Much has been said about workplace culture in recent years. Many younger members of the workforce, such as Millennials and Generation Zers, have come to prioritize things like work-life balance, interesting work, and continuous learning over their salary and benefits.
This emphasis on the value of unique, positive workplace experiences doesn’t stop with young employees, however. According to a study by Deloitte, an overwhelming 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe that a distinct workplace culture correlates with business success.
Why an Intentional Workplace Culture Matters
While most people believe that a healthy, unique workplace culture affects the overall success of their company, the specific reasons for this impact can be a bit difficult to pin down. Here are a few of the primary ways that good workplace culture can have a “rising tide lifts all boats” effect within an organization.
Workplace Culture Knits Everyone Together
A solid workplace culture provides direction and inspiration for your staff. It establishes a company-wide current to pull everyone in the same direction and even serves as a “North Star” to which everyone can fix their coordinates. This naturally brings a sense of togetherness that can be vital to long-term success.
Workplace Culture Establishes Behavioral Guidelines
It’s important for everyone in your organization to understand how to interact with others. This is vital for both outward- and inward-facing behavior. You can always create brand guidelines and set expectations for communication standards to help with these activities. However, having a healthy culture can set the foundational tone for how you expect your employees to collaborate with one another and how you want them to interact with the outside world as well.
Workplace Culture Reflects Who You Are
Along with establishing how your organization interacts, a good workplace culture can also reflect who you are as a business. Companies like Apple and Google have excelled at creating distinct, memorable cultures that clearly underscore their company’s expectations and beliefs.
How to Purposefully Cultivate a Healthy Work Culture
Workplace culture has never been more essential than in the wake of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. The worldwide shift to a remote workspace has forced companies to sacrifice a sense of culture that is typically fostered through proximity.
With companies scrambling to shift to remote operations, it’s absolutely critical that leaders take an active role in re-establishing a vibrant, distinct company culture in their new, virtual workspaces. Here are a few suggestions for ways to establish workplace culture in the “new normal.”
Allow Employees to Work Remotely
This may sound obvious in the midst of a pandemic, but it’s important for your company to have more than just a short-term remote work policy in place. If you want to truly enable your employees to be productive as they contribute to your company’s success, it’s worth setting up an official “work-from-home” policy.
This doesn’t have to be a shift to a 100% remote workforce decision. However, the benefits of remote work are fairly well documented at this point. 77% of remote employees claim they’re more productive when working from home and 76% even prefer to avoid the office completely when they need to concentrate on a project. Allowing your staff the flexibility to work off-site, at least at times, can be an excellent way to keep morale up, streamline the efficiency of your operation, and boost productivity all at the same time.
Maintain Healthy Communication
Healthy communication is vital to maintaining your workplace culture, especially if your staff isn’t always on-site. Communication allows for greater collaboration, helps to disseminate expectations, and generally keeps everyone on the same page.
As leadership, it’s important to establish what your organization’s primary modes of communication are. These can include the following channels:
- Good, old-fashioned text-driven email.
- Virtual workspaces like Slack.
- Video chats through Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, and similar applications.
- Phone calls either over traditional channels or via the internet.
- Workflow platforms like Trello and Asana.
These don’t have to be used exclusively, however. If one or two of these are chosen as the primary communication channels, they can aid in keeping information flowing.
Provide Continual Training and Educational Opportunities
If you want to foster a community of employees who are invested in the success of their organization, it’s important to invest in each staff member as an individual. By helping your staff improve their own skills and talents, you encourage a sense of positivity and loyalty that can become an essential building block of your workplace culture. This continual-learning can be facilitated through the following methods:
- Personal feedback, performance evaluation, and mentorship.
- Volunteer group training, such as taking creative cloud classes, sponsored by your company.
- Mandatory education, such as teaching a new operational method or system in order to sharpen each employee’s transferable skills.
- Offering company compensation for employees who wish to further their academic education while still working for you.
If you take the time to invest in your workforce, it will help to create a healthy, positive culture that demonstratively values its employees on a regular basis.
Define Your Brand’s Key Values
While there may be companies that have created cultures you admire, you can’t simply adapt an existing cultural model to any mode of business. Your unique culture must be modeled to fit both your company and your market environment.
Much of this process begins with defining your brand’s key values. What aspects are particularly valued by your organization? Do you prioritize openness and transparency? Honesty and integrity? Productivity and efficiency? As Vivian Maza puts it, “By identifying your company’s core values, you can better define your culture — your greater mission and reason(s) for existing as a company, beyond the tangible products or services you offer.”
No matter how well defined it is, good company culture will atrophy if it is only being propped up by the leadership. If you want your employees to buy into your culture, you must make an effort to empower them within it.
Some of this empowerment takes place naturally through decentralizing activities like allowing for a remote-workforce. At other times, it can be more direct, such as leaders delegating responsibilities and encouraging staff members to collaborate and take ownership over their work and its results.
In order to truly foster an employee-inclusive workplace culture, “servant leaders” must learn to actively listen to their staff. Taking the time to purposefully and distinctly listen to your employees’ feedback, thoughts, opinions, and inspirations can directly feed into a healthy workplace culture vibe.
This doesn’t just help to empower the worker; it also helps bosses to better understand the perspective of their employees. Company employees tend to regard their workplace as an outward representation of how their company values them. If they feel that their culture consists of servant leaders who actively listen to them, it will help to intentionally bolster workplace culture.
Forging a Meaningful Workplace Culture
From clearly defined company values to healthy communication, empowered employees, remote work, and educational opportunities, there are many ways to intentionally invest in a distinct workplace culture.
Before you do so, though, take the time to decide what kind of culture you want to build. Identify the values that fit your organization and its goals within your industry. Then, begin to apply the above suggestions to forge a workplace culture that is dripping with intent, purpose, positivity, and ultimately, with success.