There are two types of workplace culture:
1. It’s the kind that comes in fits and starts.
2. A type that is thoughtfully supported and guided
Because culture is reciprocal, the second type molds the company just as much as its own entity. Its self-perpetuating nature means that business leaders can reap the benefits of a positive brand addition and high returns on minimal investment.
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However, the reverse is also true. Companies can be vulnerable to a negative or lackluster culture by allowing culture to take its course. This energy drain can first affect productivity and then impact profitability.
It’s not an accident that the most successful companies in the world, such as Google, Nike and Apple, have strong and definable cultures. It takes soul searching and thoughtful policies to create a culture that is true to your values and maximizes your strengths. These are five methods to start a culture initiative.
1. Listen Well.
What gets you more from a meeting? Or the speaker? Or the audience? Although sharing information is intended to benefit the listener but not everyone “listens” long enough to have their own ideas to share, many people only “listen” to what they hear. Although collaboration and brainstorming are important, getting the most out of a presentation is essential for effective teamwork.
By modeling thoughtful listening from the top, you can create a culture that encourages thoughtful listening. Leaders in business can show the importance of listening well at all times.
- Meetings should be conducted without interruptions or multitasking.
- Employee reviews can be done by asking open-ended questions, and giving the floor to workers.
- Interacting with colleagues in casual interactions is a great way to learn about them.
Silence allows us to absorb the information and take notes. A culture that values listening lets its members know they are valued and that their voices are heard.
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2. Failing well.
Employers who stand up to their employees’ hard work are rewarded by their clients and their employees. This can be best demonstrated in the company’s policy on mistakes. Southwest Airlines and 3M adhesive are two examples of companies that have done this well.
Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. When this happens, you have two options: to punish the perpetrator, or to say that you tried your best and it’s okay to move on. Southwest and 3M choose the second option, supporting employees in customer disputes or failed experiments.
Employees who feel that the company is there for them in times of uncertainty and difficulty will be more confident. This encourages innovation and principled action, which can sometimes lead to better outcomes or improvements the next time. This doesn’t mean that you should accept mistakes or work habits that are repetitive. This is just a way to support a culture that accepts all of us as human beings.
3. Give credit.
An acknowledgment program is perhaps the most positive and visible element of great culture. While monetary awards and salary increases have finite motivational value, appreciation is free and can pay off in many ways. It’s hard to not feel the warmth of the words “Good job!”
There are many ways to give thanks in supportive cultures. It’s easier to show up every day if your boss is happy. Recognize those who go above and beyond what is required. This can be done in private, one-on-one, or publicly for all to see.
Staff can build trust and loyalty, as well as positive, contagious effects from formal gestures of appreciation. Peer envy and competition can motivate the group to work harder with the assurance that their efforts will be acknowledged. Your team will be closer if you give credit for their good work.
4. Be different
The greatest aspect of culture that you can leverage is the one your company has: its uniqueness. Although other companies may be able to do the same thing as you, they will not do it in the same way and with the same people. Be open to the unique aspects of your company.
Warby Parker is an eyewear manufacturer. For every sale, it donates one pair of glasses to people in need. Your organization’s volunteer efforts, charitable giving, and even employees hobbies and interests can be leveraged to improve its culture, and, consequently, its image. Other signs of uniqueness include your business model or the lexicon you have created around it.
Consider Starbucks’ coffee jargon. People think Starbucks when they hear venti Americano with half-pump vanilla. The insider lingo of the chain reflects its brand and the culture that underpins it.
5. Take everything into account
Great culture does not have to be spontaneous and amorphous. Although these concepts might seem abstract, the more you highlight and define them the stronger they will be. Metrics can help you determine if the elements of your culture are useful.
Ask employees and customers for feedback about their feelings of being heard, supported and appreciated. Ask them what makes your business stand out from the rest. You can assign numerical values to their answers and track the data for analysis. Encourage your strengths and let them outweigh your weaknesses.