Culture is not a foosball table


Culture is not a Kegerator. Or a foosball table. Or lounge-y spaces to chill. It can’t be planned, or purchased, or acquired.

An organization full of self-promoters, don’t-let-the-door-hit-you-on-the-way-out management, and norming to sameness is very different than one where differences are celebrated, voices are heard, and failures create opportunities.

Culture is what is left in the wake of the passionate defense of ideas, the challenging of conventions, and shared experiences. Culture creates itself over time and experience. It binds employees to an organization and its mission. A strong culture accelerates an organization’s talent.

Oftentimes (and endlessly) culture is talked about in relation to talent acquisition and retention. Built on the notion that an organization needs to have the most lucrative perks and benefits to be competitive in a tight talent market.

While there is some truth there, the most profound organizational value of a strong culture doesn’t live exclusively in the talent world. At Hanson Dodge, a thriving, sticky culture is what drives our work, our growth and who we are as an agency.

Clients buy HD culture through our talent and thinking. Our culture continues to evolve by the people and interactions that happen daily—in the heat of a deadline and the moments in between. Those people all bring their own energy, experiences, points of view, personalities, quirks, and preferences. How all that gets expressed ultimately becomes what makes HD unique and special. Hard to put a finger on but instinctively felt.  

Culture can show up in a variety of ways. At our mandatory 8:30 AM Monday morning meeting that people don’t hate or resent. Or the early mornings to take an idea from good to great. Sometimes ideas start as a casual conversation around a lunch table and quickly become a silly, ridiculous reality—The HD Olympics, Risky Football Toss, or a mustard preference as part of our onboarding.

None of those things happen because there is free beer, standing desks or Herman Miller office chairs. It’s because we have bonded to the mission and to one another through something bigger than tangible perks.

At HD, our collective conscience enables us to do great work by being confident to speak our own truths, share ideas, and challenge conventions. That doesn’t happen if the culture isn’t always driving and pushing those characteristics or worse, at odds with them.

Let’s move the agency culture conversation out of the talent and people silo, and into the big picture because it’s what drives our work, ideas, and ultimately our impact.


Kelly leads talent and organizational development at Hanson Dodge. She believes a high performing organization is an accelerant of talent and works to ensure our people, systems, and processes are all calibrated towards greatness. She brings more than 20 years of talent acquisition experience. Prior to Hanson Dodge she lead talent acquisition for national practices at Razorfish. 

Subscribe to Active Insights