Whether you’re just starting up a business, you’re established or you think your workplace culture could use a tune-up, there are a few important steps to take to help you develop a winning workplace culture.
Every business should spend some time and money on their workplace culture. Why? Because a positive culture leads to a successful business. A great workplace culture means that it’ll be easier to attract the best prospective employees, that absenteeism will be reduced and productivity increased, lead to happier employees and customers/clients, and all of these factors lead to greater profitability!
What Affects Workplace Culture?
In short, everything! But here are a few of the key factors to consider:
- Physical working environment
- Company policies
- Mission, vision and values
- Leadership and management
Planning Your Workplace Culture
This is the step that most SMEs miss out completely, and it’s not surprising. You have an exciting startup company, you need people asap, you’re growing rapidly and everyone is busy – too busy to worry about HR issues.
But pushing the planning of your business’ culture aside can only lead to bad things down the line. Whether it’s planned and cared for or not, you’ll end up with a workplace culture – like it or not. And if it naturally evolves and becomes a negative culture, you’ll spend longer trying to fix it.
And don’t worry, if your business is established and needs a culture tune up, you can perform this step too, think of it as a complete refurbishment – gut it and start over.
Mission, Vision, Values
Before you get into the nitty gritty of your business plan, you need to spend time planning how your business will operate and how you want your culture to develop. The underpinning essence of your business will be your values, mission and vision.
Mission – This should be a statement of what your company does. Avoid being overly explicit, avoid buzzwords, keep it simple. ‘We do/make/provide ….. to create/help/simplify …..’
Vision – This statement describes your company’s aspirations, your company’s ‘why’.
Values – Your values support your vision statement and shape your workplace culture. Try to keep it to 3-5 values. Eg: Passion, Integrity, Innovation, Respect, Honesty.
Once you’re happy that these accurately describe the company you want to build, you can carry on planning.
Set Up Your Environment
Of course, if money wasn’t an issue, we’d all have plenty of fun with this step. But if you’re working on a budget there’s still plenty you can do to improve the physical work environment.
If you’re only just setting up, or planning a move, make sure the location works for your staff. Don’t move the office 30 miles away, ensure parking, public transport and amenities are closeby.
Depending on the culture you’ve chosen, consider the office layout. Will some teams need quiet to work well, will some teams benefit from collaborative break-out spaces, should you invest in standing desks or lockers?
Think about aesthetic factors which can have a psychological impact. Colour, patterns, layout, furniture and empty space will all have an impact, here’s a great article to get you started.
Hire The Right People
Obviously your employees will need the right skill set, but what about personality? You’ll want to ensure your employees get on well, but it goes deeper than that too.
Personality types can compliment each other or conflict with each other within a planned culture. In short, you must make sure that the employees you hire will support your planned workplace culture. This sounds easier than it is.
Read this article from Science House and the Culture Institute, a carefully planned culture requires a carefully planned workforce to succeed.
Assessing your leaders is equally important. You might have to face some harsh facts – perhaps you’re not a leader? If not, don’t panic, not everyone has these qualities in-built – we all have our own strengths. But be sure, if you’re not the right leader, you find the right leader and feel you can work closely with them to help your business succeed. Ego is often where small businesses go wrong from the start, for the sake of your business, if you’re not a natural leader, hand the reins over or risk creating a toxic culture.
Break Down Barriers
Hierarchy can be a culture killer. The perception of another being superior, even if your business doesn’t promote this, is a hard one to shake. And we Brits definitely have a ‘mustn’t grumble’ attitude to overcome. Often the managers or business owners won’t her when something is wrong because the subordinates feel they can’t speak openly and freely about any issues.
So instead of prodding and poking people until they talk to you, set up an environment where people feel more comfortable to give feedback. You can do this by:
- Arranging regular, informal outings for the company
- Establishing shared office areas, like dining areas, that force people to mix and mingle
- Set up anonymous feedback/suggestions box and discuss the suggestions in team meetings
- Send regular online surveys and include every member of the business in important decisions going forward
- Allow for a few hours per week for people to go to the team leaders and express their opinions
- Reward feedback, respond with positivity so that people become more open to giving it in the first place
This goes hand in hand with trying to break down hierarchical barriers, involve your employees in the business, value their opinions. Share your company roadmap with them, let them know where the company is going and where they’re going.
Being secretive makes employees feel insecure, and surprising them with sudden, unexpected changes breeds uncertainty which can lead to poor staff retention.
Once your company is up and running, remember to record your cultural improvements and see how these correspond to key factors such as:
- Staff retention
- Staff retention
- Staff wellbeing reviews
If you see a dip, look back and try to find out why. If you’re seeing all your numbers improving, keep going!
Remember, don’t neglect your workplace culture. Culture will have a bigger impact on a company’s success than the business strategy when the two are not aligned – so set off on the right foot and create a company everyone will love to work in!
If you’re worried your current workplace culture might not be on-track, read our ‘5 Signs Your Workplace Culture Needs A Revolution!’ blog here.