Henry Popplewell is the president of Herndon, Va.-based SkyBitz, which focuses on creating technology for tank monitoring, petroleum logistics and other enterprise solutions. He’s been in that role since 2009, and he’s tripled the company’s sales through various customer retention initiatives and other programs.  

Henry Popplewell, president of SkyBitz

I have some shocking news for you: work culture has nothing to do with work. I know, it doesn’t seem possible, but it’s true. Don’t get me wrong – work will always be about the task at hand, but building a sustainable office culture where people, and your company, thrive is a different ballgame.

The modern-day workspace supports a more holistic approach, i.e. work-life balance, onsite yoga classes and catered lunches. But it’s also about creating something bigger than free snacks and sodas (which is the number one thing I’m most thanked for at my office).

It’s important employees:

1) Understand and embrace the vision,

2) Know what success looks like and how they personally contribute to that success, and

3) Recognize how they win on a personal level when there is success.

Easier said than done, but achievable. Let’s break them down:

Understand & Embrace the Vision

It is critical for everyone to understand how their individual efforts contribute to the success of the company — linkage is the way I describe it. Linkage of goals, objectives and roles toward a shared vision. Without it, not only is there no synergy across departments, creating silos, but it’s less likely that the hundreds who make up the whole will unite toward a common goal.

One proven way we’ve united our teams is through quarterly all-hands meetings. We have an open forum for all employees, where we review progress toward goals, business results, and new customer wins, followed by Q&A with the management team.

It’s easier to think of success in terms of business, like increased profit and new customer wins. But what about personal-professional success?

Know What Success Looks Like

It’s easier to think of success in terms of business, like increased profit and new customer wins. But what about personal-professional success? Remember the age-old question: where do you see yourself in 10 years? Seems trivial, but it’s never been more important to take the time to review the personal career goals of every employee. Investing in their aspirations is vital to your company’s growth. Think: happy employees = happy customers. I can hear the naysayers, though, that this kind of investment in an employee who may only stay a short time isn’t worth it, but I disagree – it’s everything.

For example: A new graphic designer and her boss sat down during her first week to discuss company and career goals. The graphic designer learned they were having customer retention issues and were desperate for new ideas on how to save their current clientele. Her boss discovered that, not only did the new designer have big aspirations to one-day open her own business, but that she excelled in turning stagnate business into new opportunities. Even though she only stayed for two years, she was fully engaged every day — flourishing in revitalizing once-stale portfolios and attended work-sponsored classes around business acumen that would be helpful toward her long-term goals. Her efforts helped increase customer retention by 65 percent and raised profits margins by 10-percent in the first year alone.

Not only did the employee know what success looked like for herself and the company from day one, but she was able to see how she personally contributed to turning around the customer retention issues. A true win-win.

Celebrate Your Successes

Most importantly, you must celebrate your successes, like that of the graphic designer in the story above. Big customer wins, personal accomplishments, or other major milestones are a great time to engage with your employees. Spontaneous, unplanned events can be impactful. Recently, we had a celebration toast to mark a huge company achievement. We had flutes engraved with our company logo and toasted the efforts of those who had made our accomplishment possible.

Perhaps there isn’t an exact science to creating a sustainable office culture, but there is one other factor that ties everything together: work culture is all about your work family and being there to support each other, both personally and professionally. If you create a space where your employees can flourish, then your company will naturally reap the benefits.