ride a few swells. Does this interrupt the workday? Yes. Does it make employees really happy, instill an unwavering sense of loyalty, and amplify the employee experience? You bet. For Patagonia, this is absolutely worth the interruption.
- Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to take a long weekend every now and again? Well, at Patagonia, they build this right into their work schedule. Patagonia employees can work what they call a 9/80. That means working 9 hours Monday through Thursday, and 8 hours on alternating Fridays. The Friday you don’t work is yours to take off and do whatever you’d like. This gives employees built-in 3-day weekends every other week.
- It’s no secret that child-care keeps many women out of the workforce. This is a problem that Patagonia wanted to solve, and they started thinking about it all the way back in the 1980s when they built their first on-site child care center. Today, Patagonia has multiple child care centers as they continue to be committed to the idea that having children should not keep you from doing great work or pursuing a career.
How Basecamp builds culture through employee experience
Basecamp, a software company that builds tools for businesses to manage their work, has one of the most renowned company cultures in the tech community. Often branded as the anti-silicon valley company, Basecamp walks to the beat of its own drum. They were a remote work company before COVID hit, and even wrote the book on how to operate remotely.
Basecamp is also known for being very open and even vocal about their company policies and procedures. They’ve written other books on how to operate a business in a “calm” way. They also publish their employee handbook for all to read.
Here are a few highlights from what makes Basecamp a great place to work:
- Don’t you miss the days of being in elementary school and hearing the words, “School’s out for the summer”? Well, at Basecamp, they don’t exactly shut everything down, but they do have something that they call “Summer Hours.” From May 1 to Aug 31, employees at Basecamp are only expected to work 32 hours a week so that they can enjoy more summertime with their families.
- As we mentioned in the company introduction, Basecamp has been a remote company for quite some time. While many businesses were forced to adopt remote work due to COVID-19, Basecamp had already written the book on how to operate effectively in a remote setting. If you’re an employee at Basecamp, you can work from anywhere and work at any time. You’re not tied to the typically 9-5 schedule, and you’re definitely not tied to an office.
- Can you think of a better way to reward employee loyalty than by giving them an extended vacation? Basecamp recognizes that a great way to celebrate an employment milestone is by taking some much deserved time away from work. What does this look like in practice? Well, Basecamp offers employees a 30-day sabbatical every three years.
- While many companies reward employees with end-of-year bonuses, Basecamp does things a little differently. Basecamp wants to directly include employees in the financial success of the company. They do this through employee profit-sharing. Basecamp sets aside 10% of the company profits annually to be split among employees. Longer tenured employees are able to take a larger share of the designated profits.
- Basecamp believes that you need to take care of employees at work and away from work. That’s why they have set up various “allowances” that employees can take advantage of on a monthly or yearly basis. For example, employees get a monthly fitness allowance of $100 to be spent on a gym membership or other related activities. They also receive a $100 wellness allowance (to be spent on self-care items or experiences) and a $1,000 yearly educational allowance to continue the pursuit of lifelong learning.
Learn about 38 amazing ways to reward your employees for great performance.
How Hubspot builds culture through employee experience
Hubspot is a publicly-traded software company that builds sales and marketing tools for businesses of all sizes. Founded in 2006, they’ve always been very conscious about building their company the right way. At Hubspot, “the right way” means putting the needs of their customers and their employees above everything else. This is why they were voted as The Best Place to Work by Glassdoor in 2020.
Here are some of the ways that Hubspot is building culture through excellent employee experience:
- There’s often frustration at companies because only a handful of “insiders” really ever know what’s going on. Not only can this limit decision-making because of lack of data, but it can also be a sore spot for people who aren’t in the loop. Hubspot does not have this problem. Transparency is a core value, and they stick to their guns. Whether it’s next year’s financial forecast, the company balance sheet, or notes and slide decks from an executive meeting, it’s all available for employees to see. This commitment to transparency is especially rare for a publicly-traded firm.
- Usually, as companies grow larger, they implement more policies, more procedures, and ultimately become more strict about everything. Not at Hubspot. Instead, they pride themselves on using a 3-word policy for just about everything: “Use good judgment.” At Hubspot, this means that employees should do whatever’s in the best interest of the company and their customers. This 3-word policy is applied broadly, from their social media policy, to their dress code, to their sick day policy, and more.
- Hubspot has built a results-first culture. What this means in practice is that they’re not really concerned about the number of hours you work, where you work, or how many vacation days you take. What matters at Hubspot are the results. This policy gives high performing employees an incredible level of autonomy. Instead of having to worry about office politics, they can just get their work done and go home.
- A great way to continue learning is by reading books. Hubspot wants to get employees reading as often as possible, so they started a free books program. It works in a very simple way: request a book and it will be delivered to you. There’s no expense sheet to fill out, and no questions asked. All employees need to do is make a request and they’ll get the book they want. It’s just one way that Hubspot emphasizes their value of lifelong learning.
How Zappos builds culture through employee experience
Zappos was founded by Tony Hsieh, who tragically died in 2020. Hsieh (pronounced “shay”) was known for his obsession with company culture and employee happiness. He even wrote a book entitled, Delivering Happiness. One of the great company builders of our time, Hsieh did everything he could to create a workplace that both his employees and customers loved and admired. Zappos has consistently been recognized and awarded for being a great place to work, and that’s expected to continue, even after Hsieh’s passing.
So what makes Zappos so special? Here are a few ways Zappos has built an incredible culture:
- At Zappos, it all begins with a mindset. While Zappos is best known for selling shoes online, their founder never thought of his company that way. We love this quote from Tony Hsieh that says, “Zappos is a customer service company that just happens to sell shoes.” When your first priority is customer service and not your own product, you tend to do things differently. This is why Zappos famously has customer support agents that will just about do anything for their customers. There are stories of flowers being delivered to a customer whose mom passed away to stories about talking for more than 10 hours to a customer on the phone. Zappos employees go above and beyond for the customer because they belong to a culture with a customer-focused mindset.
- As Hsieh was building Zappos, he obsessed over the idea that the employees working at Zappos really needed to want to be there. He did not want employees who were just showing up for a paycheck. So, in a radical (yet awesome) gesture, Zappos decided to offer new employees loads of cash in order to quit. Yep, you read that right. They’ll pay new employees up to $5,000 dollars to quit their job.
- Fitness and living a healthy lifestyle plays an important role in employee happiness. Zappos understands this and decided to build a large fitness center at their office. Not only do employees have access to world-class machines, free weights, and other equipment, but Zappos offers daily fitness classes with on-site instructors who lead various workouts.
- It would take far too long to chronicle and comment on all the events that Zappos participates in every year. The company encourages employees to take part in dozens and dozens of incredible company activities where they have fun, give back, perform, and inspire. And all of it is captured in their yearly “culture book” that serves as both an introduction to their outstanding culture and as a yearbook-style memory for all the fun and good they accomplished.
How EddyHR builds culture through employee experience
Of course, it would be hypocritical of us to talk about the importance of building culture through employee experience if we weren’t doing it ourselves. At EddyHR, we work extremely hard to build a culture that employees love. After all, you can’t reasonably be a voice and an advocate for human resources if you don’t put your own people first. And while we’re a young startup company, and don’t have the financial resources as the other companies on this list, we’ve found some exciting ways to enhance our employee experience.
Check out some of the ways we’re building our culture and what we’re doing to prioritize our employees’ experience:
- Based on our prior experiences, we knew that lunchtime can be a headache for employees. When the clock strikes noon, employees have to figure out what to eat, where to eat, and who to eat with. This often led to employees eating unhealthy meals, wasting time waiting in long lines to get their food, and employees feeling left out when they didn’t get invited to go with the group. To avoid all this, we decided to serve lunch in our offices every day. And rather than have lunch catered from local restaurants, we decided to hire a chef! This is quite possibly the best decision we ever made. Our chef Mindy makes us healthy, delicious meals every single day. She’s also the kindest, warmest, most incredible person around and puts a smile on all our faces. We wouldn’t be where we are today without daily lunches at Mindy’s Cafe.
- We believe that rewarding employees for their hard work is an important part of the employee experience. After all, who doesn’t like to be recognized when they accomplish something great? At EddyHR, we have come up with our own unique system to distribute these awards. Every month, employees can earn what we call Maverick Points. These points are earned based on the work done during the month. When an employee earns enough points, they can be redeemed for swag, sneakers, electronics, experiences, and many more items at our Mavericks Store.
- Like a few of the other companies on this list, we believe in being lifelong learners. Books play a critical role in our ability to learn and grow, so we started a Company Book Club. At the beginning of each month, a team member will choose a new book. Through a company Audible account, all of us can access the book and read along together. Maverick points are awarded to those who participate and finish the book. It’s a fun experience and helps us learn as a group.
- Eddy employees like to get together outside of work, so we created something that we refer to as an “Eddy Hang.” These hangs happen quarterly and are an excuse for us to get together and do something really fun outside of the office. In the past, we’ve rented out movie theaters, water parks, skating rinks, and more! These quarterly events not only connect us closer to our co-workers, but they help us get to know each other’s families (spouses, kids, and relatives are always welcome to join for these activities).
- Finally, if there’s one thing EddyHR really knows how to do well (outside of building HR software of course) it’s throwing a party. It doesn’t matter what holiday it is, you can count on us to celebrate it, and celebrate it in a big way! Whether it’s Valentine’s Day, St. Patty’s Day, Independence Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmas, we are going all out! We also do EddyHR Spirit Weeks throughout the year, where employees participate in dress-up day contests, compete in events, and win prizes.
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Remember, when it comes to building culture through great employee experience, you don’t need to mimic everything your competitors are doing. Find something that works for you. No two companies are exactly alike and no two cultures will be the same. The most important thing is to start doing something. If you don’t have great ideas, steal some of the ones we shared from the companies we highlighted. If none of those seem feasible for your company, meet together with your employees and come up with something that is.
We all crave great experiences. We all want to work for companies that put an emphasis on culture and who value their employees. Start building your culture today by creating a great employee experience!