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You walk past your employees’ workspace, coffee in hand, like you do every morning. Seeing a few empty chairs isn’t uncommon in the morning, but you still check your phone to confirm the time. If it were possible to shake your head in disappointment without anyone seeing, you would. That minor annoyance leaves your mind as fast as it came when you recall the busy schedule ahead and the stress that is to follow.
Before you realize it, you’re hungry, and it’s time for lunch. Passing the crew on your way to the break room, you catch words that jump out of the haze of conversation. “They really messed up with that. I’m glad I wasn’t working on that project,” you overhear. Normally that statement wouldn’t linger, but today of all days, with everything on your plate not named lunch, it chimes repeatedly in your head.
As a manager, you understand that everyone is responsible for the product at the end of the day. You know this because you can see things from a higher vantage point. Your focus is the bigger picture. Just because one person fails or succeeds doesn’t necessarily mean the organization has failed or succeeded. This “them and not me” mentality is an issue that falls under the broader topic of workplace culture.
We as leaders know that it’s our job to set the attitude of the work environment. But changing the way someone feels and thinks can be nearly impossible. Consequently, it would be easy to think that everyone should be self-motivated, but that’s entirely the wrong mentality to have as a leader.
Everyone in an organization essentially wants the same things: a manageable home/work balance, the opportunity to be a part of a winning team, and the chance to enjoy the day with respectful and fun people. To achieve these goals, you must take into account how leadership affects company culture, and leaders must take action to create a positive work environment. But what is workplace culture? How can we know for sure if ours is good, and what can we do to improve it?
Every organization has its own personality and atmosphere. There is not a specific set of characteristics that define work culture. A culture simply emerges when people of different backgrounds and beliefs come together. When we talk about “workplace culture” within an organization, what we mean is a set of shared rules, beliefs, and attitudes that dictate how things are done and how people interact.
Every organization has a culture, whether formally acknowledged or not, which is generally dictated by the leadership. Whether leaders are deliberately or unintentionally shaping the culture depends on how aware they are of their actions and policies' effect on the people around them. We can further categorize work cultures based on sentiment and outcomes to determine if a work culture is positive or negative.
A good workplace culture is one in which employees feel valued, supported, and motivated to perform at their best. It is an environment where employees feel respected and comfortable being themselves and where they have a sense of purpose and belonging. Some key characteristics of a good workplace culture include:
Open communication: Employees are encouraged to communicate with one another and management transparently and respectfully.
Empathy and respect: The workplace is a respectful environment where employees feel understood and valued and where everyone is treated with kindness and empathy.
Collaboration and teamwork: Employees work together as a team, with a shared goal of achieving success for the company and for themselves.
Employee development: The company provides opportunities for employees to learn and grow and invests in their development to help them reach their full potential.
Flexibility and work-life balance: The company supports employees in balancing their work and personal lives and recognizes the importance of both.
Recognition and appreciation: Employees are recognized and appreciated for their hard work and contributions to the company.
Diversity and inclusion: The company values diversity and inclusivity and makes an effort to create an environment where everyone feels welcome and supported.
A good workplace culture is essential for creating a positive and productive work environment, which in turn can lead to higher employee satisfaction, engagement, and retention.
It may not immediately be obvious whether you’re running a workplace that has become sour. Take a hard look at your organization and ask yourself if any of the following apply:
Unhealthy gossip is common
No voluntary cooperation among employees
Sense of boredom
Leaders are too distant from employees
Employees don’t contribute new ideas
No praise from management
Lack of a bonus program
Infrequent or non-existent meetings or huddles
Little understanding of the company's bottom line by the typical employee
Bad reputation on job boards
No one really talks about culture
Poor internal communication
Too much micromanagement
Low participation in fun activities
As you begin to look at the signs, you will inevitably make connections between attitudes and outcomes.
For example, a lack of financial understanding, specifically an employee’s understanding of how their job affects the bottom line, breeds a lack of accountability. This “they vs. me” mentality often infiltrates an organization.
People who think they are only responsible for their job tasks will see their efforts separate from the greater company goals. This type of thinking is holding your company back from experiencing the type of success you know it is capable of.
Don’t think that just removing or replacing a few bad apples will fix the problem because the environment plays a key role in shaping attitudes at work, and it’s up to you to fix that environment.
It is the role of the CEO to direct, shape, and promote a positive work culture through the interactions that take place around the organization throughout the work week.
Culture should be a primary focus of every leader, regardless of the size of the company. You can take a more active role in shaping the attitude of your work environment by doing the following.
Become active and involved in the onboarding process, including mentoring, training, and coaching new employees to give them a good first impression on how to view the company, its leaders, and how they interact with employees.
Create a structure to support and reinforce the organization’s values. This includes making any financial investments necessary.
Congratulate, boast about, and recognize your team members who demonstrate the positive work habits and values your organization wants others to emulate.
Promote dialogue during team meetings and events and across all company-wide channels so that company values are clearly articulated and kept front of mind.
Evaluate decisions based on company values so that you know your choices are in line with your principles.
Visually display your company values in your offices, company merchandise, website, social media channels, and other public places.
Use your values as a basis to build customer relationships, so your reputation reflects what you stand for.
Openness and a commitment to each other and to your common goals deliver many benefits, including:
Improvements in motivation
More trust and confidence in management and the organization as a whole
Decreased employee entitlement mentality
Greater employee engagement
Increased work satisfaction
Increased company pride
Improved customer experience and loyalty
More cohesive teams
Greater company success as measured by profit and revenue
To create and maintain company culture during growth and expansion a positive work culture, do the following:
Individual accountability breeds mutual responsibility, so make yourself accountable to set an example.
Develop accountability standards to guide behavior.
Establish expectations for each person based on their role in the organization.
Use metrics to measure how well employees are meeting expectations.
Create an employee ownership mentality that allows the opinions of others to be heard.
Show respect to all employees at all levels and have managers personally address issues of disrespect in a professional manner.
Open your financial books and help all employees understand company numbers like profits and revenue. Get them looking at how they affect those numbers and what they can do to improve them personally.
Provide continuing education for all employees.
Honor all your obligations, both inside your organization and to outside clients, vendors, and customers.
Hire employees based on character and competence.
Develop leaders from within.
Provide rewards and recognition.
Create MiniGames as a fun way to offer rewards for meeting goals.
Post a recognition board.
Come up with tangible, meaningful, non-financial rewards in addition to any compensation incentives you offer.
As the leader of your organization, it is your responsibility to build a culture of competence and character. This process will require you to take an honest look at your environment, evaluate the level of changes needed, and develop a strategic plan to accomplish your objectives. It may seem daunting, but there is good news: changing work culture may be one of the most impactful actions you can take for long-term business improvement.
A company's culture significantly impacts employee engagement, productivity, and retention. These factors directly impact the three pillars of a great company culture, which are community, purpose, and growth.
Here's how to achieve all three in your organization:
Employee engagement: A positive and supportive workplace culture can increase employee engagement by creating an environment where employees feel motivated to contribute and make a difference. When employees feel valued, respected, and supported, they are more likely to be engaged in their work, which can lead to better performance and increased job satisfaction.
Productivity: A strong company culture can also boost productivity by creating a sense of purpose and direction for employees. When employees feel aligned with the company's goals and values, they are likelier to work towards them with enthusiasm and focus. Additionally, a positive workplace culture can create a sense of camaraderie and teamwork that can improve collaboration and problem-solving.
Employee retention: A good workplace culture can be key to retaining employees. Employees who feel supported and valued are likelier to stay with the company long-term. The importance of company culture for employee retention can be the difference between saving the company money in recruitment and training costs and providing a more stable and experienced workforce or creating a toxic and unsupportive culture that leads to high turnover rates, which can be disruptive and costly for the company.
Promoting diversity and inclusion within a company's culture is essential for creating a positive and supportive workplace culture where all employees feel valued, respected, and included.
Here are some strategies that companies can use to promote diversity and inclusion:
Foster an inclusive culture: Creating an inclusive culture involves promoting open communication, valuing diverse perspectives, and providing equal opportunities for all employees. Companies can foster an inclusive culture by training on cultural competence, facilitating employee resource groups, and creating policies and practices promoting equity and fairness.
Ensure diverse hiring practices: Companies can promote diversity by creating job descriptions that are inclusive and free of bias, using diverse recruiting sources, and having a diverse interview panel. Additionally, companies can implement policies requiring diverse candidate slates or prioritizing diversity in hiring decisions.
Provide cultural awareness training: Providing training on cultural awareness can help employees develop a deeper understanding of different cultures and promote inclusivity within the workplace. This can include training on unconscious bias, cross-cultural communication, and conflict resolution.
Review policies and procedures: Companies should review their policies and procedures to ensure they are fair and equitable for all employees. This includes policies related to promotions, performance evaluations, compensation, and benefits.
Provide ongoing support and resources: Companies should provide ongoing support and resources for employees from diverse backgrounds, such as mentorship programs, affinity groups, and employee assistance programs.
Communicating a company's culture to current employees and potential job candidates is important to ensure everyone understands and embraces the company's values and goals.
Here are some strategies that companies can use to effectively communicate their culture:
Develop a clear and concise culture statement: A clear and concise statement of the company's culture, values, and mission can help current employees, and potential job candidates understand what the company stands for and what it hopes to achieve.
Communicate the culture through stories: Stories can be a powerful way to communicate a company's culture. Sharing stories of employees who embody the company's values and mission can help current employees, and potential job candidates understand the company's culture in a more tangible way.
Encourage employees to share their experiences: Encouraging them to share their experiences working for the company can help potential job candidates better understand what it's like to work there. This can be done through employee testimonials or by highlighting employee stories on the company's website or social media channels.
Highlight company perks and benefits: Highlighting the company's perks and benefits can also help communicate its culture. For example, if the company offers flexible work arrangements or promotes work-life balance, it can communicate that it values its employees' well-being.
Use social media: Social media can be a powerful tool for communicating a company's culture to a wider audience. Companies can use social media to share stories, highlight employee accomplishments, and showcase the company's values and mission.
Incorporate culture into the recruitment process: Finally, companies can incorporate their culture into the recruitment process by emphasizing the company's culture and values in job postings and during the interview process.
Building a positive workplace culture is essential for creating a supportive and engaging work environment. However, companies can sometimes make mistakes that undermine their efforts to create a positive culture.
Here are some common mistakes companies make when trying to establish a positive culture:
Failing to involve employees in the process: Creating a positive culture requires employees' active involvement and participation. If companies fail to involve employees in the process, they may miss out on valuable insights and ideas.
Lack of follow-through: Creating a positive culture requires ongoing effort and follow-through. Companies may fail to follow through on their promises, which can erode employee trust and commitment.
Lack of accountability: Companies must hold themselves accountable for creating and maintaining a positive culture. This includes holding managers and leaders accountable for modeling the desired behaviors and taking action when the culture is not aligned with the company's values.
Focusing solely on perks and benefits: While perks and benefits can be a part of a positive culture, companies must focus on more than just material benefits. Creating a positive culture requires attention to the underlying values and norms that shape how employees interact with each other and the company.
Ignoring diversity and inclusion: Companies that ignore inclusive company culture and diversity initiatives miss out on the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce. Failing to prioritize diversity and inclusion can lead to a lack of engagement and a negative culture.
Not addressing toxic behavior: Toxic behavior, such as bullying or harassment, can significantly negatively impact a company's culture. Companies need to take a strong stance against toxic behavior and create policies and procedures that promote respect and professionalism.