Don’t let it come down to coincidences. Workplace cultures are hard work, so make sure you show up to work on it every day. Like anything, it takes much longer to build than to tear down again.
But where do you start, and what works? Company culture might seem like an abstract science, but in the end, it’s something every human being is familiar with: making others happy and treating them with care and respect. Here are seven tips that will help you do that in a practical way.
1. Have A Platform In Place That Aids In Building Culture
Building a strong, healthy, and welcoming company culture goes beyond having a Slack channel for ‘funny things’ or a WhatsApp group for birthday wishes.
Let’s say you work at a school. You’ll most likely have software for school management up and running—but chances are it mainly revolves around managing students, not communication between teachers. The truth is, those things are tightly-knit, and by taking care of your school’s culture amongst teachers, you’ll also make it a better place for your students.
So, what would you be looking for in software like that? The platform should, first of all, be easy to use, and everyone should receive training for it. As for the features, look for a tool that allows rewards, clear communication, and aids in collaboration. We’ll expand on why those are so important right now.
2. Give Your Employees A Voice And Autonomy
How does being more responsible for what you do improve workplace culture? Not having to go up the ranks for everything makes everyone feel necessary and valued. You’re not just a placeholder or spokesperson for the manager above you, but someone in charge of their work.
You hire employees for their capabilities, so show some trust. It will speed up any work process, plus your customers will benefit from it, too.
3. Recognize And Reward Your Employees—Structurally
Okay, before anyone misinterprets ‘structurally’: we do mean that there has to be something rewarding that your employees must have done. No participation trophies, please.
Rewards and recognition are the best things to build a better company culture. Organizations scoring in the top 20% of engagement have 59% lower turnovers. Plus, it’s good for business: recognition boosts engagement, productivity, and performance by 14%. That’s worth it, right?
Let’s face it: compliments work. Having your hard work recognized feels good. Managers in every industry should make this a standard practice and watch their workplace culture flourish.
Back to the structure: you must make rewards and recognition a standard practice and not just do it on a whim. This means:
- Everyone in all layers of your organization will be able to receive rewards. Not enabling that will do the exact opposite of what you want to happen to your workplace culture.
- You have a system in place that tells you when someone deserves a reward—and you give it. This could be in the system that we mentioned earlier. Set reminders for milestones and essential presentations so you get notified automatically. No, this doesn’t make it less genuine—it just shows that you care enough.
- You reward people equally for equal work. Don’t give Mike a pat on the back and Jo an expensive bottle of Italian wine if they both crushed their presentations.
- Let employees reward each other and give recognition to their peers. As great as it is to get a compliment from your boss, it sometimes feels even better to get it from someone on the same level as you, who understands first-hand what effort you put in.
4. Cheer On Communication And Collaboration
It may feel like your different departments don’t need to communicate with each other apart from the bare minimum—let alone collaborate on different parts of a project. But wouldn’t it be great if everyone knew what the people around them were up to, so you create a sense of understanding for each other?
It can often look like someone’s not that busy, but meanwhile, their brains are working harder than a 2006 MacBook trying to open Photoshop.
Every once in a while, get your employees together and have them share what they’re working on. Not only will it create a stronger community, but it could also spark new ideas and give people insights that they hadn’t thought of before.
5. Ask Your Employees What They Want
Nobody knows better what’s suitable for your company culture than the people in the culture. If you’re serious about working on your workplace culture, tell your employees. Brainstorm with them: what does the culture feel like right now? What are they missing? What are things they experienced in other jobs they loved, and what is more cringe than helpful?
Take out the guesswork and make your workplace culture a true group project, only this time—everyone participates. This, of course, should not be an ‘extra’ workload, but make it fit into their daily schedules.
Check-in after a while to see what they think of the steps that have been taken, and try to get a sense of the progress you’ve made. Keep doing that regularly, and you’re halfway there.
6. Take Mental Health In The Workplace Seriously
You can have a ping pong table and Xbox in every room, but if your employees’ mental health is shattered by stress, those things won’t fix anything.
While company culture is a ‘together-thing’, it heavily relies on each individual’s feelings. In comes mental health, and of course, physical health: how are you taking care of your employees?
Many old-fashioned companies see this as a none-of-their-business kind of thing, but think about it: people spend most of their waking hours at your office. They dedicate most of their mental space, time, and creativity to your business. How would you not be in charge of their mental health, then?
It’s time to work on excellent company culture by allowing employees to work on themselves. It’s up to you to give them the tools to do that.
Apart from being the right thing to do, it’s also very likely much cheaper to invest in a mental health program than replacing employees who are burnt out.
You don’t need an on-site counsellor per se, even though some companies do thrive with that. There are many great online programs and tools that you can offer your employees.
Moreover, it would be best if you were open about the importance of mental health, and people shouldn’t feel like they have to be ashamed or hide their feelings. Allow for mental health days.
Respect people’s limits and vacations. Check in every once in a while to see their workload and ask how you can help. It can make a huge difference.
7. Set Boundaries And Give Flexibility
Workplace culture is less important than your personal life.
This is for the managers who are ready to make their workplace a great place to work—recognizing that it is ‘just’ work.
Of course, work matters, and people can find great joy in it—but nobody will enjoy being at work or having a great workplace if it is eating up all the time and energy they would put in their personal lives.
The work-life balance discussion has been louder than ever since the start of the pandemic. Some argue that working from home is good for it, others say the opposite. Whether you work fully remote or see your colleagues in the office: flexibility and time for yourself are what makes both your work and personal life better.
What does this mean, in a practical sense?
Allow for asynchronous work as much as you can, and communicate this to the team: everyone should be on board with it for it to work. It simply means that if Cindy wants to work on reports after dinner, and she asks a question about it to Lauren, it’s okay that Lauren doesn’t answer back immediately—she’s watching crime series at that time. She’ll get back to Cindy whenever she can.
This needs some tight planning and strict deadlines, so people don’t have to wait for each other’s input for too long. But if you implement asynchronous work, it also means that people will work when they are most productive, which eventually could speed things up by a lot, rather than slowing it down.
Communicate clearly who’s online and when, and set boundaries. No calls after a particular hour, no texting someone’s phone, and time off are time off.
It’s never too late to start working on your company culture—after all, you’re in it for the long run, right? Mix and match the tips in this article with the input you get from your employees, and you’ll have a great place to work in no time.