Creating Positive Organizational Culture
Creating positive organizational culture is incredibly important for business owners and leaders to dive into and explore. I have experienced both the positive and negative effects that culture can have on your business. Your employees are your most valuable assets, and you owe it to them to provide not only a happy and healthy work environment but an enjoyable one as well.
I want to start by exploring the core components of company culture, why it’s essential, and how any individual in a leadership role can better understand, assess, and cultivate it. As a lifelong entrepreneur and business owner, I have personally seen the good and the bad, and unfortunately, the ugly as it pertains to company culture. As a CEO, HR Manager, or just in a leadership role, you strive for the good but can’t turn a blind eye to the bad.
Why Having a Positive Company Culture Matters
Did you know that human beings, on average, spend around 13 years of their life at work? No wonder creating positive organizational culture is so important. Statistically, according to an article by Forbes, company culture significantly impacts employee loyalty and employee satisfaction. Employees who have positive relationships and feel comfortable speaking honestly are:
- Happier coming to work every day
- More inclined to engage in positive and meaningful collaboration
- Stay with the company longer and have more company loyalty
While this is great in theory, as a business owner or any leader, you have to be willing to put in the time, effort, and openness to cultivate and inspire the kind of positive organizational culture you want to achieve.
Recognizing Negative Organizational Culture
So how do you recognize negative organizational culture? Factors such as employee turnover, hesitance to give feedback, and the prioritizing of performance over people. When you’re an entrepreneur working 12-16 hour days, it can be easy to lose touch with day-to-day office life. It’s just a necessary grind and one where you can easily lose sight of your company culture. Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way with my first company, The IT Group.
To give you the short version, when I started my first company, I made the assumption that many new business owners do. You build the company first, and the culture will build itself. I was so consumed with growing the new business that I neglected to create a company culture. Even our company name changed multiple times over the years. We lacked that employee and company pride that is foundational to success and overall happiness. To hear more about this story, check out my recent podcast episode on Exploring Company Culture.
While challenging, this experience pushed me to explore how to truly cultivate a positive company culture as I moved into my next business. So how do you build and inspire a positive company culture as a leader? It comes down to a few key components.
- Goals and core values
- Feedback and communication
- Respect and recognition
- Empowering those who embody the culture
- Having fun together
Goals and Core Values
The first step is to take a look at your company’s core values and mission. I had none at the IT Group. If you do not have a mission statement or a set of core values, that should be your first priority. These not only set the tone for how your business is perceived internally but externally as well. These elements are the road map for your company culture and journey, and without them, it’s easy to get lost. You cannot be an exceptional leader without vision.
Take Steve Jobs, for example. His vision for Apple was “Building tools that amplify a human ability.” This was back in the 1970s. Since then, Apple has grown into an industry leader in the technology we use every day. For the past 40 years, this very mission statement has endured and inspired people worldwide. Even after his passing, Steve’s vision lived on and is still being carried out as others seek to embody it and carry it into the future.
As a leader, you set the tone and serve as an example of the kind of culture and attitudes your team can expect to see each day at the office. By encouraging and involving your team in creating a mission statement and core values, they will be more likely to want to take ownership and embody them. Ensure that these goals and values are communicated across your website, your digital marketing, and through the relationships you are cultivating with clients and partners. People want to know your ‘why.’ We want to be emotionally moved and inspired. Do that. To help you get started or to make improvements, here are my tips for you:
- Take 30 minutes out of your day to write out your “Steve Jobs Vision.” If you were to retire tomorrow, what message, vision, or values would you want your team to carry on into the future.
- Gather your team together to discuss your current mission statement and core values. Start an open conversation about how you all embody them, how you or even we could do better, and if they need to be adapted or changed.
Feedback and Communication
Evaluate your company’s current culture. Don’t be afraid to ask for honest feedback from your team. Creating positive organizational culture starts with your team. Each team member sees and experiences different things in their day-to-day at the office and can offer unique insights that may benefit your organization’s culture and growth. You and your team are partners in the shared success of the organization. Collaborate with them to find out what’s working, what isn’t, and what they’d like to see changed. This can be a daunting ask for both you as a business leader and your team as employees. When asking for feedback, ensure that your team knows that they will not be penalized for what they have to say. While you may not always like the feedback, the most growth and change comes from that type of discomfort. Remember that this should not be a one-time occurrence. Companies who see the most success in their culture evaluate it often. It is also essential to be honest and transparent with your team, and sometimes even emotional, especially during times of transition or crisis.
For example, this year’s Coronavirus pandemic forced many companies and organizations to send their employees home, almost indefinitely. One mistake that I’ve seen made is for the company leadership to only include management in these conversations and decision-making processes. Before we sent our team to work from home, I sat them all down and encouraged them to express their concerns, fears, and thoughts on the crisis and how we should respond in a collaborative effort. Regardless of your company’s size, all employees deserve to be heard and have their opinions and/or ideas that should be considered. If you are a larger company or organization that cannot easily gather your entire staff together all at once, consider sending out surveys, whether anonymous or not, to allow everyone to weigh in and express their thoughts. Employees who feel heard are more likely to feel comfortable and secure in their place of work.
Recognition and Celebration of Accomplishments
Acknowledge achievements, regardless of if they are big or small. Celebrating the little things can motivate your team members to want to succeed and accomplish new and bigger things. These exciting moments can bring your team closer together and inspire them to cheer each other on. Employees who feel recognized for their achievements report higher job satisfaction and are more likely to stay with the organization long-term. This is incredibly necessary for creating positive organizational culture. As an employer, manager, or CEO, you don’t have to always spend a ton of money or throw a big party to celebrate every milestone. Something as simple as giving out gift cards can go a long way and inspire your team to accomplish even more. I am always encouraging my team to explore and master new things, and I always try to reward their eagerness to learn.
Empower Those Who Embody The Culture
The best advocates for your company are your employees. Those who best embody your culture can help inspire others to do the same. They are your champions and deserve recognition for the great work they do every day to deliver your value and mission. Consider pairing them up with new hires to show them the ropes. This can be a unique and worthwhile addition to your onboarding process and ultimately bring your team closer together. The people who embody your vision are the ones that will carry it out and inspire others to believe in it too.
Lastly, Have Fun Together
We’ve all become familiar with how workplaces are changing. This year, people have felt more disconnected than ever before and have experienced many changes both in their personal and professional lives. While we may not always be in the same office or conference, or collaboration room, especially in this new digital world, team bonding is still essential to cultivating a positive culture. Even a simple act of getting together at the end of the week for a happy hour or team building activity can go a long way. Encourage your employees to get to know one another. This will lead to better collaboration and positive communication. Here at Vonazon, we hold weekly Friday meetings, like clockwork, at 4 o’clock every Friday. For those that are not in the office, they join the meeting digitally. The goal is to come together as a team, give accolades to each other, play games, and show something educational and inspiring. Things like this help to keep people engaged, motivated, inspired, and ultimately bring your team/employees closer together.
To quote one of my favorite authors, Brené Brown, from her book Dare To Lead, “Daring leaders work to make sure people can be themselves and feel a sense of belonging.”