How 6AM City puts culture first

With 26 markets across the U.S., 6AM City has had to think intentionally about company culture. Here’s how we empower our staff to do that

Companies have increasingly had culture on their mind. During and after the Covid-19 pandemic, companies that went remote had to think of creative ways to keep their teams feeling connected and positive. At 6AM City, we had already been thinking a lot about culture. But when we made the decision to stay remote – and then expanded across the United States – culture became even more important.

One reason we’ve been able to take our company culture across the country? Our CLTR Committee: a dedicated group of employees from across the company who create our team building initiatives, design our annual community service day, celebrate employee milestones like weddings and babies, and help plan our company retreats.

CLTR Committee members exemplify our company value of “Having fun through pride in place,” and they lay the foundation for a robust, vibrant company culture rooted in our core values and vision. Interested? Here’s how we did it – and how you can do it at your company.

A group of people in matching t-shirts poses for a picture

CLTR Committee plans activities at our in-person and virtual retreats, including scavenger hunts.

How CLTR Committee Works
CLTR is obviously the word “culture” without the vowels, but it’s also the name the inaugural committee members came up with for themselves. It stands for “Cultivating Leaders Through Representing 6AM,” and it aligns with the committee’s four main focus areas: Celebrating, Leading Through Service (a.k.a. volunteering), Teambuilding, and Retreat Planning.

While our People Operations Manager serves as the liaison between committee members and company leadership, the committee is run by and for the full team, with members rotating off after 12 months of service. Diversifying committee members and having term limits means there are always fresh ideas, and the team works best when they work together. The committee is composed of team members in non-managerial positions, empowering associates and giving them opportunities to lead and shine. Prospective members complete a short application, and must receive manager approval before joining to ensure they can balance committee responsibilities with their workflow.

CLTR Committee meets monthly for one hour. Each meeting has an agenda to keep the team focused, though tasks and goals may change each month. If there is a special culture initiative, like our company retreat, committee members may meet more than once a month. Additional meetings are kept short and are typically hyperfocused on one task or event.

Between meetings, the committee continues the conversation on Slack in a culture-specific channel.

CLTR Committee Wins
Here are just a few favorite initiatives:

Share a Cup InitiativeThis initiative connected team members who otherwise rarely had the opportunity to work together. We sent each team member a serving of coffee and tea, as well as a Yeti travel mug featuring the 6AM City logo. Team members met for a half hour with the sole purpose of getting to know one another while enjoying their coffee or tea.

Recipe and cocktail/mocktail competitions
Several seasonal food and beverage competitions have brought teams together locally while also connecting them to their peers virtually. Teams were asked to highlight ingredients from their communities and present their entries during a virtual Happy Hour. Recipes – like Kansas City cheesy corn, elderberry ice cream, and cocktails/mocktails featuring locally-brewed kombuchas – were collected and shared with staff after the competition.

Volunteer Initiative
Because we have so much pride in our local communities, we wanted a way to show that as a team. The CLTR Committee came up with a day of service, which allows all staff to take a half day to volunteer at an organization of their choice. The half day can be taken anytime during Q3 to ensure that people can take advantage of the opportunity when it’s most convenient for them.

A person in t-shirt and shorts walks by a dam holding a trash bag.

City Editor Kate Mazade (FTWtoday) picks up trash on her volunteer day.

CLTR Committee’s internal podcast shares important announcements and company updates and highlights a particular topic each month. The idea came from a staff member who saw an opportunity to innovate in our internal communications. Each month, one or two hosts facilitates conversations and interviews, and another team member handles edits. Maddy Lucas, a CLTR Committee member and 6AM’s Growth Marketing Specialist, has been the primary podcast editor from the beginning. “I have a lot of pride around the creation and cultivation of our monthly podcast,” she shares. “It’s a fun way to learn more about our organization. I love that we’re able to include company updates, reminders about upcoming initiatives, and a fun story in each episode.”

In-person retreat
CLTR Committee typically plans two to three events for retreats. In the past, they have organized teams for breakout activities, identified fun opportunities for team building in the cities we go to, and planned scavenger hunts that take team members through the cities in the spirit of friendly competition.

Camp 6AM
In 2023, 6AM held “Summer Camp.” Over two weeks, all staff participated in virtual activities, including team building games, breakout sessions, and a keynote speaker, in lieu of an in-person retreat. Camp 6AM enabled the CLTR Committee to bring their retreat-planning expertise into a fully virtual space. The team organized and hosted an opening happy/lunch hour that included coordinating team flag designs. Those were made into custom Slack emojis staff could use throughout the two weeks of events.

CLTR Committee also dropped camp-themed trivia questions into Slack daily over the course of Summer Camp to keep the theme top of mind – especially helpful on days when there were no programmed activities.

At the end of the retreat, committee members organized and hosted a team talent show – a wonderful opportunity for celebration and laughter that also showcased some hidden talents among our staff.

And in order to inspire continued connection, CLTR Committee included a stamped postcard with every box of Summer Camp swag that was mailed out to team members (which also included a branded Summer Camp hat and a notebook). All staff received a match and were invited to send a follow-up, pen pal-style postcard after the retreat ended.

Screen capture of a team of people wearing green bandanas, each pictured in front of a “Camp Shrek” green and brown flag design

Virtual Summer Camp sessions planned by CLTR Committee included a flag design activity

Lessons learned
Since CLTR Committee’s inception, we’ve learned some valuable lessons that have helped ensure its continued impact and success.

Culture isn’t just for extroverts
In fact, CLTR Committee has worked best when there is a lot of diversity on the committee, especially when several introverts are in the mix. A company’s culture should serve the greatest number of people on the team as possible. More introverted team members consistently bring ideas to the table that are creative and fresh – and let the more extroverted committee members know when something requiring loud participation might not be the best fit for the team.

Competition is great, but so is cooperation
We love friendly competition here at 6AM, and some team members say openly that they are super competitive. It can make challenges more fun when the stakes feel high and prizes are on the line, but over the years CLTR Committee has struck a balance between competitive team building activities and ones that center cooperation. The payoffs can look different, but they’re still rewarding.

Trust the committee
Once you’ve created your culture-focused committee, it’s best to let them take the reins. Our People Operations Manager creates agendas, takes the minutes, and gets the final ok on the group’s plans, but the committee members truly lead the way. The more leadership your team members can have access to, the more ownership and pride they will have.

Do you have a similar group of team members at your company?