Whether you’re a big corporation or a small startup company, a health care empire or tech business, leaders of the American workforce all need to pay attention to the very real and important aspect of company culture. Though business leaders obviously have many pots simmering on the preverbal stove, paying close attention to the overall feel of the company culture is arguably one of the more important responsibilities.
If company leaders aren’t keeping an eye on office environment, that simmering pot may boil over, affecting other critical pieces of the business’s daily and long term functioning. Having a positive company culture has many benefits for a company.
If the overall feel of the company is positive, you’ll have happy employees. Happy employees lead to greater retention rates, and higher retention rates mean more motivated employees and higher levels of productivity.
Essentially, higher levels of productivity mean stronger bottom dollar. This, at the end of the day, is the goal of a successful company. With that said, there are many ways to go about improving company culture.
Business leaders, owners and managers don’t need to start from scratch wondering how to bring about a positive effect to their office culture. Read below to find 10 proven ways to improve your office culture today.
1. Encourage open communication
Allowing your employees to have a voice goes a long way. This should include both the good and the bad. Providing opportunities for employees to share their opinions and concerns openly is very important when creating a positive company culture.
You don’t want your employees to feel censored, to feel as though they cannot share their frustrations, ideas and concerns. You want your employees to know that, no matter the message, they will be heard. It’s up to you to make an effort to show them they can.
Make it company policy to send out surveys at the very least, once a year. Ideally, employees would have the opportunity to complete a feedback survey quarterly.
Be sure to send out the survey at a time when employees won’t be super stressed and busy (i.e., end of fiscal year, before a huge project is due etc.). This is not so the feedback isn’t negative.
Rather, it is so the feedback will be completed in a way that is comprehensive, true and thoughtful. Consider involving your employees in creating the feedback survey. Are there questions that should be included? Are there things they want to have a say in?
One on one meetings
It is a habit of good leaders to hold one-on-one meetings with their employees on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. One-on-ones have a couple of positive benefits.
First, they offer a voice to the employees. Those that are, by nature, not outspoken or “complainers” may be struggling with something within the workplace.
They may have succeeded at a certain task of which they are exceptionally proud. These employees wouldn’t dream of knocking on the boss’s door to brag or complain, but instead may feel very comfortable sharing their success or frustrations when prompted.
By providing a platform to all of your employees, it isn’t just the squeaky wheel that gets the grease or the outspoken bloviator that earns a promotion. All employees get a chance to speak.
Secondly, by meeting alone with each of your employees on a regular and frequent basis, you are forming a relationship with them. It is wise for a leader to form a positive and professional relationship with those whom they lead.
This ensures you know your employees’ strengths and weaknesses and can assign the right tasks to the right person based off those qualities. It also goes a long way in improving company culture when an employee feels connected to his or her boss.
If your team is too large to conduct one-on-ones as routinely as you’d like, consider weekly small group meetings. It’s important that these meetings don’t occur without reason or that you aren’t just “meeting to meet.”
Your employees’ time is important and it’s wise to respect that time. When planning group meetings, send out an agenda ahead of time.
Allow employees to add to the agenda if they wish. When it comes time to meet, stick with that agenda. Use this time to connect with your team and to form relationships.
Allow employees the freedom to voice their real opinions. Just as important as asking for feedback, tabulating it, sharing it and doing something about what you’ve found is just as important. If the masses show there needs to be a change in the evaluation process, make a change.
Employees that know their voice is heard are much happier and comfortable in their work environment. This level of comfort goes a long way and can create a culture of constant improvement.
2. Embrace transparency
Just like it’s important for employees to openly communicate, this should be practiced at the top as well. Adopt a policy of openness and transparency.
Though it seems odd and is often counterintuitive, too much information is often better than not enough. Without breaking the bonds of confidentiality, share pertinent and company-wide information at-will. Is there anything going on in the company that employees should know about?
Perhaps big changes are coming down the pike. Maybe you are considering changing suppliers. Maybe it’s a new email server.
Consider sharing these ideas with the staff, even if they are still ideas in their infancy. Your employees are smart, capable people; this is why you’ve hired them.
They can offer great ideas and feedback regarding any of these possible changes. This openness makes your employees feel a part of the growth and change. When people feel as though they are part of something, it is much easier to jump on board and accept the changes.
Share the challenges that have come along with changes. Share the success stories as well. This type of transparency gives employees insight on the future plans for the company and ultimately builds trust.
3. Acknowledge hard work
People love to be appreciated. Hard work feels extra great when someone notices it. Your employees are dedicated to their jobs, they enjoy what they do and they welcome challenges.
However, remember that it sure would be nice if someone else acknowledged the struggle and process they go through. Consider your team members.
Did they just finish a stressful project? Did they have a big meeting? Have they shown an immense amount of improvement?
Acknowledge those things, make them feel valued for what they offer and provide to the company. A good leader knows he or she is only as good as the employees working underneath them.
The good news is there are many ways you can show your appreciation. Maybe you could offer them a gift card to their favorite coffee shop, even as little as $5 would send a message of appreciation (but don’t be afraid to be generous!).
Some employees may appreciate a public congratulations. You could do this in a meeting, on the website, in a company wide newsletter or blog.
Maybe something as small as a pat on the back and a “nice job” will do the trick. It’s amazing, but these little details go a long way and have shown to increase productivity and motivation in the workplace.
4. Provide opportunity to grow
Your employees each have their own roles and specialties. Some may wish to stay in their current role while others may have hopes to be challenged and grow.
Either way, it’s important to provide opportunities for each of your employees to grow in their roles or to provide opportunities for them to grow within the company. It is human nature to want to learn more and increase our own intellectual value.
Don’t be surprised when you noticed that your employees want to continue learning and improving their skills. Be sure to provide training, professional development or leadership courses for your employees.
If your budget allows, consider implementing a payback program for employees that complete their Master’s degree or something similar. For those looking to grow within the company, consider providing them with specialized training and education for any role that they may be interested in.
This pays off in the long run…and even in the short run. Invest in your current employees and you will more likely have a solid group of people who are loyal and happy with your company.
Finally, as a leader, make the effort to provide coaching for your employees. Whether this is something you do yourself or a role you contract out, offering one-on-one coaching (especially for those struggling in their roles) sends a message that you care about the people behind those desks.
5. Promote teamwork
You can’t ignore the fact that your employees, who are likely working in teams, will need to be comfortable and able to trust those with whom they work. Taking the time to build this trust, camaraderie and even friendship isn’t time wasted.
Team building activities are popular and common for a reason. They work. Before you bring everyone together to start doing trust falls and “chubby bunny” challenges, think about what your goals are, as a leader. You want your team to feel comfortable with one another.
They should feel comfortable enough to help out a coworker if they see someone struggling and, even more difficult sometimes, comfortable enough to ask for help from their team members when they feel that they need it. You want the environment to be a solid one.
A positive one. And, ideally, a family-like atmosphere is what you want to see from your company. This doesn’t happen by starting off staff meetings with tired icebreakers.
Instead, create a team retreat. Consider taking the morning off to enjoy a sit down breakfast and then perform service as a team somewhere in the local community. Maybe a nice night out is just what your team needs.
Gather everyone together and treat them to dinner and entertainment. This doesn’t need to be just a yearly holiday experience.
Perhaps a picnic in the park with families is more in your wheelhouse. Include a kickball game. Maybe having two different teams heading off each other.
There are many ways to create bonding within the workplace. Remember, these are the people they see each work day and rely on. Trust and a positive relationship within these teams is vitally important.
In the world of working from home and remote jobs, face to face interaction can be extremely beneficial in a work environment and can lead to better employee performance. Gathering everyone together can be fun and help with employee engagement by creating a unified team.
6. Encourage employee autonomy
There is no denying it. Employees don’t like to be micromanaged. Having someone over your shoulder constantly is not a good feeling.
Even though we know this, it isn’t always an easy thing to put into practice. To adopt a leadership approach of not micromanaging, place your employees in decision making situations.
This will allow them to have the opportunity to grow and exercise choice. When people feel that they have the freedom of choice in their lives (at work or at home) they have a higher level of happiness that permeates through all they do–thus improving company culture.
Trust your employees to effectively handle their responsibilities and the tasks that you’ve handed over to them. Hire good people to do the jobs you need, and then leave them alone to do it. Giving them this freedom allows them to learn how to handle situations, that sometimes may even be difficult.
By learning how to do this, they can embrace accountability and take their own initiatives. This can be an extremely empowering feeling to give employees.
When they struggle, they will ask for help. Provide them with the support they need to be successful, but don’t get in their way. Good leaders know when to step back and let the birds they’ve hired fly high without them.
7. Offer great incentives/perks
There are so many office perks found in the jobs of today, making it important for all workplaces to compete. You must show your employees that you care about their well-being and that you value the idea of work life balance. This is extremely important.
Don’t skimp on benefits
Nowadays, it’s common to offer benefits like a 401k, minimum two weeks vacation, sufficient sick days, insurance, etc. This goes a long way.
It also encourages your employees to take some time off to feel refreshed- which can ultimately allow them to come back and work hard and be more productive and efficient in their roles.
If you’re looking for a low-cost benefit that goes a long way, consider lengthening vacation time or doing away with sick leave all together. This shows you care about the health and well-being of your employees.
Consider the perks
In addition to traditional benefits, there is much more that an employer can offer to help sweeten the pot for a prospective (or current) employee. Even having a great office break room can give employees a place to relax, chat with others or even gives them a different environment to get their work done if needed.
Consider offering coffee and snacks to employees in this break room. Working with an office coffee service provider can help set up all break room essentials. These details show your employees how much their work is appreciated.
Be sure the area is visually appealing. Utilize the new flexible seating trend offering many areas in which an employee can relax, meet with a team, or work away from their tedious desk in an open and inviting environment.
Imagine bringing a prospective or new employee through the break room. Seeing a space with plenty of coffee and snacks and room to spread out, communicates the emphasis you place on your employee’s happiness.
8. Encourage activities outside the office
In addition to a team retreat as mentioned above, plan regularly scheduled outings and encourage employees to spend time together outside of the office. This can help build a strong company culture.
Strong companies have strong social ties with friendships present amongst employees. Plan a bowling trip for the company. To please the sporty crowd, consider hiking.
Maybe there is a hobby that the employees share. Find that and do it together! Plan a weekly happy hour or a monthly dinner out.
A good idea some leaders employ is designating a person or group of people to plan these events. This puts the team members in charge of their own outings, removes “the boss” from the equation and increases the chance of the employees being excited about these events.
Whatever the activity and whomever plans it, sharing and spending time with other employees can truly unify teams and improve the overall culture of the company.
9. Request frequent feedback and act on it
This goes hand in hand with open communication. It is important to make your employees feel as though they can share their opinions, no matter what their opinions are.
Ask for feedback often. It is very important to make this a consistent request to your employees. It’s ideal to make an employee feedback survey at least once a quarter.
By making an effort to show your employees that the company is always trying to improve and grow, you can boost engagement and motivation within the workplace. Not only should leaders constantly and routinely request feedback, but they should always make sure to act on it.
Acting on the feedback is even more crucial that simply asking for it. Imagine you’ve been asked for your opinion on something. Once given, it’s ignored. It’s not even acknowledged. The requester simply hears your words and turns to walk away.
It’s a ridiculous scenario, certainly. But this is what it can feel like when survey requests are met with silence. Gather the data, tabulate it, then share it back with the group.
Share what changes will be made from the data. Share what won’t change and give valid and reasonable reasons why. Even if they are small changes, show your employees that they made a difference and that their voices are being heard.
10. Allocate the necessary time and effort
Improving company culture is a continuous work in progress that never stops. It’s important to take a step back and constantly analyze your company culture.
Look for areas where improvement may be needed. Throughout this process, make sure to stay true to your core company values.
Do all of this while expressing the passion you feel about working towards your company goal. Expressing this passion will encourage employees to feel the same way and work towards the common goal of building a strong and positive company culture.
Having a positive company culture affects all areas of a business. Employees need, and deserve, to feel a connection to the place in which they work each day.
If the culture is positive, friendly, open and inviting, connections amongst employees are easily made. Leadership can better understand their employees and work with them to improve the company.
This increases productivity, engagement and helps the company to grow and prosper. A company’s most valuable resource are the people that work for it.