Richard Branson: How To Create Fantastic Company Culture

Richard Branson’s article on company culture according to LinkedIn.

When recently looking at images of the impressive new Facebook offices designed by Frank Gehry, I was struck by the accompanying comments of Mark Zuckerberg. “Our goal was to create the perfect engineering space for our teams to work together. We want our space to feel like a work in progress. When you enter our buildings, we want you to feel how much left there is to be done in our mission to connect the world.”

That statement, along with its realisation in physical form, is fitting with the vision of the company. It wouldn’t necessarily work for other organisations, but you’re left in no doubt as to the thinking behind the design. Many other businesses would do well to follow this example of creating workspaces to complement and enhance their brand’s ethos. The same goes for embedding a strong company culture.

What works for one company culture may be unsuitable for another. The key is working out what’s best for the team and creating something unique in order to be able to deliver even better performance.

Embedding a company culture that’s unique to your business is something I’ll enjoy raising with Sheryl Sandberg during next week’s live Virgin Disruptors debate. Much like Virgin, Facebook have been making headlines as a result of some rather different employee wellness policies.

Although many would argue that what Tony Hsiesh and Zappos are building in downtown Las Vegas is even more adventurous than free fertility treatment and unlimited annual leave. “We want Zappos to function more like a city and less like a top-down bureaucratic organization,” explains Tony. “Look at companies that existed 50 years ago in the Fortune 500 – most don’t exist today. Companies tend to die and cities don’t.”

This is another genuinely unique take on the idea of company culture. There has never been a one-size-fits-all solution to making sure your staff are happy and healthy, but that doesn’t stop people trying to apply tired and ineffective motivational tactics or perks. Offering something that will set you apart from the competition can be your greatest asset, especially for new companies trying to break into competitive markets.

I saw a great example of this in action at our new Virgin Hotels Chicago this week. We have one hotel so far, but we’ve managed to embed a company culture from the start which has enabled us to attract a fantastic team to run it. The hotel industry doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to how staff are treated, so by innovating in this area we have been able to make the next Virgin Hotels a place where everyone would want to work.

Fun and healthy activities such as yoga and a company softball league have proven popular, but they only work alongside more meaningful offerings. You can’t open a business in the most culturally diverse city in America and not see that fact reflected in either your workforce or policies. Our partnership with Voxy – the English language learning platform – means that those staff who don’t have English as their first language can improve their abilities. All these things not only benefit the individuals in their private lives, they boost the company’s performance as well.

There’s no right or wrong way to go about creating a company culture, as long as you keep the staff that it’s designed for in mind every step of the way. What do you think helps to create fantastic company culture, and improve workplace wellbeing?

Written by Richard Branson of Virgin Group

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