Corporate culture can be demoralising. No one should dread coming into work each day, nor should they have that sinking feeling in the pit of their stomach on Sunday at the thought. It’s disheartening for any employee to feel like another cog in the machine – but it doesn’t have to be this way.
Every company, no matter how big or small, can take proactive steps to improve their culture. Not only will this better the lives of your employees, but it will increase the productivity of the business as a whole.
Do something meaningful
It seems simple, but it’s more complex than it sounds. What’s meaningful will be different for every employee. But if your company is trying to change the world, even in a small way, your staff will take notice.
Some companies are built from the ground up to help their communities. Social enterprises have changed the way businesses work globally. Famous examples include TOMS Shoes, who popularised the one for one model, donating one pair of shoes for each one sold, and UK based newspaper The Big Issue, which offers homeless people a means to earn a legitimate income.
Investor Tom Chapman says it best: “We must celebrate and recognise the companies that are rethinking what’s possible and delivering meaningful change”. The businesses who are at the very least trying to make a social impact deserve to be praised, and so do their employees. If your staff wake up each day knowing their work can change the world, then their lives will be much happier – and healthier too!
But you don’t have to be a social enterprise to improve your culture in this way. Allowing employees paid leave to volunteer for a cause they believe in will help too. Likewise, you can set up charity initiatives in which you match employee donations to good causes. Improving your company culture is done brick by brick, so you cannot expect to have a whole wall immediately.
In all aspects of life, communication is key. The workplace is no different. In fact, it is essential to fostering a positive culture. Communicating properly avoids confusion, because each employee knows what is expected of them, which helps the whole team pull in the right direction. Providing goals and purpose is vital to ensuring employees feel like their work matters.
If you use the right tools, such as software like Slack or Zoom, you are already along the right lines. This is especially true if you’re a large company, where announcing company directives in person would be impossible. In fact, Zoom usage jumped from 10 million per day to over 200 million during lockdown!
You should also encourage two-way communication. Feedback is important on both sides of the desk. Regular reviews are something that should be implemented, whether you have one employee or one hundred. Give your employees constructive criticism to help them grow professionally, but allow them to do the same. If you take on suggestions from your employees, you will find yourself with a more positive company culture in no time.
Trust & transparency
Just as communication is a two-way street, so too is trust. It can be difficult to show it, and very easy to show a lack of it. Most managers don’t even realise they’re doing it. Don’t check in on your employees too frequently, as it will make them think you don’t trust them to work without you looking over their shoulder.
Another way you can show trust is to let employees take risks and try new ideas on projects. This will show that you trust their professional judgement because you allow them to make mistakes. This will also foster a culture of innovation and creativity which employees will excited to be a part of.
Share your wins and – more important – your losses. If your employees know whether the company is making progress, they will be more invested in making it happen. Jeff Bezos is a famous proponent of failure. He said: “To invent you have to experiment, and if you know in advance that it’s going to work, it’s not an experiment. Most large organizations embrace the idea of invention, but are not willing to suffer the string of failed experiments necessary to get there.”
Transparency is integral to creating a culture of trust. You must be honest with your employees first and foremost. Do not hide important company information unless you want your staff to do the same.
Improving your company culture won’t happen overnight. Nor are the changes permanent. You need to constantly work at having a positive workplace culture, for the benefit of both your employees and the business.
If your staff come to work thinking that they are doing something meaningful, with a management structure that values communication, transparency and trust, then you are already leaps and bounds ahead of the competition.