Strategy and culture are among the most important levers that top leaders can use to guide their organization. While strategy offers a formal logic to guide company goals, culture expresses those same aspirations through values or beliefs that shape how people behave towards one another in the workplace environment. Culture is a huge influencer of a company’s success. It shapes the attitudes and behaviors of your organization and defines what is encouraged, discouraged, accepted, or rejected. Culture directs the thoughts and actions of your teams, so it’s crucial to ensure you account for all the variables when building your company culture because if not, things can go south quickly.
Changing your company’s culture can be a long and challenging process, but it is worth the investment. You will see positive results immediately and attract talented professionals who can help take your business to the next level.
REVISIT YOUR CORE VALUES
Where did it all begin? Your company’s values guide everything from behaviors to sound business decisions. These guiding principles should be thoughtfully determined and shared with all employees, so they know where you stand as an organization.
Your values are the foundation of your corporate culture. They should be simple and relatable to each employee to apply them naturally inside and outside work without feeling overwhelmed. It becomes difficult to remember if you have more than five fundamental principles in place. When values aren’t relatable or applicable, they can become misconstrued or ignored.
The importance of aligning your core values with the best parts of your existing culture can’t be overstated. You want to ensure these values are actionable because they’ll provide a solid foundation for building. I’m sure you have heard of values like “work hard, play hard.” They might sound hip and catchy, but they leave much room for misinterpretation and should be eliminated.
When setting your company’s values, make sure to involve your HR department and ensure tenured employees are engaged in the process. Your long-term business goals should be at the forefront of your mind as you set out to create a foundation for success; the values you set today should still be relevant five years down the line. Keep them human-centric and think about how you want employees to treat each other. Always start with kindness. Kindness is easy to implement and can be used as an everyday practice. Sprinkling that stuff everywhere will drive a healthy culture quickly!
EVALUATE YOUR CURRENT COMPANY CULTURE
A company’s culture is the foundation of its success. So how do you know if yours has any merit? It’s important to assess this before making significant changes, like expanding into new markets or hiring additional employees.
To create a healthy and productive work environment, take time to evaluate how your employees interact with one another.
· Are your employees connected to a purpose?
· Is there a sense that people want to stay late and show up early, or are they eager for the day to end?
· Is office gossip rampant? Great minds discuss ideas, not gossip — what are you encouraging in your organization?
· Are your team members not communicating their ideas because one person has all authority over decisions made within teams, and there is a lack of trust?
· Are you creating a safe environment where employees feel free to share their ideas and participate in discussions?
· Are you seeing high turnover rates?
· Are your teams siloed and disconnected in their decision-making?
These are all signs of a bad culture in need of immediate attention.
The current organizational culture of your company may be obstructing you from achieving long-term success. Culture reflects the overall tone that managers and employees show through their actions, words, or omissions when interacting within an organization’s environment. It can directly affect how well projects get completed due to cohesive bonds between coworkers who work together toward common goals.
Determine your current organizational culture and evaluate it compared to your broader company goals. Will this structure help you achieve your long-term goals, or are there severe limitations that need to be remedied?
The best way to know how your company’s culture impacts employees and what they’re thinking about it is to ask them. Conduct an employee engagement survey and gain feedback from all departments so you can see how the culture resonates with your people. Multiple employees must be involved in discussions about company culture as diverse perspectives need a voice in shaping your culture. Your company’s culture has changed over the years, so talk one-on-one with a few long-term employees and find out their thoughts about how things have evolved, for better or worse? They will be able to provide invaluable insight into where changes might have taken place that you overlooked before.
Additionally, a third party should be involved in a company culture audit. A consultant can help you design an anonymous survey that can be distributed throughout your company. They can also assist in collecting responses and making sure everything is confidential before delivering them back to your organization.
OUTLINE YOUR PLAN FOR IMPROVEMENTS
Once you’ve identified the aspects of your company culture that need addressing, create a detailed plan with an actionable strategy and timeline. Additionally, set benchmarks so progress can be tracked more effectively.
For example, if employee relationships could improve, implement more employee engagement activities outside of work. Host one team event per quarter to help cultivate meaningful personal connections between coworkers and track your progress. Keep adjusting your efforts or strategy accordingly until you meet this goal.
TRACK YOUR PROGRESS
The only way to honestly assess whether or not you’re making progress with establishing a better company culture is by continually asking your employees for feedback and monitoring their engagement levels. Company culture evolves as your team and company do, so it’s important to continually track progress and adjust your strategy accordingly.
CREATE OPPORTUNITIES FOR EMPLOYEES TO CONNECT
No one works on an island. Employees need to communicate and connect outside of work, even in remote environments. Creating opportunities for employees to connect and engage with each other develops trust, improves the company culture, and makes employees want to stay, ultimately increasing employee retention. To nurture those relationships, leaders need to drive employee engagement. Leaders can do this by hosting team lunches and activities outside of work. Leaders can bond with employees by talking with them after lunch or by asking them questions about themselves during a scheduled one-on-one. This shows that non-work-related tasks are just as valuable. Always ensure there are boundaries and that these events are inclusive.
Additionally, employees can sometimes equate employee relationships to being “family,” but that can introduce a host of misunderstandings and challenges where companies use “family” as an excuse to send emails and texts after work hours or to ask for special “favors” from employees. Review how you structure employee connections and eliminate the use of the word “family.”
HELP EMPLOYEES ADVANCE THEIR CAREERS
While celebrating employees and giving feedback is essential, it won’t mean much if it doesn’t lead to meaningful career advancement opportunities. Employees will often leave a company for new career opportunities. Creating a transparent career growth plan is a great way to show your employees that you’re invested in their success. Investing time and resources into helping them grow can open up new opportunities for those who work hard.
Hold management accountable when they don’t promote someone or provide the proper training. Set clear guidelines about what does/doesn’t qualify for promotions within the company. Job descriptions should be clear and understandable, with qualifications that match the requirements for promotions within your company.
MAKE TRANSPARENCY A PRIORITY
Leaders willing to develop a culture of transparency in their company can reap significant benefits. Employee satisfaction is significantly impacted by the ability to trust their leadership team. A famous Stephen Covey quote that I love still holds true today, “trust is the highest form of human motivation. It brings out the very best in people.” If you want to be seen as a trustworthy employer, increase transparency across your company. Transparency and honesty go hand in hand with employee satisfaction and building trust between employees. Prioritize top-down communication by keeping employees informed about the business through company-wide emails and timely updates during town hall meetings. Establish an open-door policy by being more accessible through office hours and small group discussions. In a hybrid or remote workplace, you can communicate your thought-process with employees, set up daily check-ins (these can be done via messaging platforms if your team has video fatigue), and offer open virtual meeting hours.
While too many meetings can be counterproductive, don’t neglect the value of those personal interactions.
CREATE AN EMPLOYEE RECOGNITION PROGRAM
Employee recognition programs enhance organizational culture. Show employees you value and appreciate their contributions to your company by recognizing top performers through employee spotlights and “MVP” awards. It’s crucial to openly acknowledge employees that reflect your company’s values and culture. Give your managers the tools needed for recognizing their employees. This will help foster an environment where everyone feels valued, increase employee camaraderie, and encourage more standout performances.
Recognizing employees will drive a high-performance culture and also help reduce turnover.
GIVE EMPLOYEES FLEXIBILITY
As employees have had to balance working from home and their life responsibilities, flexible schedules and open vacation policies have become necessary in creating a culture that keeps employees engaged. Life happens and knowing they can count on their employer to be understanding and accommodating makes employees feel valued.
Beyond that, providing stipends that employees can use to address their mental and physical health and even set up their workspace can go a long way to improving the remote work experience for employees.
This leads to higher levels of employee engagement which positively impacts productivity and profitability.
CELEBRATE COMPANY WINS AS A TEAM
Equally as crucial as recognizing individual contributions is celebrating company wins and milestones as a team. Employees adopt an owner’s mentality when they’re made to feel like part of the broader strategy team, and including them when celebrating significant achievements improves transparency within the company.
PRIORITIZE TIMELY AND RESPECTFUL FEEDBACK
Employees often crave positive and constructive feedback, and simply implementing annual reviews isn’t enough, nor does it make feedback a priority. The feedback cycle needs to be continuous. It’s not enough just to implement annual reviews – managers must regularly give constructive and positive updates to employees.
Ask for feedback from employees more often. If you launch a new initiative, ask your team their thoughts shortly afterward. Doing so will ensure that your decisions will benefit your company culture and make employees feel valued by their employer.
ADDRESS MENTAL HEALTH
Employee burnout is on the rise. Indeed surveyed more than 1,500 employees in March 2021 and found that 52 percent of respondents were feeling burnt out. According to the survey, that feeling is even more common among people working virtually.
As a result, it’s more important than ever to address employee health and wellness within your culture. A helpful place to start is to review the goals you set for employees. While it’s essential to be ambitious, your expectations need to be reasonable and flexible. Reaching it shouldn’t come at the cost of an employee’s personal life.
It’s also essential for managers to create space for employees to tend to their mental health. Incorporating wellness days increased paid time off, and flexible work hours into your benefits package can all go a long way toward improving employee work-life balance.
Finally, make personal check-ins a part of one-on-ones. When every conversation is about work and productivity, employees feel like they aren’t doing enough. Carving out time to ask your employee how they’re doing gives them the space to vocalize when they feel overwhelmed or need some assistance.
Regardless of where you’re starting, it’s important to remember that you can continuously improve company culture. Taking the time to ensure you have the full support of your leadership team, HR department, and employees will help you achieve these goals. If you don’t, the changes you make won’t stick and may drive people away.
Think seriously about what your team values and your company goals. What is your team’s vision for the future? How do you hope your organization can meet its goals in five years, ten years, or even longer? To get there, you will need everyone working together. Improving company culture is essential to achieving your organization’s goals. By developing a clear vision and working together towards it, you can create high-performance teams that take your business to the next level!