Small things can make a big difference when it comes to company culture and that’s something we at Wunderdog have learned by experience.
Wunderdog started as a small tech start-up in the Nordics with only the Founding Five onboard. Five years later, we’ve grown to be an international company with offices in Berlin and Malmö in addition to Helsinki and more than 100 employees, all offices combined. When a small start-up grows rapidly in the number of employees, things change. No longer does the company consist of a dozen friends sitting around one or two tables. When there are more people, it’s inevitably more difficult to know everyone well. Getting to know colleagues at the other end of the office suddenly requires more effort and often gets avoided. Nevertheless, there are simple yet significant things that can be done to make sure a communal company culture is maintained even when the number of employees hits a critical limit.
Frequently organizing internal events, after works and yearly company trip are all important in fostering the culture. A more low key habit we’ve had since the very beginning is a once-a-month lunch with a varying colleague — paid by the company. We’ve grown to be so many that it’s hard to make sure you have had lunch with everyone. That’s why, some time ago we introduced Donut the bot, who randomly connects you on Slack with another employee and suggests a lunch that week. Donut also remembers to ask you after a while whether you had the time to grab lunch together.
And particularly, you learn to appreciate the variety of different personalities who you spend most of your daytime weekly working towards common goals, developing a deeper sense of belongingness.
Such small an effort as having lunch with a colleague you might not normally go with can have many benefits. Dedicating the lunch break to chat with a colleague outside of the office is a great way to get to know the other in a more relaxed environment. Fruitful conversations about work or life in general are often generated and they sometimes lead to new ideas and projects getting kicked off. Talking with someone who works in a very different position to yours teaches you about their work and the whole company. A problem you’ve had might get a fresh point of view and get solved over lunch when discussed with someone who has another approach to it. And particularly, you learn to appreciate the variety of different personalities who you spend most of your daytime weekly working towards common goals, developing a deeper sense of belongingness. This little habit has prompted interesting conversations, new initiatives and is surely one of the many ingredients that create the culture we have.
Community before individuals
Wunderdog was once founded on a thought to create a workplace where employees are happy to come every day. Little after Wunderdog was founded, we created our culture manifesto together which states the core values that we as a company live up to every day. Community, teamwork and shared learning are essential. As we put it, the community comes before individuals. There are no incentives for internal competition, and for example, our bonus model is equal to everyone, regardless of the position, since we believe that everyone’s efforts contribute to our success.
It builds trust and creates a safe environment to express ideas and give feedback.
Communal culture comes from the feeling of belongingness. Knowing the person next to you — or at the other end of the office — is fundamental. Moreover, it builds trust and creates a safe environment to express ideas and give feedback. We care about the people we work with and appreciate the range of diverse personalities we have managed to gather under the same roof. Getting to know everyone is both important and intriguing.