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Creating and Sustaining Talent for Culture

Culture doesn’t just happen – or at least it shouldn’t. The best cultures are strategically created to reflect the type of employees organizations desire and the engagement elicited by that strategic culture has an undeniable effect on how well a company performs. In fact, companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 202%!

It then becomes a cycle of hiring employees to fit the culture and maintaining a culture employees will want to work in. So how do you develop and sustain a company culture that reflects your organization? It all begins with an understanding of who the company is and what it represents – deeply appreciating what the company stands for so you can find like-minded candidates and continuously impart that mentality onto your current team.  

For me, all this meant was if I wanted something to exist within my company, I had to intentionally create it. No easy task when you’re also the functional manager for seven departments, the decorator, dish washer, coffee maker (sometimes) and the hiring manager and recruiter. Oh and also the designer, writer, developer and lead salesperson for Red Branch Media itself. Whew! Where does culture fall on THAT to-do list?

While it seems like something that should have (and did for a while) take a backseat, I soon realized that a culture left to itself quickly becomes a toxic culture. It’s quite the common entrepreneur tale that we leave to create the kind of place we want to work. Why wasn’t I giving my employees the chances I never got? Why was using the same traditional methods to manage people that had made me cringe when I was on the bottom rung?

The answer is that it’s scary to create new culture. As a business owner, or manager, you might feel that employees are going to take advantage of you (some will) or that all play means no work gets done and deliverables are missed (this may happen) or performance reviews are a waste of time and you can’t do EVERYTHING! Here’s how I got OH SO OVER that mindset and created a culture that works (and how everyone here works hard to maintain that same awesome culture). Read on readers…


Did you know companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 202%? Click To Tweet


Building a Culture Unique to Your Organization

As a leader, you set the tone and the structure that drives the voice of company culture. The leadership you put in place, whether that’s just you in your small organization or the individuals you’ve put in charge of your team, need to embody organizational values. That belief in the values will trickle down the company ladder to those on the front line. Why does your company embrace certain values? As Anthony K. Tjan, CEO and Managing Partner at Cue Ball Group, LLC, says, principles and ethics need to be clear and genuine.


“The common theme… is that you need to begin by understanding your ‘why’ – from the inside out. This is about mission, not marketing. What calling does your business serve? This should feel authentic, inspirational, and aspirational. The companies with strong purpose are the ones we tend to love best because they feel different…”


The calling to build a culture that’s “different,” as Tjan describes, isn’t unique. In The 2013 Culture and Change Management Survey, 84% of respondents believe culture is critical to business success and another 60% of participants think culture is more important than strategy or the operating model. What does this tell you? As intuitive, original and thorough as your business plan is, it’s likely to be unsuccessful without a strategically authentic company culture in place first.


As a leader, you set the tone and the structure that drives the voice of company culture. Click To Tweet

How We Did it!

Well….I started by hiring family and friends. And while in many MANY cases, this is a terrible idea, in this sense it wasn’t. I knew exactly what I needed for those first crucial roles and was able to be really honest with my team members about what would and would not work.

Everyone knew then…and knows now what it means to be a Brancher. But because it took ME awhile to figure it out, having people who could handle me professionally, while still pushing back personally helped shape that culture. Our why is:

Everybody, unless they are a trust fund baby, works. The clients of Red Branch Media help make work better, whether through a benefits consultancy or an applicant tracking system; a sourcing engine or an outplacement provider, we create solutions that help pretty much everyone we know, because everybody works. WE HELP PEOPLE.

We are not funded in any way. Payments from our clients pay our rent, payroll and for every piece of equipment we own. I make payroll for my company before I buy groceries for my home. I will never let my employees or my family down when it comes to providing for them, but they must work. You get paid every day, you work every day, whether you feel like it or not. WE WORK HARD.

Work is not everything. In fact, a work-life balance is one of the top five factors job seekers consider when deciding whether or not to accept a job offer. Every Brancher has a life outside of the office, including me. I’m a mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a friend, an HOA officer, a book reader, a singer and a dancer. We have a drummer, and a dancer, a competitive weightlifter and a charity worker, a gamer and a radio personality. All the Branchers have relationships that are important to them and dreams they have yet to fulfill. Weekends and evenings are for that side of each person. WE KNOW WHEN IT’S TIME TO STOP WORKING.


A work-life balance is one of the top five factors job seekers consider when deciding to accept an offer. Click To Tweet


Like yin and yang, you must create balance. Without ‘play hard’, there is no ‘work hard’ and Red Branch has perfected the art of both. Here are some initiatives that we implemented:

  • Reflect and Unwind together, as a team. From week one, I made time for Eatin’ Meetin’, a Red Branch tradition. It has morphed with the years and hires, but the goal has remained the same: let’s take an hour to celebrate another week done. In the beginning, our meetings surrounded wine, cheese and venting. Now, it’s wine, cheese, venting and “Proud Ofs,” where each team member must say one thing they are proud of themselves for and one accomplishment they noticed in a co-worker. CEO to intern, everyone has a platform to brag from and we all learn the value we bring to the company.
  • Get behind a cause. In October, we learned of UberKITTENS. For a small fee that benefited the local Humane Society, Uber would deliver my team 3 adorable and adoptable kittens for 15 minutes of playtime. Those 15 minutes lead to around 15 employees amped about our company, the work we do and the fact we helped a great cause. One study found that 79% of people prefer to work with a socially responsible company. Participation also established a relationship with Omaha’s Uber, so now we get to hear about all their opportunities. In November, we took part in the Uber Thanksgiving Food Drive as well.
  • Get fancy together. It’s not a culture all companies can or should support, but our team likes to spend time together outside of the office. Sometimes we like to mesh our weekend plans together for a dinner outing or karaoke night or a fancy, in office holiday party. The time allows for us to get to know each other outside of the fast-paced environment that is our business. We meet family and friends and sometimes even play trivia.

Hiring Employees that Fit the Company Culture

Browsing through articles from industry thought leaders, you’re bound to see a few on how to find the ever-elusive Purple Squirrel. They’ll suggest the latest and greatest big data aggregator or sourcing tool, and while these are the cream of the crop as far as recruiting applications go, finding the ideal employee is more than that. You have to assess the company culture and ask yourself two questions…


Who do I want to work for me?


Why should the best candidates work for me and my company?


Honestly, your ideal employee will have many faces – and by that I mean, they’ll have different personality types (and necessarily so). Exemplary employees are, on a very basic level, going to be connected to the company values and believe in the mission statement. Sara Pollock, Director of Marketing at ClearCompany, explains the different types of personality that frequent the “great employee” title.


How We Did it!

If I said I’ve hired a perfect culturally fit candidate every single time, would you believe me? You shouldn’t. Matter of fact, it takes a few unfit hires to really know what your ideal candidate should embody. The good and bad hires have painted an ideal candidate picture, and while hiring for diversity in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, education, etc. is always at top of mind, these profiles are based off of psychometrics rather than demographics. We use a psychometric assessment tool called Vitru to compare candidates with our existing team. Vitru allows me to see candidates’ personality traits on a scale and their work values to show how they’ll align with my current workforce.

While an assessment helps narrow the pool, there are some qualities you need in a person that you can’t measure. I know I need someone who will care about excellent work, no matter what they are working on. I know the Branch needs someone who builds on previous successes rather than sits on his or her laurels. I know we need employees that see what marketing truly is and work towards that continuously. From our job ads to phone screens, in-person interviews to our famous pre-hire projects, we try to convey these values to the person.


Managing a Team Within the Culture You’ve Defined

Creating the culture and hiring employees to work therein aren’t the only steps in culture management… performance management within that company culture to keep your Busy Bees, Work-Life Balance Buds and Collaborators on track. But here’s the catch – employees don’t particularly like performance reviews. This is often because the reviews don’t fit into the company culture whether it’s the way the appraisals are conducted, or the way they are communicated. Chris Arringdale, CEO of Reviewsnap, says a performance appraisal is an opportunity to praise, evaluate, critique and improve. They are avenues for conversations about:


company culture
  • Promotion or wage increases
  • Company goals and the employee’s input towards those goals
  • What’s working (and not working) for employees
  • Praise for a job well done
  • Areas where an employee might need extra training or support
  • How the team member fits into the culture


This isn’t to say managers shouldn’t give feedback on the spot and on a regular basis, but regular and formal feedback is necessary to track employee performance. Although 61% of employees prefer immediate feedback, this doesn’t discount the need for formal review. A mixture of both fits most cultures. But again, it’s your culture, and up to you to decide.


How We Did it!

Problematic cultural issues fester without continuous feedback. While I schedule formal performance reviews every 2 months, real-time performance conversations happen weekly. In a growing company, or any company for that matter, you can’t sit around and wait to nip bad behavior in the bud. Don’t get me wrong, not every conversation about performance has to do with behavior.

Most of the time this feedback is given to ensure my pioneering direction is being navigated efficiently. No matter if your workforce is young and inexperienced or mature and bull-headed, you HAVE to stay on top of every moving part. Some conversations need to be conducted immediately, and it’s the continuous, open-door feedback process I use that keeps my culture afloat. That’s why tools like iRevü, a cloud-based, real-time micro feedback solution, have become so important in the development and cultivation of the workforce and an integral aspect of keeping a stable company culture.

Feedback is often a problem in managerial situations because NO ONE LIKES CONFRONTATION. In fact, according to a recent study, 35% of managers would rather parachute jump than confront a problem with a colleague. I don’t like it either but the only thing I hate worse is letting a minor performance problem fester because I am too weak of a leader to bring it up. Most of the time, the thing I’m freaking out about in my head, when put into non-emotional language and delivered to the person I need to correct, ends up being no big deal and it ALWAYS creates better results. 86% of employees cite a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication as the reason for workplace failures so don’t be afraid to confront them, they want you to! The art of confrontation is one that every leader and hopeful culture builder should cultivate.


35% of managers would rather parachute jump than confront a problem with a colleague. Click To Tweet


Your business stems from your brain, but culture comes from the heart. To be a great leader of business one must be resilient, innovative, risk-taking, strategic, resourceful, the list goes on. But to be a great leader of culture, one must be a great person. A person whom others want to embody. A person who inspires and motivates. A person that has the respect of their workforce. These characteristics are inside all walks of personality, but it’s up to the leader to be introspective, emotionally intelligent and self-aware to better understand the unique beings who ideally make your perfect culture. And once those people start to embody your culture it becomes a living, breathing thing. Like your employees and you as a leader, it will grow and change. Like any living, breathing thing, there will be yucky parts of your culture, so prepare yourself for that. But when crafted carefully and put in the hands of everyone within the company, it can grow into something that doesn’t need to be solely shepherded by you. It can be something the entire company is proud to convey.