A great culture doesn’t just happen — it’s built through care and intention.
Great company cultures require intentional effort.
Culture is cultivated and groomed, not just at the top, but at every level of an organization. Leaders often place focused attention on their strategic priorities, but they don’t always apply the same intentionality to building company culture.
Ultimately, the culture within an organization comes from two key elements:
1. Mission and Vision
Mission statements convey who you are and why you exist. A good mission clearly communicates your company’s purpose, while also reinforcing your core values.
Take our mission statement at Gong. We “unlock reality to help people and companies reach their full potential.” We truly believe reality (insights rooted in data, not opinions) helps drive success. This sentiment appears externally in our marketing, sure — but also internally in meetings and conversations among the team. Our mission informs who we hire, what products we build, and how we make decisions. Our mission is a central part of our culture.
Another example is Tableau’s mission statement: “We help people see and understand data.” During my time at Tableau, this mission permeated through everything we did and formed the foundation of our culture. Seeing and understanding data is at the core of who Tableau is.
A good vision statement provides a company’s True North. The vision gives a company direction. It provides purpose. The vision is aspirational to everyone involved. This is the essence of the company’s why. A good mission drives the company towards this vision. The mission succinctly communicates what the company does and how to help achieve this purpose. Some companies have both vision and mission statements. At a minimum though, a mission statement is critical.
Imagine a world where everyone is given a map but not told the final destination. How can you corral everyone to head in the same direction if people aren’t aligned on where they are going. If everyone knows the final destination, there may be many different possible routes to get there, but at least everyone will be headed in the same direction. The fun part is debating the best, strategic, and most direct routes to the defined endpoint — towards that vision and mission.
A strong mission provides a unified purpose. This purpose is important for all constituents. Companies connect with employees, customers, partners, investors, and the world at large by telling their unique company story. Their vision and mission help tell this story. They showcase the company’s unique personality. This helps drive the company’s identity. This identity is central to company culture.
2. Core Values
Your company’s core values form the foundation of its culture.
Core values are much more than just words written on a wall — they provide the pulse. They’re the philosophical stakes in the ground.
Core values (some also call them “operating principles”) should reflect who you are, how people behave, and inform how people interact with each other. They should reflect who you are, not who you’d like to be. They should reflect your true identity, not the aspirational qualities you’d like people to have.
When thinking about core values, ask:
- What are the top behavioral attributes of our highest performers?
- When hiring new people, what behavioral attributes do we most desire?
At Gong, “challenging conventional wisdom” is a core operating principle. This value relates to how individuals behave at our company and extends through our communications. People often remark on our creative and unique marketing, and this is possible because our marketers are empowered to be creative, edgy, and to challenge conventional wisdom in a way that emotionally grabs and connects with our customers and community.
Some companies have three or four core values — others have eight or ten. There’s no set rule on how many you should have (although 20 is too many). Once you identify your core values, these too help shape your company’s personality and identity. Your values influence who you hire, how you interact with your customers, how you prioritize, and how you make decisions.
So, why should you invest in a strong company culture?
Because companies that do perform better on just about every level. A great company culture:
- Attracts the right talent. A strong culture is compelling to high-caliber people who desire a workplace where they can drive impact and thrive. It allows companies to attract not only top talent, but the right talent. And when employees feel aligned with the company’s purpose and core values, they better enjoy their environment. This satisfaction shows in their work — not to mention their conversations, Glassdoor ratings, LinkedIn profiles, and more. All of this attracts high performers who have the same beliefs as you do.
- Retains that talent. Most of us spend around 90,000 hours (about a third) of our lives working. If you succeed in crafting a great culture, people will genuinely enjoy coming to work. In fact, research by Deloitte shows a strong correlation between employees who claim to feel happy at work and those who say their company has a strong culture. And when employees feel happy at work, they’ll stay loyal for the long haul.
- Intrinsically motivates people. A strong mission and core values tie everyone to a central and unifying sense of purpose. And in today’s corporate landscape, purpose-based motivation is more urgent than ever. Recent data from Mercer suggests that “thriving employees are three times as likely to work for a company with a strong sense of purpose.”
- Leads to better results: Numbers don’t lie. Companies with strong cultures perform better. Research has shown that companies with strong cultures have seen a 4x increase in revenue growth.
The most successful organizations now and in the future need to approach culture as strategically as they do revenue. Because at the end of the day, your mission, vision, and values aren’t just words. They’re the foundation of your culture, which attracts, retains, and motivates the right people to bring your company to its full potential.