Sarah’s Corner: Creating a Great Company Culture

Can company culture just happen organically?

by Sarah Koller, SHRM-CP. People Operations Manager @ GoCo

Hi, I’m Sarah! And I do HR for an HR software company. You’d think it’d be easy, but I’m new-ish to the HR world and every day is an adventure. This blog series is an attempt to peel back the layers of daily operations of a small HR department – of one – and the company it works to support.
Sarah Koller, People Operations Specialist ∙ GoCo

Sometimes your company culture can happen organically. My CEO and cofounders created a beautiful mission backed by values that current employees work to embody and, it is our hope, that new hires understand they are important. When we were small it was easy for our co-founders to keep tabs on the culture but as we continue to grow it’s just not sustainable.

Here’s the truth, up until this point, our co-founders have had a hand in hiring everyone in the company. The three of them started the company, and they brought a culture of collaboration and familiarity with them when they opened their doors back in 2015. 

Fast forward to 2019 – We are now at 34 employees, and our culture has been passed along to every new hire, so naturally, we want to keep it this way.

The challenge: we just moved to a bigger space because we plan to double in size in the next 12 months. 

That’s exciting! But also nerve-racking because it means that, in addition to taking care of our current employees, we need to put a program in place to recruit top talent – and work hard to maintain our company culture because, as you might know by now, for us it’s vital.

Here are some ways to identify and maintain a positive company culture. I’d love to hear how you do it at your company.

  1. Ask and listen. This point seems basic, but your team members know why they chose to work at your company – Ask them! I recently asked the GoCo team what was truly unique about working at GoCo. After doing this, we found a common theme and are now putting programs into place to enforce the main reasons everyone here loves GoCo.

    Here are some of the answers I got from our GoCo team members:

    “Company culture is one of the best I’ve ever experienced. [You are] encouraged to take on challenges and collaborate, upper management is always willing to help and remove blockers and even though we are busy and work hard there is always time for fun and improvement!”

    -“[You are] surrounded by rock stars to learn from. [There is] tons of ‘psychological safety’ and always feel like your voice is heard.”

  2. Build programs around themes that bring your employees together. We recently hosted a family day, and by doing so, we realized that GoCo team members enjoy including their loved ones in work activities and interacting together.

  3. Set up policies that encourage positive behaviors. For example, like many companies, we have unlimited PTO. No one here is punching a clock or watching when you leave and when you come in. Everyone at GoCo works hard because we have built a team culture and don’t want to let our teammates down. 

Our teams are broken out into pods that are responsible for projects done as a group; this creates additional accountability and encourages the collaboration that our teams need to stay connected and productive.

The CEO and our other co-founders have been cautious about who they’ve brought on into our team. GoCo is like another child for them, and the love and dedication for candidate selection really shows. 

Now, as we grow, it is my job to help maintain what our co-founders have worked so hard to start and preserve for 4 years.  I am up for the challenge.

If you’re interested in seeing our current job openings, you can visit this page. If you’d like to share your thoughts with me about company culture, you can email me here.


Food for thought: “Rule books tell people what to do. Frameworks guide people on how to act. Rule books insist on discipline. Frameworks allow for creativity.” -Simon Sinek

As GoCo’s People Operations Manager, Sarah is on a mission to make GoCo the best place to work in Houston. She’s responsible for attracting, recruiting, and retaining the awesome humans behind GoCo, and developing programs and policies that protect and nurture the company’s core values and culture.

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