What is company culture? In tech, we often find ourselves re-hashing the same old ideas of what a great company culture means. Be it ping pong tables and free beer or dry cleaning and free massages, companies offer these perks as a way to attract and retain top talent. Some big tech companies even go as far as building towns for their employees to live in.

As Australian businesses continue to struggle to recruit top tech talent to drive their business forward – almost nine in 10 Australian CIOs say it is more challenging to find qualified IT professionals – many are turning to perks.

To CEOs agonising over the blueprints of your new town: I don’t believe that’s what makes company culture. And neither do employees. Most people are quick to realise that ping pong tables don’t define a positive culture. Leaders must look beyond benefits.

Back to basics

The merriment of strong values and a supportive company culture leads to success, but it can be difficult to define this ‘culture'.

Defining company culture is often as important as embodying it. Business leaders can be proactive and approach this with the help of employees. It’s important to understand what's important to them, as the best corporate culture statements reflect the values of people.

At SailPoint, our four corporate values of innovation, impact, integrity and individuals drive every business decision. While company culture can and should evolve, values remain constant. Values provide a social contract in the workplace, giving employees a unified identity and foundation for the way an organisation operates. These values are integrated into every business decision, including new hires, or used as a means to fall back on if conflict arises.

Why fun matters

Many business leaders realise culture is based on more than fun, but the fun stuff can add value. At SailPoint, we have craft beer on tap, free meals and a ping pong table in the breakroom, among other perks. However, the intention is not to distract employees but rather to save on employees’ time and foster new connection between employees, increasing their happiness in the workplace.

When fun is a by-product of a healthy culture, it can help attract and retain employees. But there are other traditions, like family days and community projects that resonate well. Consider offering perks that align with company values and will scale with growth.

Business leaders need to ask themselves how perks enable their teams to be better, and why. Provide benefits that encourage teambuilding, personal restoration, career growth and giving back.

Mirror, mirror

Culture permeates all areas of a business – it is reflected in a company’s brand, office and values. This also includes how the business works with customers and in turn, how stakeholders perceive the company.

Every employee impacts an organisation's culture, but the leadership team has a significant influence in shaping an organisation's corporate culture. Conversations need to start with business leaders to create an environment that strengthens an organisation’s identity. Similarly, team members who understand their impact on the wider business, feel a sense of purpose and contribute to a positive workplace.

Business leaders need to re-examine the culture at the foundation of their organisation and look to build a healthy, people-focused culture to stay competitive in today's business environment. Ultimately, having a good culture is key to attracting great talent, it’s the foundation of any business, and it’s an inherent driver of innovation and performance.