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Office culture is the cornerstone of a great place to work. More than having dress-down Fridays or Taco Tuesdays in the staff room, workplace culture is about how people work and interact together. The sum total of their shared experience produces your firm’s “workplace culture”.

Having a good workplace culture matters for a host of reasons, but the two most important are the fact that you need to attract talent to your firm; and once you get them, you want to keep them happy and productive. In NJ and its surrounding areas, prospective employees have many options as to where they can choose to work. When it comes to down it, every positive thing you can offer to a new hire holds weight. So today, instead of banging that all-familiar coffee drum, the team here at Corporate Essentials is going to give you the lowdown on the importance of company culture, by laying out 35 ways you can be sure yours is great.

1. Trust to be trusted

Some of the stock arguments about leaving “fun” out of the break room come from people who assume that books, magazines, good coffee, foosball tables and conversation are going to distract people from doing their jobs.

The reality is, if you offer those perks and trust your employees to indulge responsibly, they are far more likely to believe you when you say, “If everyone can come together and put in some extra time to get this pitch finished, we will have a blow-out celebration when we sign this deal!” Meaning work moves forward without anyone begrudging that little bit extra.

2. Know your people

If you conjure up the image of a great team, neighborhood or town, the odds are each distinct group will have one thing in common: camaraderie. Without knowing the people in your business, you will always have trouble relating to them and forging the bonds you might rely on when pressure mounts.

Establish open lines of communication, provide casual opportunities for people from all parts of your business to interact with one another and encourage people to both engage in conversations and be approachable to others.

3. Clearly define your standard

Whether your business aims to be an evil widget empire or plans to slowly and peacefully expand around the world by sowing seeds that transform barren landscapes into beautiful meadows, it is vital that everyone on your team knows exactly what your mission is from the start. It is easier for people to align their mental space with the company’s goals if they come in with a clear mission and value statement from day one.

4. Be thankful

Countless articles are published annually outlining the keys to success, and one point that is rarely missed out is that the more gratitude people genuinely feel and express, the more success they consistently find.

5. Be flexible

Deadlines are at the core of much we do in the workplace, and while it is often vital that we meet them to keep our companies competitive, being able to take a flexible approach to our work is mutually beneficial.

Having a more relaxed dress code on non-client facing days, offering time off to decompress from high-stress situations and simply providing options when staff is faced with tricky situations can go a long way toward establishing a feeling of flexibility and overall goodwill.

6. Professional development matters

People who have their own needs met are better at helping meet the needs of others. This is a sentiment that many employers lose sight of as companies grow. To have competitive teams, you have to allow them to continually develop their skill sets and add new strings to their creative bows.

Though there is a fear that investing in employee development might just pave the way for the worker to move on to bigger and better things, it is important to acknowledge that people are hard-wired to seek out knowledge and bored employees will go find something “bigger and better” to do with or without that extra training. If anything, studies show that investing in training for your staff instills a greater sense of value in them, which fosters loyalty to your firm.

7. Throw out traditional metrics

The one thing people are always interested in is the numbers, “What do the metrics say?” We use data to frame the majority of our interactions with others in the workplace, and the problem with that is it creates an automatic disconnect between people and the company.

Staff is less likely to feel like they are making a valued contribution to the company’s success when they are working to achieve short-term targets without understanding how those numbers ultimately impact the company’s goals or shape the company’s presence in your sector.

8. Create cool spaces

Cool is obviously relative, but there are plenty of perks and tricks that pepper the halo companies in any given industry. The ability to bring dogs into the office, have a FroYo bar in the break room or get wicked discounts on popular shoes can be a great perk, but our experts tell us again and again that you have to start with a great space.

This does not mean you need prime real estate (though obviously, that helps), but rather than you need to design your space with purpose so that information, connections and general awesomeness spew from its very core.

9. People love free

There is always resistance to providing freebies in the office, but the reality is, offering extras here and there contributes hugely to an employees’ feeling of value in the workplace. The importance of company culture means that providing simple things like coffee, snacks, headphones and other token items that might give a little lift is worth the cost, and considerably less expensive than recruitment can be for key staff.

10. Banish bad behavior

Negativity spreads quickly, so when you establish values for your organization, really think about the kind of people whose values and traits are likely to attract. Tailor the words in your engagement materials to foster the “feel-good” factor and have zero tolerance for people who rock the boat for the sake of the splash.

11. Encourage growth

Similar to the point about allowing for ongoing professional development, businesses with great cultures fan the flames for exploration, boundary-pushing, evolution and all other forms of growth – both personally and professionally.

12. Keep talking

Many of the elements of a successful workplace culture plan will ultimately circle back to having clear, open communication at all levels of your business.

13. Care, and mean it

Taking the team out for lunch once a month is great, but only if it is a genuine act of kindness without an ulterior motive. People are able to see through hollow gestures and grow weary of them readily, which makes it all the more important to get to know your people and express your gratitude for a job well done sincerely, in a personalized way that appeals to the specifics of the team and achievement in question.

14. Have fun

People feel pressure in the workplace differently, and while it is not realistic to try and eliminate it altogether, it should be possible to keep as much fun in the mundane tasks and stressful periods as possible with a little creative input and careful planning. This is more than just putting emoticons into emails – it has to come from the heart.

15. Hire for your culture

While skill sets and job prerequisites are important, shift gears and get into the mindset of recruiting people that match the goals, values and mission of your company. Recruiting to the culture of your business allows you to potentially tap resources in the job market that you would not have otherwise considered, and it improves your employee retention.

16. Contribute to your community

Wherever your company makes their presence felt, people will take note. So developing partnerships with local businesses can be a great way to foster a broader connection to both your local staff and their wider community.

Simple things like buying cakes from the bakery across the street instead of the mega-chain grocery up the road, picking an office coffee vendor that works with local roasters and including local sustainable farms in your catering plans can have a positive impact on your company image. Certain vendors offer local coffee options, bringing a blend from a NY café to your NJ office.

17. Keep tabs on happiness

More than just encouraging open lines of communication, make the importance of knowing how people are coping with things part of your management routines. Deadlines, personal issues, project load, access to resources, the office coffee, the Yankees, all of these are things you can use to engage and check up on people across your teams throughout the company.

18. Be transparent

Transparency can be a tricky issue where finances and security are at stake, but providing transparency wherever possible gives everyone a more positive outlook. When there are fewer closed-door discussions, staff have less to speculate about and that is a boon to office culture.

19. Allow for growth

We have already mentioned the importance of personal growth and professional development, as a compliment to each of these your business also needs places for your employees to grow “to”. Without an upward path for career progression within your company, employees will take what they can and leave when they hit the wall – so remove it.

20. Make your job fin

Okay, maybe not your job, but someone’s job should definitely be bringing fun into the workplace. If you keep “add fun” as an item on your to-do list, odds are it will never get done, so hire someone whose sole responsibility is to provide engaging activities for staff.

21. Nurture change

Change is natural, but it is also challenging. So whether for the positive, negative or neutral change, providing appropriate information and support to guide your teams through changes is vital.

22. Accept mistakes and move forward

Mistakes are part of learning and growth. Their importance to company culture is simple: learn what went wrong, pinpoint the how or why, take note of what it teaches you and leave it in the dust.

23. Evolve as you grow

The importance of company culture in a growing business makes it easy to assume it is an unchangeable asset that must not be disturbed. However, as your business grows and develops it is only natural that your company culture will grow and adapt to meet the needs of a growing employee base.

24. Be customer-centric

The cornerstone of your success as a firm is always your customers, so focus on them. What they need, what they want and how you can best serve them lies at the core of providing the guidance and support your staff requires to succeed.

25. Foster collaboration

When teams work well together, great things happen. Doing what you can to promote an atmosphere where all contributions are welcome and getting people together from different areas for unrelated purposes are great ways to encourage collaborative working.

26. Encourage laughter

We all know it is the best medicine, but when it comes to the importance of company culture, laughter is a vital ingredient. Having something to laugh about can bring people together, reduce stress and create the foundation for better communication.

27. Establish traditions

Hold regular events for a year and use feedback to pick a few that are exceptionally loved to make annual celebrations. Think bigger than just having a holiday party – throw an Octoberfest and invite your community, fundraise for a local school with a bikeathon or keep it simple and stick to Taco Tuesday. Traditions are an important aspect of company culture.

28. Do contract-to-hire recruiting

Contractors get to enjoy a lot of the perks your regular employees receive while they are working on your site. They also get a feel for how the office functions, and you get a preview of what they are like to work with, which can make them excellent candidates for permanent positions.

So watch your contractor pool carefully for people who line up well with the culture you are establishing, and offer potential hires a short-term contract to get a taste of your office.

29. Stay together when away

Saving money is one reason, building relationships between colleagues can be another, but more importantly, having management in the same hotel on the same floor as everyone else eliminates a lot of perceived barriers.

30. Tap everyone’s potential

Though there is plenty of truth in the cliché “there is no I in team”, it can be difficult to put those words into action as a manager. In terms of corporate culture, highlight the value that every person brings to the table and make it your business to include unique skills across the table for special projects rather than relying on that one person everyone knows owns at PowerPoint to pull off another great presentation.

31. Be patient with skeptics

Unfortunately, one thing the workplace shares with other relationships in our lives is baggage. If your recruiters woo an amazing team lead away from a competing firm but they seem slow to accept your way of doing things at face value, give them time.

Actions speak louder than words, as they say, and where the importance of company culture is concerned, you really do need to live your culture; let them see how real it is for themselves.

32. Apologies and humility

If more managers and business leaders admitted it when they made a bad call, the work world would be a different place. People who work for you need to know that you are responsible and respect them enough to own your mistakes as well as giving credit to those who have supported your success.

33. Get together away from work

A great workplace culture extends beyond the bricks and mortar where your company keeps its desks. This is important for three reasons: first, because you will want to be sure you extend the same sort of perks to people who work at home or are in satellite offices that in-house staff are receiving; second, because your company makes an imprint on the area so you should be sure it is for the better; and third, because work takes up a large percentage of our day, so where the work and home worlds collide it is vital that this is a pleasant experience.

In NJ offices, this task isn’t too difficult as most employees commute to work or live in nearby areas. Finding a meeting place that is about the same distance for all involved employees is essential to helping your team meet out of work. This will allow them to bond with one another, and get to know each other on a deeper level.

34. Make the workplace like home

While we are not exactly recommending you have people come to work in their slippers and a robe, there are plenty of homey touches that can be added to any office to make people feel more welcome and connected to their space. A simple place to start is allowing people to put up their own decorations and personal touches in non-customer-facing areas.

35. Share the responsibility of cultivating culture

Giving people ownership of company culture is a great step toward ensuring the environment you create is ideal for people to learn, grow and be productive in; but also to build.

Showing staff that their contribution to office culture, whether by passively enjoying coffee and conversation in the break room or through actively hosting activities, is both valued and vital to the company’s success is the best way to express the importance of office culture to your teams.

We hope you have some new ideas and inspiration for moving the culture of your own workplace forward for the better. If you are interested in improving the corporate culture in your NJ breakroom, reach out to our team of experts here at Corporate Essentials. With going on twenty years in the office coffee industry, we know a thing or two about inspiring great teams to do amazing work.

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Joe Simonovich

Joe has a strong background in marketing and a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). The start to his career as a customer service representative has given him a unique foundation and different perspective on almost all business-related situations. Joe is now the Chief Growth Officer (and Director of Creating Awesomeness) at Corporate Essentials. He brings a unique skill set and a hands-on approach to any leadership role and believes that hustle is simply a way of life.