Roughly 56% of employees say they'd be happier working in an office with a positive company culture than receiving a higher salary. Yet, many are still leaving their jobs in search of such an environment. That ping pong table in the break room and popcorn machine in the lobby simply aren't cutting it anymore. Employees want deeper connections than these perks can offer.
Luckily, there are far better strategies to building a strong company culture that'll actually last and keep everyone on the same page.
1. Define Your Goal
The first step to creating company culture is to define what you want your culture and values to look like. What exactly are you hoping to accomplish by establishing these values and instilling them in your employees? Will they further your company's vision?
Consider your previous jobs and what you liked or disliked about each one's culture. Did past employers value honesty but throw integrity to the wayside when there was juicy gossip to share? Looking back, you'll likely notice a few things that could've used some improvement. Learn from others' mistakes and carefully consider how you might do a better job in creating a culture that people will truly appreciate, enjoy and gladly maintain.
2. Be Direct
Once you determine what your company culture will look like, write out specific policies that align with and preserve it. Include these in the company handbook that all employees receive upon being hired and be sure to give a copy of these values to all current employees. When writing them, directly state your values, too, and make sure everyone on the team understands and complies with them.
You may even ask new and existing employees to sign an agreement stating they understand and agree to adhere to company policies — including embodying company values. Then, if you notice someone disrupting the culture or misrepresenting your business, you can meet with them and remind them of their signature on that document and their agreement that still applies today.
3. Hire a People Person
Every company has a culture, whether management has made it a priority or not. Thus, if you haven't given a thought to your business' culture until now, odds are yours is either weak or toxic — especially if the previous manager didn't make it a priority, either. Thus, undoing the damage and inciting change may require an incredible amount of insight, time and dedication.
If you simply can't commit to building your company culture from the ground up, consider hiring someone who can. Ideally, this new hire will be a people person who specializes in creating and rolling out positive company culture. As they establish themselves and get to work, you may discover a need for a brand new department to oversee such operations. Fill out this department with as many new hires as you need and entrust them with maintaining the culture over time.
4. Choose Carefully
As you begin to hire employees to fill vacancies in the people person department — and elsewhere — carefully consider each applicant. As you meet with them, ask questions that reveal their real character. Doing so will help you better determine whether or not they would act in accordance with company values if you were to hire them.
Even if you're frantically looking to fill a position, try to prioritize company culture over simply meeting a requirement or adequately staffing your business. Hiring someone isn't a decision you should rush through — nor should you take it lightly. After all, one bad apple can ruin the bunch and the last thing you want to do is to fire your new hire and go through the entire process all over again.
5. Invest In Onboarding
Today's employees want to feel like they fit in and can connect with the company and their fellow employees. Yet one-fourth of new hirees end up leaving their company within the first year because of a lack of connection. Often, this disconnect first occurs during the onboarding process when you or the human resources department fails to integrate them into the team effectively. As a result, they may never understand the culture nor will they be able to add to it.
Because new hires first learn about company values in your onboarding program, you must make sure it's comprehensive and integrative. Find activities and discussion points to connect new hires with your existing team. Doing so will allow them to experience positive company culture early on in their career.
6. Ask for Feedback
As you begin to introduce new values to your employees, continuously seek feedback. Choose a few trustworthy employees to report back to you on whether or not there is toxic culture or noncompliance with company values. They will have much better insight than you ever would since they experience the culture on a day to day basis.
You might also ask the entire team for feedback on policies after they've been in place for a few weeks. After giving employees time to adjust to the changes, ask them if they believe these adjustments improved company culture and the workplace environment. Encourage honest answers with an anonymous questionnaire or survey. Then, revise policies if need be. Here are solid ways to communicate for feedback: 11 Suggestions: How To Give Feedback to Employees.
7. Emphasize Community Involvement
To further instill these values in your employees, you may plan a company-wide volunteer opportunity. Choose an organization or cause that successfully exhibits the values you're trying to integrate into your workplace, then serve together as a team. You might also emphasize fundraising throughout the year as a means of instilling values and connecting employees through friendly competitions and shared goals.
Volunteer and fundraising opportunities will give employees a sense of purpose and unite them in upholding company values, both in and out of the office. Be sure to offer multiple involvement opportunities so everyone has a chance to participate. Set a good example by following these suggestions: What Small Business Owners Can Do To Become Community Leaders.
8. Reward and Recognize
Inevitably, your new values and company culture will receive some pushback, especially in the beginning. However, there will also be those who fully embrace and embody the principles you're trying to establish. Don't let tyrant employees responsible for toxic culture beat them down.
Instead, raise them up and publicly recognize them for upholding company values. Rewarding compliant employees in front of everyone in the office will help reinforce policies and keep positive culture a top priority. You don’t have to break the bank to reward and recognize. Here are some low-cost ideas: 9 Best Gifts for Office Staff.
9. Lead By Example
Ultimately, you are the face of your company's culture. Employees pay attention to how you respond to difficulties, setbacks and failure and will likely emulate your actions. They also notice the way you treat the team and will be more likely to hold a grudge and push back against change if you begin demanding morals and respect if you don't show them respect.
Therefore, it's crucial you make sure you're setting a good example. Constantly examine your actions and ask yourself how you might better exemplify the character, culture and values you're trying to impress upon your employees.
The Ripple Effect
After interviewing tens of millions of employers from 160 different countries, researchers have concluded that 70% of employee engagement rests in the hands of managers. From driving productivity to creating an inclusive environment, you lay the foundations upon which the entire team will build. Therefore, it's up to you to create the framework for instilling company values in your employees.
If you can get a single person to live and work by these values, in time, many more will follow suit. You simply have to take that first step and, inevitably, that one small move will create ripples that eventually reach even the most distant and disconnected employees. Then, it will be up to them whether to stay and embrace the positivity or leave and pollute some other workplace.
Either way, the end result will benefit the team, your customers and your bottom line. Plus, the workplace will become a place everyone actually wants to be — and who doesn't want that?
About the Author
Martin Banks has been writing about business for over 5 years and has been featured on sites such as Industry Today, Manufacturing Tomorrow, and The Boss Magazine. He’s also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Modded.