You can’t improve your company’s culture—its values, core beliefs, actions, and attitudes—by sending out a memo or instituting a new policy or procedure. You need leaders who are honest, open, consistent and fair. But that’s just the starting point.
To know what a good culture is like, first consider the symptoms of a poor company culture. These include management that makes decisions behind closed doors, shares little information with employees, rewards bad or unethical behavior, and fails to address issues affecting the workforce. Poor company culture breeds low morale, high turnover, loss of productivity and, finally, a potentially devastating loss of profits. Here are six ways you can avoid those symptoms.
1. Articulate your vision and mission.
A company’s leaders must clearly understand its vision before staff can see how they contribute to its success. This vision includes the company’s core values, its approach to customer service, and how it defines performance and operational excellence. The challenge lies in being able to articulate these grand concepts in short, concise statements that every employee understands.
2. Communicate clearly and openly.
In a dysfunctional culture where no information is provided to the staff, gossip and rumors rush in to fill the void. Leaders aren’t obliged to share confidential details, but they should never be dishonest in what they do reveal. Inaccurate or evasive communications generate distrust among employees. When trust is lost, it’s very difficult to regain.
Communication about company objectives, performance, and new initiatives enables the workforce to perform at a higher level. When people understand what’s expected of them and are given the information to fulfill those expectations, they feel they’re part of the bigger picture. This gives a sense of ownership in the process, which helps develop more of a loyalty and dedication. Helping employees feel this way can be done through regular meetings and/or question-and-answer sessions, where employees have the freedom to ask potentially difficult questions without fearing negative consequences.
3. Invite new ideas and accept mistakes.
Open communication is a give-and-take process. All the best ideas do not necessarily originate at the top. Invite employees to contribute fresh ideas and perspectives; after all, they interact with customers on a daily basis and are uniquely positioned to see what’s working and what’s not. In the same respect, encourage staff to try new things, even if these efforts are unsuccessful. In a dysfunctional culture, employees fear taking initiative because mistakes are punished. When you improve your company’s culture, you encourage out-of-the-box thinking, with the understanding that every mistake represents a learning opportunity.
4. Address problems and concerns.
Employees will see an improved culture when they can freely share concerns or issues that crop up in the workplace. Employees need to feel that management is willing to hear about potentially serious issues or developments before management damages operations or causes customers to defect to the competition. In a healthy culture, leaders promptly address these issues and keep staff updated on progress toward a resolution.
5. Hire the right people.
Having the right people in the company will generate a vibrant, productive culture. Improve the selection process by focusing on candidates who best reflect the values and beliefs of the organization, in addition to having the relevant skills and experience. Modify the hiring process to evaluate a potential candidate’s passion and compatibility with the company.
6. Reward excellence and celebrate milestones.
Once you’ve clearly defined the company’s culture, reward those individuals whose outstanding work exemplifies that culture. Take time to celebrate the anniversaries of employees who have worked long and hard for the company. Don’t ever ignore anyone’s contributions or take them for granted.
When you improve your company’s culture, the benefits are evident. Employees are fully engaged in their work and highly productive. Operations run smoothly but are always subject to improvement. There is an energetic team spirit at work and a genuine excitement about what the future can bring.