How to Create Strong (and Positive) Subcultures Within Your Team

Company team standing arm in arm

So, your company culture as a whole is already pretty awesome—there are company-wide happy hours, people eating lunch together, teams working towards the same goals, etc. But how are your subcultures?

No, we don’t mean underground countercultures within your business when we say “subcultures”. We simply mean the quirks and traditions that can define an individual team, as opposed to the company as a whole. Your marketing team does very different things than your customer support team. It makes sense that your overarching culture will flex and change a little to fit the personality of each.

Employees want to feel a sense of collaboration and bonding within their teams. When there is strong team morale, your employees will be happier at work—which leads to increased productivity and efficiency. A company-wide culture is still important to achieving this, but so is allowing subcultures to grow and flourish. Here’s how to get this idea off the ground in your own business.

Team Outings

Your business may already have company happy hours and a killer Christmas party every year, but do your teams have their own outings? 

Team outings can have a positive effect on a team’s subculture because it promotes team bonding. Nothing says bonding like throwing axes (in a controlled environment) or escaping from a (fake) room of puzzles. All jokes aside, when members of a particular team get the opportunity to meet outside of work, they can get to know each other on a more personal level. That new bond can then translate into the team becoming better collaborators in the office, as well as being more comfortable when speaking up and asking questions. 

A team outing doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. A free trip to the park can be just as fun as renting a boat or hosting a party. As long as it’s an activity that the whole team can enjoy, it doesn’t matter where it is. 

Encourage New Traditions

What motivates and inspires your team might be different than what motivates others. Because of this, your teams have their own cadence of regular meetings and check-ins. To make your team’s routines a little more fun, consider creating some traditions to give your team something to look forward to—and to claim as their own. 

The marketing team here at ScaleFactor, for example, passes around a unicorn at every team meeting. The person who received it last adds something, like paint or stickers, to the unicorn before presenting it to someone else for a job well done.  Not only is it a great way to receive recognition for something you’ve accomplished, but its quirkiness and creativity is also fun for the team. 

While the unicorn is pretty cool, there are many other traditions a team can start. You could have a set day each month to leave work a little early to do something fun. You could have a chant or a handshake. As the leader, your job isn’t to come up with these traditions. It’s simply to allow them to happen and to encourage your managers to think about ways to get their teams engaged.

Celebrate Wins

Similar to creating traditions, encouraging your team to celebrate their members is a practice that can yield great results. Some companies have programs that encourage teams to huddle up and share a daily or weekly win. Others might simply offer channels where team members from across the organization can share praise for others. 

Whatever you decide to do, finding ways for your teams to lift up their members and clap them on the back for great work can lead to a greater sense of purpose and appreciation among your team members. And at the end of the day, those team members are working to bring your vision to life—they deserve some praise and celebration for their efforts. 

Let Go 

There comes a time when you’ve done all you can do to establish a great culture, and all you can do is let go—let the awesome culture keep running itself. Let your teams develop and change their own subcultures as they see fit. 

But be aware that the only way to do this is through trust in your managers. If one team has a culture of fun and purpose, while another is defined by fear and micromanagement, you’ve got a problem on your hands. Hire managers who will defend and enhance your company’s overarching culture and train them to create positive subcultures of their own.  

If you’re looking to give your company’s culture a boost, check out these tips for building a strong startup culture.

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