When building a strong workplace culture, “good enough” isn’t good enough.
Your company’s core goals and values may not change much over time, but your organizational culture can — and should. Workplace culture is about more than platitudes. It is about communicating with your team about the company’s decisions and why and giving team members a safe space to be a part of that conversation.
A strong workplace culture thoroughly integrates the company’s values into its behavior and vocabulary and becomes a seamless part of workday life. No matter how solid your workplace culture is, there’s always room to evolve and improve. It may be time for a culture reset.
Whether your team is on-site, hybrid, or remote, establishing and maintaining a thriving culture requires attention and deliberation, and it’s an ongoing process. Your company’s mission, vision, and values all play a role in nurturing an intentional workplace culture.
Here are five practical ways you can help improve your organization’s culture.
1. Define your mission, vision, and values
If you don’t know what your workplace aspires to be, your employees won’t know either. A mission statement explains why your organization exists, a vision statement looks forward to what your organization hopes to achieve, and your values are the core principles to get you there. These three distinct points should be written and made clear. If your company already has all three, review them to ensure they are still relevant and accurate in these changed times.
It does no good to define these pillars of your organization if your employees are not intimately aware of them. Integrate your mission, vision, and values into your meetings and communicate them often to your team. Frequent reinforcement will showcase the importance and value of these pillars to the organization and its employees. Your mission, vision, and values should also be communicated to prospective employees to help you and the candidate determine whether they are a good fit.
Mission, vision, and values are not just for employees. Leadership must fully embrace them and lead by example. Attitude and actions are modeled from the top down, and your leadership team should inspire employees to act in accordance with your company’s expectations.
2. Conduct an employee engagement and satisfaction survey
Take steps to ensure there is no disconnect between how you think employees are feeling and how they are really feeling.
What’s the best way to find out what your employees think and how they are feeling? Ask them!
Regular employee engagement surveys, scheduled check-ins, and stay and exit interviews are great ways to collect employee feedback. When you pay close attention to what your employees are saying, you will likely find areas that need to be addressed.
After conducting a survey, analyze the results, prioritize findings, and create an action plan to implement needed change. Communicate what is being done, establish measurable goals, and track your progress. We recommend further employee surveys to verify success. Your team must see that efforts are being made to prioritize their feedback and foster a positive workplace culture.
3. Stamp out toxic workplace culture
A company with an unhealthy culture will suffer in other ways as well. The state of an organization’s culture is the single best predictor for employee turnover, which impacts productivity, burns through significant time and resources, and costs the company money, a lot of money! Recognizing signs of toxicity and addressing them will help your organization retain engaged and productive employees, often for significantly longer periods of time.
According to an MIT study, disrespectful behavior is the most significant detriment to workplace culture. HR leaders and employers should be on the lookout for micro-cultures of negativity, which can arise even in a generally healthy workplace. A negative micro-culture should be addressed as soon as it is recognized.
Psychological safety is another vital component of a healthy workplace culture. A psychologically safe work environment is one where employees can freely express ideas, questions, and concerns without fear of embarrassment or retribution. This does not mean avoiding disagreements or disciplinary action. Instead, it is about creating a safe space for sharing and discussing different ideas respectfully without attacking or maligning the individuals presenting them. Employees who experience psychological safety are more effective, make better decisions, create healthy group dynamics, and have better interpersonal relationships with their teammates.
4. Close the cultural gaps
Cultural gaps can be uncovered through one-on-one meetings, stay interviews, and analysis of company leadership styles, among other methods.
Employee one-on-ones are regularly scheduled private check-ins between managers and individual team members. These are essential for creating connected teams by facilitating uninterrupted time for managers and employees to share feedback, touch base on projects, ask for help with challenges, and get to know each other on a more personal level. This time is valuable for managers and leaders to uncover emerging issues and give ample time to address them.
Stay interviews are conversations between a manager and an employee about what the employee likes and dislikes about their job, what their goals (both within the company and on a broader career level) are, and what factors would lead them to decide to stay or leave the organization. These interviews provide insight into employee satisfaction and can identify potential issues before they grow into more significant problems. Stay interviews should be comprised of open-ended questions and conducted by an employee’s direct supervisor.
Leadership styles directly impact employee engagement, but not all leadership styles are productive. Effective leadership characteristics include:
- Influencing others.
- Offering transparency.
- Encouraging creativity and innovation.
- Valuing ethics and integrity.
- Acting decisively.
- Balancing hard truths with optimism.
A great leader builds up employees, adheres to and strengthens cultural norms, and can balance empathy and accountability to build a productive team.
5. Follow through and follow up
Finding the gaps and weaknesses in your workplace culture can fuel the fire if you do not respond to them; after spending the time and resources to seek employee feedback and identify gaps that need to be addressed, follow through and fix the issues. Enhance employee trust by acknowledging their contributions and communicating your findings and plans to improve workplace culture.
In a thriving workplace culture, your organization’s values and mission are clear, and leaders and employees embrace them. There is transparency, trust, and mutual respect between all levels of the organization. Your workforce is flexible and adaptable, and employees feel that leadership is approachable and accessible when needed. A good litmus test of success is a lack of office gossip and politics undermining your workplace culture.