The devil is in the details: How to build a happy corporate culture

Corporate culture doesn’t just happen. There are a million tiny everyday details that go into making people feel like they’re part of something bigger. Establishing a positive culture requires people who care about people. I’m one of those people.

Corporate culture doesn’t just happen. There are a million tiny everyday details that go into making people feel like they’re part of something bigger. Establishing a positive culture requires people who care about people. I’m one of those people. It’s my job to make sure that every person at Jonar feels like they’re part of the family. Yes, I said family. This may be a workplace but the thing that makes us unique is that we actually feel like family. So, what does it take to make a company feel like a family? Based on my experience here at Jonar, there are three key elements: establishing shared traditions, treating co-workers like friends, and ensuring every single person feels like a person, not a resource or a worker bee.

Jonar has many traditions. Most were established long before I got here. When I started, it was easy to get comfortable with all of the things that Jonar does to foster our culture because everything felt so natural. One of the first traditions that I embraced was how we celebrate birthdays. Most companies that I had worked for in the past didn’t have managers that cared enough to remember the date of their employees’ birthdays. But here birthdays are celebrated, by everyone, all together. When someone’s special day is approaching, it is my job to find out what their favorite birthday treat is. Then, on their big day, we don’t just share it with everyone in the office, but we make sure that everyone joins in as we sing Happy Birthday.

In comparison to my previous experience in other companies, I have never felt so motivated to be a peak performer every day. This motivation comes from the encouragement I get to be innovative with tasks, whether big or small. If you don’t like the way something is done, you‘re encouraged to find a way to make it better. Something that may seem silly but ended up having a big impact was starting a new tradition: a daily joke.

I’m sure this problem isn’t unique to Jonar; our busy team members often eat their breakfast or lunch at their desk and end up leaving dirty dishes behind. This makes things look messy and attracts bugs. We needed a way to make sure that everyone returned their dishes to the kitchen at the end of the day. So every day at 4pm, I started posting a joke in our group chat in exchange for dirty dishes. This tradition is now called “Dishing Jokes For Dishes.” Not only do these jokes get everyone to the dishwasher, they have also become something that people look forward to every day. These end of day jokes have become so popular that I now assign someone else in the office to send them out if I am on vacation or out of the office. People take this job incredibly seriously because everyone loves this daily tradition so much.

When walking into this office, the personal bonds and friendships make you immediately feel at home. One of the places that people feel this most is in our kitchen. The kitchen is where our values really shine through. We spend a lot of free time there getting to know each other over shared lunches, bagels on Tuesday mornings, birthday cakes, and lots and lots of coffee. The kitchen is filled with goodies such as chocolate bars, cookies, ice-cream, and noodle soups. When things run low, I make sure we hightail it to the market and pick up the treats I know everyone likes best. Just imagine coming home every day to discover that someone had thought to pick up your favorite chocolates. We capture that feeling. Small actions reap big rewards. Once I started noticing how happy these little things made me, I wanted to share more with everyone else.

So I set out on another similar task. The mission: to create a take-out ordering system to encourage everyone to eat lunch together on Fridays. Being a foodie, my first priority was to give everyone a selection of delicious options. My second priority was to make ordering lunch quick and easy for our busy and growing team. We now have little order slips that are passed around with three restaurant options that change on a weekly basis. After a few months, I knew what people liked eating, so the options I offer reflect their tastes as much as possible. When the lunch orders arrive, I take an extra step to make sure everyone feels connected. Inspired by my elementary school experience when my mom used to put little notes into my lunchbox to wish me a good day, I put a post-it note on each person’s lunch with their nickname and a friendly message or drawing.

I cannot stress just how human we are as a company: our top value is treating people like people. We often hire based on cultural fit, rather than experience and then encourage growth in many ways. I was one of those inexperienced hires and a year later, I’m as happy as I was on my first day. We treat people like people by ensuring that they feel welcome on their first day and appreciated on their last. Before a new team member starts, the last person hired creates a table tent for them. The table tent is a name display for their desk that is decorated based on what we learned about them during their hiring process. This is to let them know that from day one, they are a part of our work family.

We understand that for some people, their time at Jonar is a stepping stone in their career development. For those people, we make sure that they leave knowing that we care about them and their future success. When our team members open doors to new opportunities, they are often celebrated at a Happy Hour after work and given a goodbye card filled with personal messages.

For a long time, I didn’t really know what my role and responsibilities at Jonar included. In an office environment that encourages learning and personal growth, you get the opportunity to do so many things. Between lunches, beer on Friday afternoons, and a lot of laughing, sometimes it doesn’t even feel like work. To be honest, until recently I had no idea that all these little things that I do were making such a big impact. Without knowing it, I had a huge role in reinforcing our culture. I help create a space where everyone is able to speak freely, move freely, and act freely. This enhanced the meaning of our traditions. It solidified our friendships to the point where we now see each other as family. Being accepted for being you is the best way to feel like a valued person, not just in the workplace but in life too. It’s that simple.

Nurit Aizenstros