By Neelie Verlinden

A few weeks ago we spoke about the importance of culture fit between an organisation and an applicant. We talked about the ‘why’ of culture fit. Today, we’ll dive a bit more into the ‘how’. How can a company’s personality be expressed through quirky office furniture for example? With the theory to back it up, this article might just inspire you to some office culture ideas that reflect your organisation’s personality.

Some Theory for Starters
In 1980, Edgar Schein came up with an organizational culture model. Although it’s been 36 years since the birth of this so called ‘Layers of Culture’ model, the theory is still valid today. The model states that there are three different levels in company culture: artifacts & behaviours, values, and assumptions. Think of the above mentioned quirky office furniture, a dress code and even office jokes as examples of artifacts. A company’s values are about how employees represent the organisation both to others (outside the company), and to themselves. According to Schein, if we truly want to understand a culture, we have to get to the deepest level of it, the level of assumptions. Assumptions grow out of values and define the essence of a company culture, often they are unconscious behaviour.

Your Office Is Your Business Card
Looking at Mr. Schein’s theory, it’s probably safe to say that the easiest – or at least the most obvious, in-your-face – way of expressing your company’s culture is by making artifacts & behaviours more visible in your office. Whether you are a bunch of well-respected, serious corporates or a team of happy clams in the green-tech industry, let your office reflect your company culture. Sounds complicated? Not at all, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Show Your Values
If your organisation is all about people constantly communicating with each other, brainstorming about new ideas and no fixed workstations, it makes sense to have an office that’s fitted out for this kind of work environment. I.e. a big open space surrounded by fun areas meant for employees to exchange thoughts and be creative together. What is a ‘fun’ area you wonder? Pretty much anything, think of a playground-like setting with some swings and a slide, or a picnic bench fenced by plants for example. If that’s a little too much for you, just give your meeting rooms unconventional names. At cloud storage company ‘Box’ for example, the meeting rooms have semi-funny names that mark points throughout the company’s history.
The same goes for marketing agency ‘Helloworld’, only here the conference rooms are named after locations in songs and movies. As a result, you can now have your calls and meetings in ‘Narnia’, ‘Big Kahuna Burger’ or ‘Paradise City’.

Listen To Your Employees
A company’s heart and soul comes alive through the people working there. It’s because of their time and devotion that your organisation can exist and thrive. Ask your employees, in one word, image or drawing, what it is that makes them proud to work for your firm and see if you can reflect some of this in your space; you could create a ‘Wall of Values’ behind the reception desk at the entrance of the office for instance.

Don’t Forget The Customer!
Let’s not forget the customer indeed. The first impression a customer gets often comes from a visit to the office. You want to make sure customers get what you stand for without them losing faith in your capabilities. Yes, your office should reflect your company culture and yes, your employees should feel at home, but don’t forget that business comes first. An example of a company culture gone rogue can be found in the Zenefits case; the thing that once gave the organisation its edge eventually turned into one of its major weaknesses.

Reflecting your company culture in your office is no rocket science. It’s a fantastic opportunity to show employees, applicants and customers how unique you are. It doesn’t have to cost heaps of money to be effective either; If you know what your organisation stands for, you’ll make the office shine.