Company Culture and Employee Retention: How to set your SMB up for success

Written by The Peppermint Team

Peppermint was created by a group of business owners, entrepreneurs, and benefits experts who have been on both sides of the table as employees and employers.

January 28, 2022

In a world where it’s increasingly difficult to find and retain top talent. It’s important to remember that offering competitive pay and benefits simply doesn’t cut it anymore. Now more than ever, job seekers and employees alike want to not only be compensated fairly but also a workplace that they feel good going to–physically or virtually–every day. 

Because of this, here at peppermint, we highly encourage all business owners to make company culture a top priority. While a great retirement plan can certainly sway a potential candidate, a supportive culture will make them want to stay.

Creating a culture that feels genuine to your business’s core beliefs and makes employees feel valued could increase retention of employees and improve your company’s public image, which will help draw in quality talent. 

Here, we will go over what exactly is involved when discussing company culture, the benefits of having an overall good culture (and what that means), and the best way to approach creating a culture that works well for your own business.


What does company culture look like for SMBs?

First and foremost, a company’s culture centers around its mission statement and values. Indeed recommends both elements be actionable so that employees–of all levels–can integrate them into their everyday tasks. 

Essentially, culture is the “personality” of the company or business and can be determined by a number of different factors, including dress code, the rapport between management and employees, and the kinds of products that are produced, among other elements. 

Each company’s culture will look a little different based on the industry they are in and what the needs of their employees are. As an SMB owner, you can make the culture for your business uniquely your own. To help you get started, though, we will go over the different types and the makings of a good culture, no matter what field of work you are in.


Types of cultures 

Over the past couple of decades, we have seen a shift from traditional company cultures that adhered to strict rules and dress codes to a more casual culture with the rise of tech startups. The budding industry broke out of the cycle of boardrooms and ties in favor of a more laid-back environment where ideas are more easily shared, and jeans are a staple of every employees’ wardrobe. It’s not a shift that suits every kind of business so take note of the emerging cultural trends in your industry to see what would be the best fit for your company.

Indeed identifies three different types of cultures: leadership, traditional and innovative. 

    • Leadership – encourages employees to take their future into their own hands by equipping them with the resources to learn more about their industry and ready themselves for promotions through coaching and mentorships. 
    • Traditional – defined by a clear management hierarchy, strict rules, and formal dress codes. Most commonly seen in banking and sales. 
    • Innovative – highly values ingenuity and encourages the sharing of ideas. Capitalizes on trends in the industry. Dress codes and workplaces are more casual–think tech start-ups where employees are not expected to dress to a tee and can come to work wearing jeans and a hoodie.

While these are three of the most common, there are certainly other types that can be mixed and matched to whatever best suits your needs.


What makes up a good culture?

There is no one formula or step-by-step guide on how to create the perfect culture, and honestly, only you, as the owner, can really know what will work the best for your company and your employees. However, there are a couple of key ingredients that make up a good company environment.


A Solid Foundation – Communication

Culture for every company and business is going to look a little different. Obviously, a traditional bank’s culture is going to be much more formal than a tech start-up’s. A solid foundation, however, is universally applicable to any business. 

Communication is key to a good culture. Creating open lines of communication between employees and management ensures that expectations are clear and potential problems are caught before they cause issues. It’s important for employees to feel like they are being heard by leadership and for leadership to reasonably accommodate them. A good example of this being practiced is very commonly now is the open-door policy, where executives leave their doors open for employees to come in and speak with them. It’s a simple gesture that shows approachability and openness to those in less leadership positions.



Communication and autonomy go hand-in-hand when it comes to building a solid culture. It’s not possible to have free and open communication without autonomy. Encouraging an autonomous culture where everyone feels free to be their own person and have their own ideas helps keep issues like groupthink from occurring. 

Especially in the creative and tech industries, building autonomous culture is incredibly important to drive innovation in a fast-paced world. Another possible benefit of encouraging autonomy is that people will hopefully feel more empowered to stand up against toxic behavior and help maintain a healthy culture. One of the biggest examples of toxic company behavior is micromanagement and so, a good way to combat this bad habit to give employees ownership of their projects. This would empower them to take control of the project’s reins and actively keep themselves updated and involved with the undertaking. This will show management’s trust in their abilities and skills and will empower them to improve and upskills themselves so that they may be able to take on more projects and responsibilities that they can lead on their own.



An emerging trend among job seekers is the desire for a more flexible work schedule. It’s not possible to implement for every business, but it is a significant advantage if you can. Providing flexibility doesn’t have to mean working from home full-time; in fact, most prefer a mix of working in the office and at home. 

Working from home day in and day out can be isolating, and employees often miss the social aspect of a physical workplace. Besides that, it can be challenging to balance work and home life–work hours become blurred when the place you work and the place you live merge. It can make it hard to truly disconnect from work and unwind. 

There are a number of ways to implement this type of schedule, from giving employees the freedom to create their own schedules for what works best for them to have set in-office days. It could look like having a set day for physical check-in where meetings can occur and having the rest of the week to work from home. You could also just allow employees to come in-office on an as-needed basis. 

There are definitely pros and cons to each; however, giving workers the option to float between a physical workplace and a virtual one allows them to tailor a schedule that works best for them. This will give them the freedom to put their best foot–and as a result, work–forward.


Hallmarks of a good culture

Besides communication, autonomy, and flexibility, other signs that point towards a healthy culture include:

    • Employee engagement
    • Mutual respect and support 
    • Trust
    • Productivity
    • Innovation
    • Transparency 
    • Celebrating accomplishments
    • Loyal customers
    • Excellent offering of benefits (healthcare and retirement)

How to create the best culture for your SMB

Just because company culture is generally used in bigger organizations like Google, Uber, or Facebook, it doesn’t mean that SMBs can’t have a culture of their own. Truth is — that SMB owners will tremendously benefit from creating a culture that works best for their business and employees. Having a solid company culture makes it so that everyone is on the same page and customers get the same streamlined service no matter who they are working with.

If your company doesn’t have a strong culture, there is no time like the present to get started. Creating a culture that works best for your SMB begins with what kind of image you want to put out there. Get back to your roots and consider why you started your business in the first place. Your mission statement and values will serve as the center of your culture, and you can tie in other elements to suit you and your employees’ needs. 

From there, consider your goals for the future and how that could influence the culture you are building. It’s important to realize that while your business grows and adapts, your culture may need to evolve with it. Indeed notes that most major long-running companies go through a change in culture at least once. 

To ensure that the culture you have cultivated continues to thrive, it’s important to hire the right people who identify with your mission statement and values. Even one bad hire can throw off the balance of any team, so it’s important to keep this in mind during the hiring process. 


Benefits of a good company culture

As an SMB owner, creating a culture from scratch can feel like a monumental task, but if you do it right, the benefits are well worth the trouble. 

It only makes sense that a good company culture would contribute to higher employee morale. According to a new Glassdoor survey, over half of the 5,000 respondents said that culture is more important than salary when it comes to job satisfaction.

Happy employees lead to more productive employees, and people who feel aligned with their company’s values and find meaning in the mission statement are more likely to feel purpose and motivation in their job. 

This can greatly benefit your business. In her article for Forbes on the impact of culture in the workplace, Kimberly Rebello states, “Companies with strong company cultures are positioned to have dynamic growth.” If making your company a better place to work for employees can result in such growth, what do you have to lose? At the very least, you’ll likely increase employee retention–a major feat in today’s world. 

You can compound on increased employee morale by encouraging them to write about their experiences on sites like Glassdoor. Entrepreneur found that 86% of applicants research company reviews in their job search, and what better way to display a great workplace culture than from your own employees.

For the first time, job seekers and employees have the upper hand. There are more opportunities out there than ever, and it can feel impossible to reel in the right talent, but having a good culture can give you the edge you need.


Company Culture Wrap Up

Throughout this post, we covered a lot–from defining what company culture is, the different types to the makings of a good culture and how to create one for your SMB, and the benefits of a good culture. 

Remember that part of having a solid culture is making employees feel valued. As an SMB owner, you can do this by offering retirement plans so they can invest in their future. Giving them peace of mind so they can focus on the present. 

Peppermint can set you on the right path with a PEP plan perfect for SMB owners like you. Learn more about peppermint and our array of services today.

You May Also Like…