What is Culture Hacking?

Culture hacking culture amp

Culture hacking is all about finding the little things you can do every day to create positive, iterative change. It might sound like a quick fix, but it’s more than that. Like a software developer on an engineering sprint, it’s about focusing on small things more frequently rather than only trying to tackle and change the big things.

Fundamentally, culture hacking is taking intentional action to create positive cultural change within your organization.

From an early adopter standpoint, culture hacking is leveraged more by organizations that believe that their culture is living and breathing, not just something to work on once a year.

This process works best when an organization believes in co-creating culture - meaning, it’s not something dictated down from the CEO or senior leaders, rather it’s something that needs to be co-created by everyone, every day. Organizations should create an environment where everyone can be on the same page, with constant feedback loops that enable ongoing change and culture building.

Get started with a culture hack

The culture hack can be a small action that has a big impact on culture. Here are # examples for you to consider, brought to you by the community at Culture Amp. 

  • Change the words you use to talk about culture. Instead of talking about “creating culture” talk about how you will involve everyone to “co-create” culture
  • Rather than surveying employees on a yearly basis, try surveying them as often as you plan to take action. Use focused pulse surveys to gather feedback more regularly.
  • If they’re up for it, a CEO swap increases empathy and provides a fresh perspective at a company. Read about a past CEO swap at MOZ.
  • Nap time can positively affect employee well-being and productivity. At HuffPo, it’s a serious thing. Founder Arianna Huffington explains the benefits of naps on in an article with Architectural Digest.
  • Friday15 is a tradition at design company Zurb that involves taking a break to tackle a brief creative challenge as a team.
  • Replace fluorescent overhead lighting with ambient floor lamps (those working late into the night will thank you!).
  • Try a revolving front desk, it's a multi-tasking, people-facing responsibility that humbles everyone and says 'we're all equal here.' 

How to pick the right culture hack (or try out your own)

Just like no two company cultures are alike, not all hacks will work at every company. The key is to have a solid understanding of your culture and company values and implement small hacks that support those overall ideologies.
If you found inspiration in the list above but aren’t sure what to try out, consider these questions:

  • Does the hack align with your overall company culture? If your CEO isn’t yet on board with improving culture, it’s probably too soon to try a CEO swap
  • Can your physical office space accommodate the hack? Maybe a nap room is too big, but you like the sentiment. Try encouraging people to work from home or work nontraditional hours that work best for them.
  • Are you communicating when you’re trying new things?
    Just like with bigger culture initiatives like launching an employee engagement survey, people appreciate when new things are communicated with them.

    Small changes are going to be unique to every organization because what matters to each culture is different. Employee engagement surveys are a great place to start if you’re trying to understand what matters at your company. Figuring out your culture hacks and taking small action on a regular basis will better support a culture that’s living and breathing, not just “revived” once every three years.

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