Businesses often have regulars—customers that stop in fairly often, spend their money, and stick around longer than the brief moment the simple transaction requires. They might linger for hours, make friends with other regulars, even get to know the employees by name. It’s kind of a special thing when a small business can say its clients aren’t just clients, but that they’re loyal customers that feel like they’re welcome, that they belong.

That same type of camaraderie also can benefit your business on the staffing side of things. Smart human resources managers realize that creating a positive company culture can lead to a whole host of positives—reduced turnover, fewer missed days, boosted morale and higher productivity, just to name a few.

It might seem like culture is something that just happens organically. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Great company culture is made, not born, and it’s based on three basic things: rules, traditions and personalities.


This side of the company culture triangle is the most tangible. This consists of the beliefs, norms, values and attitudes put in place by the company’s leadership since its foundation. Rules are plunked down into the handbook, operations manual, mission statements and other documents. Most companies have rules covering how to behave with other workers and customers, what you should and shouldn’t wear, employee discipline, and a host of other things.

Rules aren’t always written down, though, but they’re still important to follow. Watch what happens when, for example, workers leave dirty dishes in the breakroom sink rather than washing them or taking them back to their desks. Whether they’re written down officially or passed around in a word-of-mouth fashion, rules are important because they set expectations on how staff should act, and what values the company places emphasis on.

Just like your family has traditions like Thanksgiving dinner and other holiday gatherings, companies have their own traditions, giving employees at various levels the chance to get together and build relationships. These traditions consist of ongoing and recurring practices, and systems. Some are ho-hum and mundane—weekly meetings, daily memos, and the like. Others are a little more noteworthy, like annual offsite retreats or performance awards.

An important thing to remember about traditions: they should jibe with your rules, and the values reflected in them. For example, if your company has a clear, strict anti-harassment policy (which falls under “rules”) but is all willy-nilly about reporting and disciplining (tradition), human resources managers likely will have to tackle chaos and distrust among workers.

This last one is a little harder to pin down, because instead of on recorded rules and established traditions, it’s based on the people. Even with low turnover, the faces you see around the office change from day to day, and the perspectives, attitudes and behaviors they bring change along with them. Human resources can help this aspect of company culture along in their hiring process, by hiring people with positive personalities. For example, selecting happy, supportive workers with a can-do attitude will help, while settling on Negative Ned and Debbie Downer types might leave you with with significant obstacles in this area.

Developing culture

While bringing the above three factors of company culture together, keep in mind that your culture should fit the field you’re working in. Imagine what might happen if you tried to place the same culture template on a content marketing agency staffed largely by millennials, as you did on the Gen X and Boomer-dominated staff of financial advisors. If you’re clear in communicating the rules, consistent with traditions and check in to see how satisfied and comfortable your people are with the culture, you should be in good shape. Contact us if you have questions or need help heading in the right direction.