Why Firm Culture Matters (and How to Show it Online)

By Danny Burns posted 02-13-2018 13:38


Does anybody actually care about your workplace culture? According to the research, culture really does matter — not only to prospective clients, but also to potential hires and current employees.

A while back, Jay David, Interactive Creative Director at TOKY, and Rebecca Udell, Executive Director of Marketing Strategy at KSS Architects, took the stage at SMPS New York’s TME conference to talk about why and how to show your firm’s culture online. Here are the highlights.

What is Culture, Anyway?

Whether it’s perceived as good, bad, or somewhere in between, every organization has a culture — and it affects not only how people see you, but also how your team behaves. The Harvard Business Review defines it this way:

“Culture guides discretionary behavior and it picks up where the employee handbook leaves off…It tells us whether to risk telling our bosses about our new ideas, and whether to surface or hide problems.”

Who Cares About Culture?

Potential Employees
The demand for more employees in the AEC industry is only expected to increase in the years to come. Research predicts:

The competition for the best employees is tough and getting tougher and, as the SMPS Fellows Survey 2016 suggests, “firms must understand that their websites and social media activities are often the front lines of recruitment.”
Current Employees
A recent study from Wharton shows that the more love employees feel at work, the more engaged they are on the job. To get the most out of employees, it helps to show them that they’re appreciated and part of the team. In the AEC world in particular, young workers can feel like they disappear into larger firms. Your website is one (but certainly not the only) way to bring those faces to the fore.

“There’s no one right way to design a team page, but I think it says so much about the company’s respect for an employee when it’s willing to pay for the cost of high-quality photos of its team.”

/ Khoi Vinh, Former Design Director of The New York Times


Potential Clients
When evaluating firms, potential clients want to get to know who they could be working with. What’s your working style? Are you laid back or more straitlaced? Sure, prospects want to see your work, but they also want to get a sense of your personality — and your website is a great place to show them what you’re like in person.

“Of course they are doing their due diligence in terms of products, services, and financials. But there’s an emotional audit going on too — and your cultural P&L had better be in good shape.”

/ Fortune Knowledge Group Survey

8 Tips for Showing Company Culture Online

1. Organize content by value.
What are your firm’s cultural values? Whether it’s honesty, excellence, or giving back, take the time to define these beliefs. From there, you can organize content around these values to make sure your messaging is crystal clear.

2. Don’t let asset creation paralyze your efforts.
So you don’t have $80,000 to produce a video about how cool your office is? Even if your budget is modest, there’s no reason to give up on trying to develop something that resonates with people.

3. Celebrate your team’s individuality.
Think about ways to showcase the quirks and interests of your people. We all have lives beyond the nine-to-five, and those hobbies and passions can add a lot of character to an otherwise buttoned-up team. At TOKY, we recently redesigned our team member pages to show a bit of each of our personalities.

4. Poachers are gonna poach (no matter what’s on your website).
We talk to a lot of firms that are terrified that other companies will steal their best employees after seeing their bios online. The truth is, if your employees are great, competitors are going to find them — whether it’s on your website, through LinkedIn, or at an event. Don’t hide your greatest assets out of fear.

5. Leverage your differentiators.
Once you’ve identified what makes your culture unique, find ways to represent those attributes across platforms and pages. As RNL proves on its Home Page, company culture doesn’t have to be siloed off to the Culture page.

6. Speak directly to your audience.
This is especially important if you’re in a firm that’s hiring many different types of talent, such as marketing staff, interns, engineers, and leadership. Using the voice, tone, and vocabulary that feels familiar to your intended audience can go a long way.

7. Give your people a page.
As mentioned above, it says so much about the company’s respect for employees when it’s willing to develop content that celebrates them. Team and bio pages are an easy way to publicly recognize your employees.

8. Share your space.
Do you work in unique office? Is your neighborhood the perfect place to explore at lunch or after a meeting? The spaces where we work are an important part of who we are and, in some cases, may be worth showcasing online.


Culture, as it turns out, really does matter. Personality is important in both hiring and business development — and for those who haven’t met you yet, your website is a great place to articulate who you are and how you work.

Thanks for reading!

Danny B