Since the dawn of time, human beings have used rituals to celebrate milestones and new beginnings. As Yuval Noah Harari so aptly describes in his bestseller Sapiens, “all large-scale human cooperation – whether a modern state, a medieval church or an ancient city – is rooted in shared myths, which exist only in people’s collective imaginations.” In a micro-society, like a company, rituals are a key part of the organizational culture and the behaviors we would like employees to emulate over time. These formed habits naturally become the established standards for the majority of employees.
Culture cannot be enforced, nor packaged in a welcome kit. Culture evolves over time, somewhat like language, thanks to all the players involved day in and day out. Each organization carries its own unique DNA. More often than not, culture is forged on the organization’s mission, vision, and values. You can observe the company’s culture through its built-in mechanisms: the communication protocol, the coaching & mentorship, the level of transparency, and the way milestones and advancement are celebrated.
In addition to the main culture, subcultures are often formed within the organization, by groups of employees who share similar interests, hobbies and passions. Both company culture and these subcultures are essential to building a spirit of camaraderie and a healthy work environment. Call them traditions, clubs, or events – they all merit to be encouraged by management as they not only brighten our days, but also make us more productive in the long run.
In recent years, too many companies have relied on somewhat superficial symbols – like free food, foosball tables, and a dedicated napping corner – in the hopes of establishing a strong sense of company culture and enticing talent to join the team. While these perks are usually welcomed by employees, true culture is deeply anchored in the company’s DNA. It lives and breathes through the most mundane moments and cannot be forced by management or HR – however, they can lead by example. Employees must share a sense of belonging, and that starts at the top.
As talent comes and goes, it’s important to remain steadfast regarding your brand identity, values and culture. When losing key players, a realignment at all levels is crucial. Being consistent in the way we show appreciation for our employees and celebrate milestones, for example, naturally reinforces the intangibility of our shared culture and values.
If not nurtured properly and often, company culture can dilute quickly. There’s no formal procedure that can be established to keep your culture alive, but there are guidelines, however, that can be instilled throughout the company.
Rituals in the Workplace
Rituals are essentially mechanisms we create to bring a sense of belonging and community. We can break down these rituals into two main categories: initiation or transition rituals and integration rituals.
Here are a few examples below.
Initiation or Transition Rituals
Rites of passage are well-established in the college and university communities. The common thread – the elders must initiate the newcomers.
In an organizational context, you could celebrate different notable transitions:
- Transition to a new role
- Internship completed successfully
- Acquisition of a new company
These types of rituals cement the relationship between individuals, their teams, and the organization. They are intended to strengthen bonds, boost team cohesion and create a sense of belonging.
You may want to plan different activities to facilitate integration between colleagues:
- Welcome lunch for new employees
- Team building activities
- Happy hours
- Go-live parties
The Big Bang Flavor
In the early days of Big Bang, the office was located in a garage (like any promising startup) in Montreal’s Rosemont borough. The CEO invited every new employee to a welcome lunch to facilitate the team’s integration process and congratulate them on joining the company. Even when we were only a handful of employees, the integration lunch was already well-established.
Baptism of Fire
Occasionally, some projects will require tasks to be assigned to more experts than expected. When limited in terms of manpower and have a new cohort of consultants, what better way to make their integration quicker than by putting them in the thick of it, right from the get-go? By participating in a challenging project, we found that new consultants are able to feel confident with our company’s processes and form close relationships with their fellow consultants, seniors and mentors, more rapidly.
We’re proud of the fact that our employees can work and stay connected, from anywhere in the world. With five offices spread across North and South America and the EMEA, it’s crucial for our employees to be able to keep the communication going, even from miles away. Whether working from home or from another office, the Big Bang culture transcends state lines and oceans, with the same rituals taking place worldwide.
If you are part of Big Bang, you’re automatically part of the Big Bang Nation – at any of our locations, you’ll be welcomed with open arms, shown the area, and celebrated with happy hours. Members of the Big Bang nation help and look out for each other – the open door policy is engrained in our DNA and is palpable, even from across the pond.
See #BigBangNation on LinkedIn to see some of our employee’s adventures!
Sharing a Laugh
Lastly, in the spirit of celebrating our failures and our successes, we started a meme channel – at first as a joke, but it evolved into one of the key components to forging lasting professional relationships, all the while alleviating the pressure of those harder days.
With so much time spent at work, having a strong sense of belonging is crucial – so is forging professional relationships, through rituals, events and celebrations. These break the barriers between seniors and juniors to productivity. In this way, rituals play an important role in removing any ego from the day-to-day – this helps us rally and work together more efficiently towards our shared goals.