In the previous articles regarding the series on workplace culture, we taught you how to examine your culture by analysing the rules that govern the traditions that facilitate interactions, behavior, and people you employ. Now, we turn to the last topic in this series: how to improve your culture.
There is no set formula to fix all cultural related problems because every workplace is special. The traditions and rules that lead one specific team to success might cause a different team to fail. Some teams thrive in a more centralized environment, while others reach new heights through assigned decision-making. It really depends on individual situations and circumstances. Nevertheless, successful groups have something in common: that their people are able to work well together.
That is the goal of culture: to help people work well together. People are able to work well together when they trust one another, care about one another’s success, feel a strong sense of community, and appreciate one another for who they are. Therefore, if you want to improve your culture, you need to establish trust, invest in your employees, build community, and strive for diversity. Let’s look at each strategy.
Trust is key to building a great culture, but distrust often reigns in the business world. Employees feel it is hard to trust their employer if they don’t even think that their employer really cares about their personal success and wellbeing. Employers are less likely to trust their employees if they think their employees are looking for work elsewhere or they don’t share the same mission and vision of the company. Some employers might be hesitant to train their workers because they are worried that the employees will bring their additional knowledge and skills to a competitor.
When people don’t trust one another, they hold things back and don’t collaborate as well as they can. Building trust takes time and here are some proven ways to get started:
- When communicating with employees, be open and honest. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
- Don’t keep your employees guessing about how they’re doing. The good workers should know that they are performing well. Weak performers need to know that their work has been subpar prior to the yearly work review. Offer praise and address all problems right way.
- Be accountable and do follow through on your policies. This is especially important when it relates to issues like harassment. Victims of harassment may choose not to report harassment if they don’t believe that their employer are able to address the behavior and put an end to it.
- Admit your mistakes. Employees will be more likely to take responsibility when they mess up if you set the same example that admitting mistakes is something which is encouraged because it helps people to do better.
- Finally, trust your employees. Trust is reciprocal. If you want to have trust, you have to show trust. A big way to show trust your employees is to invest in them. Yes, they may take their experience and training to another company, but so what? You’re better off with trained employees than untrained ones and they will take good will toward your organization with them when they leave.
Communities start to form when people gather around shared beliefs and a common purpose. They will last when each person is there to contribute in their own way and live out those beliefs, and when everyone works together towards that purpose. Especially when every person is valued for what they bring and, most importantly, for who they are.
A sense of community will provide companies the strength they will need to go through the inevitable torrents and quakes of business life. Every company is bound to go through challenging times. And when the times are tough, you want your people to stick around with you. If employees feel connected to a community within their organization, and that community is committed to the organization, they have a reason to stay. It’s not “just a job,” but a shared endeavor that means a lot to them.
Now, how do you bring people together and build a community? Start by clearly defining your mission. All communities have something uniting and binding it together. As a communal place, your workplace should have a shared sense of purpose. At a company meeting or a staff retreat, talk about your company values and the purpose they serve. Share about what you are doing and why you are doing it. Discuss your culture as a whole group and within your individual teams. If employees can understand the mission of your organization and the culture supporting it, and if they see how they can contribute to the overall mission, they will be more personally invested.
Having a shared purpose, you can implement company traditions and rules that make cultural sense. If one of your values includes openness to new ideas and criticism, you can introduce an open-door policy with the company’s management, where employees can easily bring their concerns and ideas to the management’s attention. If your company values trust and personal responsibility, consider offering unlimited PTO. Run through your policies, and ask yourself how each represents one or more of your values. If some policies don’t fit, maybe it’s time to remove them or find a way to bring them in line with your culture.
When the traditions, rules, and operations of your organization fit with its mission, they become a flexible and strong framework in which relationships can be created, develop, and flourish. When these relationships work towards a common purpose, then you will have a community that is strong and includes diverse employees who will work to achieve the company’s mission and they also want to achieve excellence together.
Help Your Employees Flourish
A workplace can contribute to its community by empowering the people who work there to reach their full potential. A workplace can be a place where people learn and master new skills, find meaning in their work, form meaningful relationships, gain valuable life experience, connect with the wider community, and contribute to the common good.
If you want to grow as a company, you have to help your employees grow as individuals. Create a place where empathy, respect, and kindness are prized values. And remember that when you create rules and traditions, these rules and traditions are good in so far as they help people succeed. There’s an old saying that goes—”People don’t exist for the sake of rules; rules exist for the sake of people.” Your rules and traditions should be there to make the interactions in your workplace more productive, effective, meaningful, and fulfilling.
Strive for Diversity
Look for people who contribute to your culture and not just fit in with it. Cultural fit is important such that you don’t want people who will sabotage your culture or limit your success, but every culture can be improved. Your ideal candidates are those who buy into the core principles of your culture, but also bring their own unique backgrounds, ideas, and perspectives to the workplace.
A diverse and inclusive company is a more welcoming place for people to work and spend a big part of their lives. When people are valued for who they are and for what they have to bring, they are more likely to feel inspired and engaged. When people face prejudice, bias, or discrimination in the workplace, they are—expectedly—less happy, less involved in the community, and less inclined to stay. You need to work to ensure that openness and acceptance to different people and new ideas are part of your culture and your traditions and rules show that you practice what you preach.