Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Boiled down, I think what he's getting at is: if nobody wants to work, it doesn’t matter how great your strategy is—it’s never getting executed.
So, what are you doing to promote company culture? How do you take your company to the next level?
There are more than a million solutions out there and a thousand books you’ve told yourself you’re going to read, but let’s start real simple.
We may be biased, but we think that creating a branded t-shirt is one of the best first steps. When done right, t-shirts can be foundational in forming team identity and promoting company culture. They make a statement and reinforce what you’re there to do.
Here's how to define company culture, and 4 reasons you should consider t-shirts as part of that process.
How to define culture
Culture is pretty hard to define and, thus, has become the bane of many a manager’s existence. How do you fix something if you can’t even define it? There’s no silver bullet for creating the perfect work environment. But there are a couple of things that, if you do them right, can go a long way in creating a healthy, fun, and diverse workplace that people are proud (and excited) to be a part of.
Joshua Levine’s 2019 book Great Mondays is a must-read if you’re interested in transforming your culture. He lists six components for solidifying a healthy work environment:
The first three are the foundation of the culture, while the last three put them into practice. You can’t work on the last three until you’ve defined the first—and started to behave like they’re true. Defining your organization's unique purpose, values, and behaviors will help lead you to your choices in establishing the last three.
Anyway: we all know how culture can impact a company for the better or worse. Now, let’s talk about how company t-shirts fit into your plan for revamping your business.
Four reasons why t-shirts are an effective tool for promoting company culture
Reason 1: T-Shirts are Great Cues
In Great Mondays, Levine defines cues as the “physical and behavioral reminders that help employees, managers, and leaders stay connected to the future." Some examples of cues could be: A book that your team shares as an inspiration. A picture of family. Mementos from a company retreat.
What do you have in your workspace that reminds you of why you’re there and what you're working toward?
Let’s face it, we can all be a little forgetful here and there. We all need to be reminded about what we’re doing and—arguably more importantly—why we’re doing it. A t-shirt might be the first item a person interacts with in their day, as they throw it on to head into the office or sift through their drawer to decide what to wear that day. Taking the blank canvas that is a t-shirt and turning it into a storytelling opportunity, a point of connection, or a reminder of your shared goals is a great way to make sure your employee feels connected to their team and the bigger picture.
Reason 2: T-Shirts & Team Psychology
It’s not surprising that sports teams wear uniforms. There’s a dramatic psychological shift when you wear the same thing as the people next to you.
Studies date back as far as 1988 linking color and aggression in sports teams. These studies were again confirmed in 2012 by Mark Frank and Thomas Gilovich, who realized the far-reaching implications of the original study.
What a team wears matters. Something shifts when someone puts on a uniform—they become attached to a larger mission, and feel more connected to those who are pursuing that shared goal alongside them. Any opportunity to remind your employees that you are all headed in the same direction, and that one's success translates into everyone's success, is a good thing—and can go a long way in making your teams have a "win together" attitude.
Reason 3: Make a Statement
T-shirts have long been a vehicle for making bold statements. They can be excellent marketing tools when used properly. SNL hosts have even given shoutouts to their families or subtly voiced their politics with well-worded t-shirts. One of the best parts of designing a custom t-shirt is that you get to tell the world what you’re about—without ever having to say a word.
Choosing what kind of statement is appropriate to put on your shirt is a different story—and we break down some helpful design tips in our blog on how high-quality company swag can increase conversions.
Reason 4: Valuable Insights
The process of designing your t-shirt may be the best part of the whole thing. Make sure that you get everyone involved throughout the process. Give everyone in your company a voice—from operations to the CEO.
By taking people away from their typical routine, you’re going to get some creative solutions. You may be able to leverage this process to do valuable research for your company. You may be happy to find out that people do have a positive feeling about their work, or you may find the exact opposite.
In high school, I came up with the concept for my class’s senior shirt. It would have said, “Doin’ time till ‘09.” Surprisingly, the administration shot the idea down. It didn’t reflect well on the culture of our high school if we were comparing it to a jail.
When you begin this creative process, sometimes you’ll get insights into the reality of how your employees view their work. This can be enlightening, discouraging, or exactly what you expected. All three options are going to be super insightful.
Not only will this communicate to your team that you listen, but it might teach you more than you expected. If you listen and foster an open environment, you may find out what your company is really like to work at. You may be making your business just a little better in the process too.
Talk to Us
We’ve mentioned how t-shirts can be cues that reinforce and promote your culture. They can shape a team’s psychology and behaviors for the better or worse. They can make a statement to the world about your company’s mission. And during the process, they can help reveal what your team thinks about its work.
Make your company a place where people want to work. Build a culture where people can be themselves, where they can be creative, and where they can still find the time to have a fulfilling personal life. Making company swag can be a great way to wrap up the changes you’ve recently put in place, or it may be the best way to begin the transformative process.