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We live in the age of the individual. In the corporate world, more and more executives are choosing to recreate their companies as places where ideas are exchanged freely and hard work is rewarded. I’ve already talked about ways to promote employee engagement; but how do you know your office has a strong culture? I’d like to examine some of the signs that a company’s culture is thriving.

Resonant Values

Though a company’s values and mission are sometimes overlooked, a company with a strong culture will promote these things amongst employees instead of simply using them to appeal to stakeholders. When examining a company, pay attention to how that company’s employees fit into its values, not only when working, but in their everyday lives. Each employee should be prepared to represent their workplace wherever they go.

The reason for this emphasis on the mission is simple. If team members feel connected to the company that they’re working for, they’ll be more enthusiastic about helping it advance.

Working as a Team

Yes, I’ve repeatedly made references to employees and employee engagement for the purposes of brevity, but part of a strong office culture is a sense of belonging and being part of a team. Look at a company’s website; does it list their “employees” or does it list their “team”? This buzzword will likely crop up in multiple places in companies with strong culture, and for good reason. Even when working on separate projects, employees should be encouraged to rely on their coworkers for support and emphasize the overall goals of the company rather than individual assignments.

After all, to use the old cliche, you’re all in this together. Glory seekers can lead to decreased overall productivity and hurt a company in the long run, especially if they can’t back up their ambitions with results.

Employee Agency

When ideas only come from the top of a company, it’s bound to stagnate. Examine the ways that employees contribute to their workplace. If they’re just doing run-of-the-mill tasks, it may point to some level of creative stifling from management. However, if employees have the leeway to use their own methods and tactics to complete projects, it can yield surprising results.

Of course, part of this is ensuring that your employees are talented and mindful enough to make smart and informed decisions, which, ironically enough, starts with efforts from company management. A strong training program and good flow of information from the top can kick off a great level of autonomy from employees.

Flexibility

The stereotype of the 9 to 5 job is rapidly degrading, and nowhere else is it more obvious than in offices with strong culture. Employees in these offices are now given increased control over their working schedules, enabling them to telecommute as needed. For employees with families or pets, this can help them achieve a better work-life balance and take off stress. The rise of things such as cloud computing have also created a “virtual workspace” that allows employees to stay connected from anywhere.

Even in the office itself, the usual cubicles are being replaced by open areas and collaboration spaces adorned with whiteboards. A relaxed, casual environment is perhaps the most obvious sign of a strong workplace culture, and the offices of companies such as Google have become famous for their unconventional working spaces.