Brands today can’t survive without culture, and behind the strongest brands is an even stronger culture.

Lots of great brands ask us for the secret recipe for a killer culture. It’s just not that simple, because even when almost all the ingredients are the same, every batch looks different coming out of the oven. But to get you started, here are a few of the must-haves to make your culture great.

1) Come as you are, and we’ll all get better together.

A successful culture is welcoming and inclusive; it helps people be their best selves in and out of the office.

That can mean lax dress codes and deck-out-your-desk initiatives (like Pimp Your Desk at Zappos), professional development (skill-shares & conferences), and helping people stay healthy (catered lunches & yoga classes).

2) Work how you want, when you want.

Some companies (us included!) offer unlimited time off.

In theory, it sounds like a disaster. In practice, people with unlimited time off only take a day or two more than their standard-policy counterparts, and they tend to take the days a la carte rather than by the week(s).

Unlimited PTO goes a long way for morale, because it means you trust your people: It says “We know you’ll get your work done well & on time and do what’s best for the team & the company”. If that means you’re working from a coffee shop or you took 12 vacation days instead of 10, no big deal.

3) You’re valuable, and we can prove it.

A great culture can make up for a middle-of-the-pack salary (especially for Millennials), but that doesn’t mean you should lowball your employees.

The best places to work pay their employees well, offer bonuses & profit-sharing, and reward folks at end-of-project, milestone, or job-well-done intervals. Others alleviate financial stress by matching student loan payments or reimbursing for tolls & train fare.

4) Culture is a priority, not an afterthought.

A great culture doesn’t spring into existence on its own, and it’ll die if it’s not taken care of.

The folks who get culture right do it because they care about culture. They focus inward and take time to identify all the things that make them who they are & who they want to be – and they map out a path to get there, together.

They check in on progress and listen to feedback from the team. Some even have dedicated departments & positions, like Chief Culture Officer or Ministry of Culture, in charge of keeping culture top-of-mind.

So why does culture matter?

Office spaces, salaries, and benefits can all be matched, but culture can’t be replicated, and it matters to everyone from the engine room to the boardroom.

Despite being indefinable itself, culture defines you. When your employees tell their friends how their job is, they’re talking about your culture. When candidates knock on your door, it’s because they’ve heard about your culture. When your top talent wants to stay and grow with you even when the road gets a little bumpy, it’s because of your culture.

Culture is what keeps people happy, and keeping people happy means keeping people. Period.

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