What Does a Thriving Company Culture Look Like?

SAFE Institute recently held a panel conversation on 'Building a Thriving Company Culture'. Moderated by our own Demand Generation Manager, Katie Russell, the panel included some impressive HR trailblazers, including Angela Shaw, President of Austin HR Management Association, David Hughen, Founder and CEO of AustinWorkNet, Jolynn Perez Cunningham, Director of People Operations at Praetorian, and Bobbi Brant, Director of Human Resources for Planet Fitness.

These brilliant minds had incredible insights into how to create a company culture that sustains and motivates their people. Watch the video below or read our summary below!


Top tips from HR Trailblazers on cultivating inclusivity and respect 

Begin at the beginning

In the very early stages of your company, create a tone for culture that includes diversity, inclusivity and community. This must start with intention and action from the very beginning. When companies are first forming, leaders often feel desperate – for people, for funds, etc. And there is a concern that working on culture can be a bummer. BUT, once you have started making concessions, once you have built something and it begins to grow, it is much harder to go back and try to fix the culture errors you made at the start.

Start at the top

Leadership must create a strong culture of respect and inclusivity by building that into the policies and procedures of the company from the start. And once that strong healthy culture is defined and decided, it is imperative to show that leadership is on board. Leaders must not just talk the talk, but also walk the walk. A great thing to show the rest of your organization that leadership is dedicated to these values is through investing in trainings for both leadership and employees. Not until leaders are fully on board with this culture shift, can these ideas get pushed down to the line staff.

But don't forget the middle, entry level, and hallway

While it is really important that messages of respect and inclusivity come from top leadership, every individual in your organization has to live and breathe this culture. Creating a thriving culture can start at leadership, but it can also start with middle managers or entry level staff and then bubble up to management. It is imperative to look for the hallway influencers, those that are strong peer leaders and have a big impact on their colleagues. Again, training for employees on how to stop behaviors quickly and how to build healthy cultures can be a strong step towards showing the organization that this important.

Consistency and accountability are key

A company needs to define its vision, mission and values- and then hire for those values. Companies will make mistakes, because humans make mistakes. But it is imperative to consistently encourage thriving cultures and then consistently hold employees accountable when they do not adhere to those values. This accountability is imperative no matter the medium. Many companies utilize mediums and tools that allow for immediate community and communications, but are a bit more informal, such as Slack, Mattermost, or Zulip. These informal communications structures are great for remote teams or quick communications but can also create bad behaviors. It's important that employers commit to  addressing problematic behaviors no matter the medium. If bullying, harassment, or inappropriate behavior is permitted to exist, the problem persists. Empower your employees and ensure they are comfortable speaking up when they see problematic behaviors.  

Avoid a checklist

Creating a thriving workplace culture is not about a checklist. It is about taking a hard look at your company culture and having difficult conversations with your leadership team and staff. It is about creating concrete policies and a corporate atmosphere that allow people to be safe, respected and included in your corporate culture.

Seek regular feedback

Companies sometimes forget to seek feedback, but need to do that in an unfiltered way. Hearing from staff, clients, customers, leadership and community stakeholders is key to creating a thriving workplace. There are so many tools available now that will enable your HR team to gather anonymous data that your team can take action on, such as Workify, TinyPulse, or Culture Amp.

I think that Angela Shaw had the best quote to close out the event: “Each of you has power inside you and it is dormant until you activate it and use it for good.” So go activate that power to create a positive and healthy work culture in your organization!



Interested in taking the next step in creating a respectful work environment? Reach out to talk with us today about our sexual harassment program. 

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Katie Russell

Katie Russell

Katie is an innovative problem solver and Demand Generation Manager at SAFE Institute. Whether its campaign management, digital content strategy, or copywriting, she’s quick to find the right marketing mix. Her social and communication skills have lead her to love working directly with clients, media, and entrepreneurs. In her spare time she enjoys volleyball, guitar, hiking, and exploring new restaurants in Austin!