Culture is the New Black

- by Melissa Perry

Do you wear white after Labor Day? Probably. Arbitrary rules don’t stick around. We need things to make sense, especially when it comes to business. Think “Casual Friday”, an idea that began in Hawaii as a way to sell more Hawaiian shirts by making them acceptable work attire. “Aloha Friday” was born and grew, because it made sense - bring a little fun into the office, a bit of yourself, stay productive. 

Over the ocean and through the woods Casual Friday took root as a no-cost perk to employees. Morphing from Friday to everyday, we now have “Business Casual” attire, which is appropriate for most offices and meetings. Outfits once worn only on the weekends are invited into the workplace. Personalized attire is accepted, productivity remains steady, and employees like it.

Some trends revolutionize the way businesses operate. Why? Because they make sense.

The word culture is trending in business. “Company Culture” is a concept that makes sense for the bottom line and intuitively, no one can ignore it. In fact, if you are ignoring it, you may be missing the boat.


With unemployment rates currently below 5.5%, employees have more bargaining power and are looking for more than just a paycheck from their 9 to 5’s. A recent study revealed 95% of candidates believe culture is more important than compensation. (Forbes, Josh Bersin 3/13/15). A recent Glassdoor survey revealed that 76% of job seekers want to hear details on what makes a company an “attractive place to work”, an inquiry that beat out information on both compensation and benefits. To attract top talent and insure retention, leaders need to actively participate in cultivating their company culture.


Culture is the feeling sense you get from an organization. Behaviors, enthusiasm, and the workspace itself make up culture. A company’s culture will reflect its values beyond the strategically displayed posters on the wall or outdated mission statements. Culture demonstrates values by aligning them with behaviors. The behaviors and attitudes are woven down from boardroom agendas into daily operations, and ultimately, experienced by the end-user. Employees understand that there is a correlation between work-life and home-life. Candidates are seeking a positive work experience that aligns with who they are in order to optimize their life experience. When employees are more satisfied with their work, they are more satisfied with their lives, this model is the goal. Another goal of culture is for employees to share their work experience with the world in a positive way. That means chatting enthusiastically about their jobs to their family, friends, and/or on social media. In fact, if your employees are tweeting positively from the office itself, you are winning...big time!


Although the concept of culture may seem broad and vague, it’s important to keep the basic message simple. REI campaigned against Black Friday by paying their employees to #OptOutside and shut down stores on the biggest shopping day of the year. Southwest Airlines has a culture of customer service and fun; they ask candidates to tell a joke during an interview. Nordstrom's rule of thumb is, “Use good judgment”, Zappos, “Wacky”, IBM, “Think”. These are examples of “value statements” which are closely tied to culture. A growing tech firm in New England, HubSpot, gives their staff free books and education along with placing a strong value on transparency by posting their board meeting notes online.

If your company can’t afford free lunches or a paid leave policy, don’t worry. Low-cost ideas add to culture as well. Positive wall art, natural lighting, comfortable seats, views from windows, appealing workstations, social engagement, open communication, emotional safety when challenging the status quo, positive collaboration, responsiveness, are all values that develop a company culture. You certainly don’t have to have a bowling alley and a barista in your office to have culture.

Billionaire businessman, Mark Cuban, invested in the Mavericks basketball team when they were a losing franchise, in fact, they were voted “the worst professional sports franchise of the 90s”. When asked about this as a business challenge, Cuban replied, “The first thing I had to do was change the culture.”

Thanks for reading.

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Written by Melissa Perry, in positive collaboration with PeerThru, LLC.