The importance of company culture

Your company culture defines what you do and how you do it. It can be a valuable asset or a deterrent to attracting and retaining talent. Is yours working for you?

Aidan Paterson | 27th Nov 19
company culture - Breathe HR company culture pledge

This article is sponsored by Breathe HR – a comprehensive HR support and cutting-edge, cloud-based HR management system.


I think company culture is about the most important thing that a business leader can spend their time working on.

Jonathan Richards – CEO, Breathe HR


What does company culture mean to you?

Does it conjure up images of open-plan workspace, housed in a repurposed warehouse filled with exposed brick, ping pong tables and bean bags? Team-building hot yoga retreats and complementary pressed kale smoothies? Friday afternoons spent checking emails from the pub?

Simply put, company culture is the way things are done. It’s the feel of your working environment; the way people interact. It’s your leadership style; your values. Your culture builds your potential into your possibilities. It forms your mantras and your mission statements. Your culture defines who your people are, what they do, and how they do it. 

Often seen as a ‘nice-to-have’ frippery, company culture is the invisible thing that all successful organisations share. It’s big business. Breathe HR’s ‘Culture Economy Report’ found that ‘34% of British workers quit their job due to poor company culture, which is costing the UK economy an astounding £23.6 billion a year.’ Companies with happy employees outperform their competition by as much as 20%. Company culture is a vital component in keeping employees engaged, as well as in attracting and keeping the best available talent. 


Asking Why? – Agile Working and Company Culture

Company culture can be boiled down to a simple question – ‘why do we do things this way?’ As charity leaders, we have a responsibility to our people and our supporters to make informed decisions and to try and bring our operations in line with our values. With this in mind, an answer of ‘because we’ve always done things this way’ simply won’t hold up. 

By innovating and making changes to their approach to company culture, organisations can boost engagement, attract and retain talent, and support a more diverse and dynamic workforce. 

One of the ways to make that change is through agile working. Agile working is a term that can be applied to any way of working in which an organisation empowers its people to work wherever, whenever and however they choose. Using tech to allow workers to take greater autonomy in their working life, agile working can be broken down into 4 dimensions:

  • Time: when do people work? 
  • Location: where do people work? 
  • Role: what do people do? 
  • Source: who is employed? 

Agile working can help expand your talent pool far beyond those who can make it into the office during traditional working hours. Whether that means freelancers, remote workers, parents of young children, part-time workers, those with disabilities that restrict their ability to commute into an office daily, or simply those who wish to have more control over their work-life balance. By adopting the principles of agile working, organisations can draw from a far deeper pool of talent. 



For those organisations and people best suited to a traditional office environment, there are still benefits to making the company culture central to the transformation of the workplace itself.

According to research by Mindspace, 21% of 18-24 years olds have turned down a job offer because of the design of the employer’s offices and/or a lack of amenities. Whether it’s as a result of a traditional office design that indicates a corporate culture, or outdated technology that may frustrate digital workers (or even make them feel that their contributions are not a priority within the organisation), ‘80% of young people research a company’s culture before considering a job.’

Smart working can help tailor your operations to the needs of the business – rather than the other way around. By placing more of an emphasis on digital culture within your organisation you can offer your people greater freedom around how, where and when they want to work, all whilst reducing overheads. However, this decision is not one to be taken lightly and should be considered against the needs of the business. There are also other potential issues and challenges, such as remote employee loneliness


Engagement, Productivity and Talent

Imagine you have two employees. One of them turns up to work 15 minutes early each day, is prepared and contributes their ideas for improving day to day operations. The other turns up more or less on time, does what is asked of them and no more, and watches the clock as it works its way towards 5 o’clock. 

Which of the two employees is engaged?

Gallup defines engaged employees as those who are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace. They found that only 32% of US employees meet these criteria.

Company culture is one of the main drivers behind employee engagement. Investing in your people is another way to make sure that they feel recognised and valued. Upskilling employees during work hours with online skills-based courses can be a win-win for both employee and employer. 


Getting Serious About Company Culture

If you make a conscious effort to invest in your people and to continue to put them first, then they will feel like a valued part of your organisation. People who feel acknowledged and valued by their company culture buy into that culture – and contribute to it. They are happier, more invested and more engaged.  The Breathe Culture Pledge was set up to promote the importance of company culture and to give organisations the means to officially commit to their culture. This online pledge asks organisations to reaffirm their commitment to establishing company culture as an operational priority, and offers digital resources to guide you through the process of fore-fronting company culture within your organisation.

This can help organisations of all sizes to boost productivity, increase employee engagement and drive their business forward. 2018 saw over 100 UK businesses putting their people first and signing the Breathe Culture Pledge, with names including Net Natives, Dorset Wildlife Trust and Ramsac.

You can join the pledge to emphasise the importance of company culture within your organisation.