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Maintaining Company Culture While Navigating Change and Growing the Company Footprint

Ideas for Bringing Teams Together & Rekindling
Company Culture

With new team members joining, new offices opening and navigating a WFH/RTO transitional workforce, most leaders today are challenged by how to maintain, and in some cases, rebuild their company culture. Here’s how we’ve navigated the last few years and some simple, proven tips any organization can implement to bring their team together and build team chemistry.

I’m happy to report that the last three years have been filled with incredible growth for Hughes Marino. While most commercial real estate companies have been contracting, we’ve opened four more offices across the country and our team has grown substantially. What’s come with that growth is an interesting fact: Over 60% of our current team members have joined us since March 2020. While that is great news for our business, it presents a unique opportunity: How to ensure our award-winning company culture continues to flourish, while integrating all of our new team members so that they carry on the traditions that formed our “high-performing and high-nurturing” culture to begin with.

Having been recognized as a “Best Place to Work” numerous times through the years, including being named Fortune magazine’s #1 Best Workplace Culture in the nation, we have high expectations for our ethos. We know from experience that creating a work environment that promotes innovation, creativity and connection generates team chemistry, and team chemistry propels high performance. To build and nurture that kind of environment in a workplace requires a consistent, intentional and multifaceted approach.

At Hughes Marino, we’ve developed such an approach over the years by incorporating a number of traditions and activities that foster community and make coming to work a joyful experience. At a time when returning to office is becoming more and more prevalent, businesses are finding the most success with their in-office teams by creating a rewarding community and culture that just can’t be attained working from home. Here are 11 easy ways to implement ideas that have united our team in various locations around the country, which can help your company create an environment your team is excited to come into the office for.

  1. All-Hands Team Meetings

Held quarterly, the all-hands meetings with all of our offices are one of the cornerstones of our team’s success, and a key element in uniting our offices across the country. After much evolution and experimentation, we’ve found the best way to conduct these meetings is to have every office gather together in-person in their office living rooms or conference rooms, and then bring all offices together over video. This way, we have the in-person connectedness locally, and the entire team connected nationally over video. And it wouldn’t be a team meeting without some good food to share! We cater breakfast or lunch in each locale, so our team can eat together around the farm tables at each of our offices. One critical aspect to note—these are not “business” meetings in the traditional sense. In fact, an observer might not even know what business we’re in from the conversations that happen. We talk about living our best lives, what’s important to us on a human level and overcoming challenges with positive thought leadership. Very rarely do we talk commercial real estate! At every meeting we always discuss our ten core values, like always do the right thing, enjoy the journey and deliver excellence in everything we do, and share our “HM-isms,” which are principles we live by at Hughes Marino.

  1. AMA (Ask Me Anything!)

We got this idea from tech company CEOs who hold informal gatherings where their team can ask any questions and have direct access to the company’s leadership. Held twice a year, the whole team is invited to join via video, and in-person for those in our headquarters, and Jason and I will answer everybody’s questions. It’s a great way for us to connect in a more informal way with our team and it gives everyone an opportunity to ask things that typical meetings might not provide for. Topics range from our personal journey, to where the company is headed, to advice on buying a first home or raising children—anything that helps enrich and connect the team at a higher level.

  1. The “Good News” Internal Email

Compiled monthly, this newsletter covers team member updates and important milestones across the company, including weddings and new babies, company anniversaries, birthdays, travel plans and personal accomplishments. It also serves as a fun place to share photos of team members wearing their HM gear out in the world, like on an African safari or when running a marathon. With so many common interests throughout our offices, our Good News Email has been a great way to keep a thread of unity and connection among the teams, and an appreciation of what great teammates we have on our team.

maintaining company culture good news

  1. Internal Email Groups

This is almost like a Hughes Marino version of Facebook! Team members can opt in to different groups and share ideas between offices. Subjects include pets, recipes, fitness, big life events and so much more. We started this during the pandemic to help people stay connected and it’s carried on as an easy way to share fun personal things with team members across all of our offices.

  1. Quarterly Birthday Announcements

A simple cake, cupcakes or smoothies create a fun tradition that brings the team together to sing happy birthday, enjoy a treat, pose for a birthday photo and have a few laughs in the middle of the day! In our smaller offices, we celebrate each person’s special day, and in larger offices like our headquarters, we do a quarterly celebration for all the birthdays!

maintaining company culture birthday

  1. WOW Cards

This is a long-standing tradition of ours and even as we’ve grown, we’ve kept giving out WOW Cards, and team members love the tradition. Here’s how it works: At the beginning of each year, every team member gets five WOW Cards to give to other team members who have “wowed” them with an idea, activity, service or accomplishment. Every quarter, we gather the cards from each office and share them with everybody in the company. Public recognition and appreciation are two of the founding pillars of our special culture, and while it might seem like a small gesture, giving WOW cards consistently for years has made a huge impact on our team.

  1. Introduction Emails

We like to give everyone that joins Hughes Marino a warm welcome by sending a personalized welcome email for every new team member. On the surface, it’s a quick “bio” of the person that goes to everyone in all the offices—but what makes these special is that we share the unique things they enjoy in their free time and what makes them tick on a personal level. It’s nice for everyone to know who’s joining the team, and invariably the new member gets dozens of enthusiastic emails on their first day welcoming them to the company and noting that they went to the same college or have the favorite same sport or hobby. It helps the “newbie” feel part of the team from Day One!

  1. A Great Onboarding Program

As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression, and that’s especially true with new team members. We put a lot of thought into how we welcome new members to our team, including the way we announce them to our team on their first day. We introduce them to the Hughes Marino culture, putting an emphasis on our very personal communication style with one another. They get to experience the care and detail with which we welcome them, and quickly learn that this level of connectedness and attention to detail is what they can expect from our whole team.

maintaining company culture hm twinning pic

  1. Fun Creative Events

Who can say no to an in-office build-your-own ice cream sundae bar or a chili cook off? From “crafternoons,” ice cream sundae parties and cooking contests, we like to host as many creative, fun office events as possible to bring our teammates together to enjoy the journey. We even host monthly billiards and shuffleboard tournaments at each office, complete with a rotating trophy for the winner to proudly showcase on their desk! Best of all, these events can be easily implemented at any company, on any budget!

  1. Social Media

Just one look at our Instagram page and you’ll see that our social media is for our team! It’s full of photos of our team members at work and play, wearing HM gear as they travel around the world, work out, volunteer, enjoy office holiday events and more. We love that our team’s parents and family members follow along, too! It tells a story about what special people our company is comprised of, and is a great place for everyone to celebrate our community at Hughes Marino!

maintaining company culture sf volunteer

  1. Group Exercises

Studies show that it is important to stay active and move around during the workdays, and some of our teammates took it upon themselves to develop fun traditions to encourage exercise and fun. Once a month, our teams meet at the reception area for “Walking Wednesdays” to take a 15-minute stroll outside. And at 4:00pm on certain days of the week, we invite our teams to gather in our living rooms for a stretch break! It’s a fun way to stay active together and doesn’t have to cost a dime.

These cherished traditions have grown slowly through the years, changing with us as our team has evolved and expanded. Every year, we re-evaluate the best ways to continue these activities with more teammates and new offices. Individually, they might not seem that substantial, but the cumulative effect is truly powerful. Each one of these activities contribute to the overall team chemistry, and a robust team chemistry is often the difference between good and great. Connectedness, team chemistry and company culture is that “something extra” that inspires everyone’s commitment to the company’s and each other’s success, and ultimately helps the team knock it out of the park every time.

Shay Hughes is president & COO of Hughes Marino, a global corporate real estate advisory firm that specializes in representing tenants and buyers. Shay writes about business leadership and company culture on her blog, Lead from Within. Contact Shay at 1-844-662-6635 or shay.hughes@hughesmarino.com to learn more.

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