For the past few years, the buzz words in HR have been “company culture.” Today, it’s not enough if a company pays high salaries if it drives workers like cattle and promotes an environment of internal competition. Today, a company needs to turn itself into a desirable, positive, and encouraging place of work in order to retain top talent.
So the question isn’t whether creating a good company culture is worthwhile – we know it is. The question, rather is how to go about creating said culture.
Many managers mistakenly think that a good company culture will happen automatically – after all, the company’s vision is solid, their revenue steady, and their workers all pretty nice people. Unfortunately, these assets don’t ensure that your company’s culture will automatically shape itself. At best, your workers will feel direction-less, and at worst, negativity will result.
So to work on creating a good company culture, drop the laissez faire attitude and get started on an active campaign to create a positive workplace for your employees. Here are some ways to get started.
Define a vision
Yes, every company wants to have a positive culture, but what does that mean for your company specifically? Take a look at REI, an outdoor clothing and gear company, which turned their company culture into one that values time spent outdoors. Toward this end, they created the #optoutside campaign for Black Friday, in which they encouraged workers to take off on the busiest day of the year. By doing something previously unimaginable, REI showed that it is a company with a clearly-defined culture. So take a look at your company – and define what you want your vision to be.
Create a plan to achieve your vision
Using REI as a blueprint, how can you implement a plan for your company culture? If your company is in the medical field, you might want to make sure your benefits package has a great health plan. If you are in the resorts and leisure business, you can make it a priority to give your employees maximum vacation days. If you sell baby and kids clothes, you can make your office known for its family-friendly policies. And the list goes on.
To create a generally positive company culture, here are some facets that every company can examine, no matter what field: Benefits, employee lunches, incentive programs, and personnel policy (punching in, docking pay, sick leave, flexibility, etc.).
Hire people that fit into your vision – especially leaders
Once your vision is defined, you need to hire people who will commit to it and fulfill it. For example, if you work in a non-profit that campaigns against smoking, don’t hire a chain smoker! Obviously, this is an extreme example, and most employees may not outright conflict with your vision. But that is why it is so important to be discerning when you hire (including checking references). This is true x1 million when it comes to leaders and managers, since they are the ones who can set the tone for an entire workplace, and more often than not, bad managers are the reason good employees quit.
Determine the real issues, don’t waste time on non-issues
When trying to implement a company culture to suit your vision, it’s easy to get caught up in minor details that seem important, but essentially don’t add much to the company or for the employees. For example, if you decide that having a company-sponsored lunch once a week is important to team-building, great. Don’t then get bogged down on whether you should order Chinese, Italian or Mexican food. The main idea has been taken care of and implemented – you can now let someone else take care of the details. Here’s an example of the opposite – If you determine that you want to give your employee benefits package a boost, that is a significant undertaking, and one in which leadership should be involved. If you pass this on to someone else, you might end up with a package that isn’t tailored to your company’s culture or employee needs – and that’s simply a waste.
Listen to what your employees say
To do this, the lines of communication need to be open constantly. This means that HR and management need to be approachable (which goes in line with hiring people that fit in with your company vision), and regular interactions should be scheduled. Communication can take place during company lunches, monthly one-on-one meetings between HR and employees, via weekly email updates, etc. When your employees see that you want to hear from them, it will boost their morale and create a positive environment in which they feel that their opinions count.
If it sounds like creating a positive company culture is hard work, you’re right! It is something that takes planning, effort, and of course, time. But the payoffs are worth it: Happy employees with a high retention rate, ultimately expressed in the company’s bottom line.