Company culture refers to the combined attitude and behaviors, values, and universally accepted beliefs within an organization. You can think of it as a mold that employees use to “fit in” and establish relationships with their colleagues and superiors. As such, leaders need to pay close attention when nurturing it.
Let’s have a closer look at the key elements of positive company culture and how you can make it better for your organization.
What does “organizational culture” mean?
Culture can be an abstract, sweeping idea that refers to your organization’s personality, but it also has observable and measurable effects.
“Your organization’s culture is the sum of all that you and your colleagues think, say, and do as you work together,” according to BambooHR. “It reflects both the written and unwritten rules that people follow.”
For instance, delivering high-quality products or services to customers promptly is a result of good company culture. It also encompasses the way employees treat mental health and bullying in the workplace.
Moreover, culture “is not a measure of employee satisfaction or employee engagement – those measurements are the result of culture,” says Human Synergistics president Allan Stewart.
What makes a positive company culture?
BambooHR notes key indicators of good company culture.
First, a healthy culture encourages employees to understand the organization’s vision and mission. Workers tend to be so ingrained in their daily tasks that they sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture. Reminding them of the company’s values and goals can boost their motivation and productivity.
Second, trust between employees and management is prioritized in a team-oriented structure. Such a work environment inspires collaboration and draws great ideas from all levels of staff.
And finally, employers invest in their employees for the long run and the workers feel invested in the company in return. Workers who feel they are valued and positively engaged by their leaders are 87% less likely to leave their jobs.
In case your organization is not performing well in any of these categories, remember that culture can be managed and shaped. Here are seven ways that you can foster a healthy company culture.
1. Protect employees’ wellness and mental health
Company culture and supervisor-employee communications have a direct impact on an employee’s mental wellbeing, according to a study by Mental Health America.
An unhealthy culture is when employees don’t feel safe communicating workplace concerns to their superiors. These matters include mental health, unfair practices, and bullying received from coworkers.
Alarmingly, 54% of surveyed workers said they didn’t report such problems because they felt their inputs did not matter. This highlights the need for leaders to be sensitive to the mental and emotional well-being of their teams.
Start by determining the most suitable approach to mental health care for your organization. Connect with professionals in the field to train your HR leaders and managers.
For example, you can use the HR training materials published by the non-profit organization Business Group on Health. These can help leaders detect signs of depression among their team members, address stigma, and allocating time and resources for the mental wellness of employees.
The process may require you to gather meaningful data on employees’ mental wellness and their performance through anonymous surveys or one-on-one sessions. Review the data with leadership and decide whether you want to present it to all employees or assign managers to discuss it with their respective teams.
Be vocal about your organization’s support to workers with mental health struggles and commit that you can link them to psychiatric professionals if they need it.
Thus, it is vital for managers to undergo mental health sensitivity and management training. Moreover, you can delegate a workplace champion that can spearhead awareness campaigns and events related to the matter.
Finally, hold frequent video calls, especially for people who are working from home. Give them more flexibility on work hours and encourage them to use their vacation time.
2. Provide timely and constructive feedback
Employees crave both positive and constructive feedback. It’s also vital to do it regularly and frequently so that employees can act on it as soon as they can. In fact, 33% of workers find that simply implementing annual reviews is ineffective or unhelpful.
In this light, you should encourage managers to give timely feedback to their subordinates. Ask them to include review sessions each time they evaluate projects or reach specific business milestones.
You should also ask for feedback from employees more often. For example, you can call for a meeting or conduct a survey shortly after your company launches a new program or implements a new software.
Leaders should always find time to debrief their teams after a project or major undertaking. It can help to put structure to your discussion.
For instance, you can ask your team members to rate their satisfaction toward each aspect of the project. Ask about what they like in particular and thoroughly note their suggestions for improvement.
Regarding the employees’ individual goals and recommended skills for development, you should maximize using your HR management platform. Put detailed feedback and comments whenever an employee reaches specific milestones, and make sure to talk about these in monthly or quarterly reviews.
3. Promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace
Workplace diversity is about promoting a healthy environment that accepts the unique backgrounds and individuality of employees. An inclusive organization draws inputs from people with different perspectives and effectively increases employee engagement and retention.
Moreover, diverse teams can solve problems more efficiently than a group of cognitively similar individuals, according to the Harvard Business Review.
Recognizing holidays of all cultures and knowing the demographic and religious backgrounds of employees are good starting points. Additionally, you should be vocal about practicing political correctness and being respectful of everyone’s cultures and beliefs.
For organizations with employees of different native languages, hiring translators during events can help them understand speeches better and feel included.
Most importantly, view workplace inclusion as an ongoing process and not just about diversity quotas. Conduct training and awareness campaigns against any form of harassment toward race or gender, and identify measurable indicators of your company’s progress.
4. Embrace transparency
According to Forbes, workers consider management transparency to be the number one factor that determines workplace happiness. A transparent company shares information about sourcing, pricing, performance, and internal processes.
More than 50% of employees say that transparent leadership positively impacts their motivation and productivity. Additionally, an honest and straightforward business is likely to have a good reputation and increase your customer base, says Forbes.
You can encourage transparency in your business by hosting regular meetings or tasking managers to relay information, both good and bad, to their teams.
Instead of masking negative news, formulate a constructive way to communicate them to your employees. Otherwise, they will likely learn about it through the rumor mill and develop a culture of gossip instead.
Just a word of caution – don’t become too transparent to the point of jeopardizing your business or losing your edge against competitors. You may consider having a confidentiality agreementwith your employees to protect sensitive information and draw the line between what can be shared and not.
Restaurants can be transparent about the ingredients of their bestseller and software companies can say what makes their app revolutionary. However, they don’t have to provide the exact recipe or share the app’s code to the public.
5. Develop a high-performance learning culture
You should have a clear roadmap on how you want to develop each employee’s knowledge and skillset. Include development goals and applicable training programs in their performance reviews and conduct these conversations more frequently.
Four out of five employees are likely to feel happier about their jobs if they are provided with learning opportunities. This will also prevent the feeling of stagnation or burnout among employees.
Additionally, a high-performance learning culture allows you to develop talent and see potential candidates for promotion in the future.
You can start by looking for learning courses that may come packaged with your subscriptions to corporate software or third-party services. You may also explore offerings in LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, and similar sites and preselect courses that can benefit your employees.
You don’t have to subscribe to paid certification courses right away, especially if there’s no budget formally allocated for training. These can be expensive and wasteful if majority of the workers will not take them.
Instead, encourage your employees to take the free courses and see how they will perform. Then, track their progress over monthly check-ins or quarterly performance evaluations.
If they are doing well and their work has improved due to the training, then you can consider purchasing more advanced courses.
6. Recognize contributions and practice positive reinforcement
Almost 90% of HR leaders say that they have an employee recognition program and it enhances their company culture. Correspondingly, 50% of employees are highly likely to leave a company that does not praise or thank them for their work.
More than a passing congratulations, leaders must learn the science of meaningful recognition for their subordinates’ successes and hard work.
If you do this right, it can boost company-wide morale and encourage a culture of proactivity and healthy competition.
For instance, do not give a gift or award alone. Let the employee and their peers know exactly why you are praising them. For companies with offices worldwide, you can include recognitions and awards in your weekly or monthly email announcements.
If you have a company website or newsletter, allocating space for acknowledging wins and recognizing outstanding employees can be a huge boost of morale. You may add the worker’s photo and discuss in detail why everyone should emulate them.
7. Always revisit your company core values
From supporting mental wellness to recognizing outstanding employees, all your initiatives must be rooted in your organization’s core values and goals.
Leaders must educate employees that company practices are not just born of tradition or convenience, but instead stems deliberately from your vision and mission statements.
To help your core values stick, you need to train your staff about their meaning and how they translate to expected behaviors in the workplace. You should also make your values visually available through office decorations, employee email signatures, or website design.
Revisiting your core values is also an excellent way of encouraging employees to join volunteer work and outreach programs. Influence their perspective by explaining that these are parts of your company’s nature and goals, and not just a quota to fill.