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By Lauren Ho
The Hoffman Agency, San Jose

Culture is quickly becoming one of the hottest buzzwords in today’s business world. More and more people are beginning to recognize the importance of company culture, and the impact that it has on employee retention.

And when you’re in the heart of Silicon Valley, surrounded by the Googles and the Apples of the world, there’s even more pressure for companies to step up their game.

But not to fret. You don’t necessarily need to offer free childcare or nap pods to keep employees happy. It’s possible for all companies (even smaller ones) to create and nurture a unique culture that’ll retain top-tier talent.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2015 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Survey, “Pay is important, but culture means more.” The survey reveals that “there is increased evidence that corporate culture and relationships with co-workers and managers are held in higher esteem by workers.”

So, what can you do to foster closer relationships within the workplace? Check out these five unconventional ways to spice up your company culture:

1. Throw an all-you-can-eat taco fiesta for Cinco de Mayo

They say that the way to someone’s heart is through his or her stomach. We’re not arguing with that! Treat your employees to a Cinco de Mayo party, complete with all-you-can-eat tacos, some festive sombreros and a colorful piñata if you’re feeling fancy. Since we’re a competitive bunch here at The Hoffman Agency, we also threw in some fun outdoor games like whiffle ball and a three-legged race to round out the festivities.

Cinco de Mayo Fiesta

It’s all fun and games at Hoffman’s Cinco de Mayo fiesta

2. Host a Halloween costume contest via Instagram

Halloween costume contests are nothing new. But here’s a little twist — let your company’s Instagram followers vote for the winner!

For last year’s Hoffman’s Halloween extravaganza, we split up the office into different teams and encouraged each group to come up with a unique group costume idea. Then, on the morning of Halloween, each team unveiled their costumes. And let me tell you — the creativity was off the charts! One group dressed up as The Breakfast Club, and another group showed up as a pack of Diet Cokes (inside joke).

And then it’s photo shoot time! We snapped a picture of each group’s costumes and posted the photos on Hoffman’s Instagram account. The group with the most “likes” by the end of that day took home the grand prize.

This is a great activity for everyone, including remote employees, to get into the Halloween spirit. Plus, those photos on your Instagram page will be marketing gold!

Hoffman Halloween Contest

The winners of the 2014 Hoffman Halloween costume contest. Data hacks are no joke!

3. Organize a March Madness bracket

For any sports fanatics out there, this one’s for you. Stream the big game (whether it’s March Madness, the World Cup or the Summer Olympics) in the office. And to get people really invested in the action, organize a sports bracket. You can bet it’ll inspire some friendly rivalry.

2014 World Cup

Our CEO, Lou Hoffman, cheering on Team USA during the 2014 World Cup

4. Plan an epic photo scavenger hunt

Who doesn’t love a good scavenger hunt? It’s the perfect way to bring out everyone’s inner child. A photo scavenger hunt is similar to a traditional scavenger hunt — except instead of collecting objects, you’ll be taking photos or videos of each item or task. During Hoffman’s scavenger hunt, our teams raced to complete everything from serenading a stranger to finding someone with pink hair!

Scavenger hunt

The champions of Hoffman’s first annual photo scavenger hunt

5. Encourage offsite “one-on-ones”

Sitting at your desk and staring at a computer screen for an average of nine hours every day can really take a toll on your creative flow. It’s important to encourage employees to get up and move around every now and then. Even better — try taking your one-on-one meetings to an offsite location like a coffee shop or a park. You’ll be surprised what a change of scenery does for your productivity and your mental health.

Starbucks treats

One-on-ones are made a little sweeter when accompanied by Starbucks

These are just a few tips for creating a healthy company culture, courtesy of Hoffman’s “Spirit Committee.” Do you have any other ideas to add to the list? Please feel free to share in the comments below.

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