Company Culture: More Important than Ever

A FrogDog game day. This was someone's frog in Pictionary. (Yes, really. And as a FrogDog employee, too.) Fall 2011.

Over the last few months, I’ve interviewed dozens of people for open positions at FrogDog.

I see a definite trend.

At least 99 percent of the people with whom I’ve spoken who currently work—and even some of the independent contractors—want to find a better company culture:

  • One person’s current workplace has a “good ol’ boy” vibe: A great deal of business didn’t get done on merit but over drinks and handshakes.
  • Another candidate liked her current work and role, but her boss stifled suggestions, took credit for others’ ideas, and assumed all the choice projects.
  • An applicant liked the flexibility of working remotely, but he didn’t get enough creative collaboration or gain as much as he wanted from experienced coworkers.
  • A freelancer missed having a team to collaboratively complete larger projects.
  • A strategist had hoped her firm’s projects would prove group efforts; instead, everyone works solo and her questions and attempts at collaborations seem like impositions.
  • A candidate loves working hard—but feels the time and stress prove worthwhile only in concert with a fun, interconnected team.

I could go on.

These interviews have changed my perspective on my managers, the staff I could promote into management roles, and the way I’ll hire additional management-level employees. Clearly, I need to focus less on their technical skills in a given departmental area and more on management ability:

  • Can they build productive, harmonious teams?
  • How do they encourage, promote, mentor, and build the skills of their direct reports?
  • What do they cite as their management principles and tenets?
  • How would they characterize their management styles?

And as much as I’ve thought about it in the past—because I have always wanted happy coworkers—these interviews have made me think a great deal more than I have before about the cultures I help to create and how I can improve them to make my workplaces the best possible places for amazing people to contribute.

Clearly, great employees consider company culture one of the biggest reasons to stay and work hard—and one of the biggest reasons to leave.

What do you think makes for the best company culture? How would you foster it?