Practically every article about a company’s success or demise points a finger at culture. Corporate culture has become a popular umbrella term for the collective experience within the workplace. And it’s getting attention because it deserves it – a thriving culture can be an incredible asset, whereas a negative culture can be a company’s detriment.
So how does a company create a positive culture? By taking thoughtful, purposeful action to create meaningful change within the structure of an organization. Here we will highlight some of the prominent strategies many well-respected companies implement, and share our own tips in creating a thriving company culture.
Values And Mission
Beloved online retailer, Zappos, is a popular and successful company that’s also a place where people love to work. And that’s not by accident. Its website explains the importance of the company’s 10 core values: “These values guide everything we do, including how we interact with our employees, how we interact with our customers and community, and how we interact with our vendors and business partners.” Zappos understands how these values shape its culture, and how the benefits of a values-centered approach stretch beyond the workplace, affecting the services it provides and the relationships it builds.
In order to create goals and a successful trajectory for your company, it’s imperative that your leadership, employees, and stakeholders know your values and the company mission. Collectively living those values is what can take a culture from fair to fabulous.
“You can’t create a great company culture simply by writing something cute down on paper about your core values, vision, and goals,” said mConnexions Principal Strategist and Owner, Julie Holton. “You have to live it and breathe it every day. If you have a positive culture — people know it just by being around you.”
“This is going to sound overly simplified,” continued Julie. “Our vision statement, in one line, is to be good people who do good work for good people. That’s it. We hire people who are kind and caring, exceptionally skilled at what they do, and then we put that to good use by supporting people and businesses that align with our core values. And it shows, in our work and in how we all feel about our work at mConnexions.”
Diversity and Inclusion
Hiring a diverse workforce has become the norm for many companies, but for others, there is still much room for improvement. Diversity includes a range of various demographics such as race, gender, and sexual orientation. Having a diverse workforce opens the door to increased innovation, higher company morale, and hopefully, a culture of inclusion.
But what does inclusion really mean? Ella Washington and Camille Patrick describe this in their Gallup article entitled Three Requirements For Diverse And Inclusive Population: “Inclusion refers to a cultural and environmental feeling of belonging. It can be assessed as the extent to which employees are valued, respected, accepted and encouraged to fully participate in the organization.”
A diverse population that embraces the varying viewpoints and experiences of everyone on the team, leads to greater utilization and appreciation of the skills and talents they possess. And when employees feel welcome, included, and safe, a positive shift in culture begins.
The actions of leaders within a company make a massive difference in creating a thriving culture. In fact, it often starts with leadership. Employees will look to their managers and directors to set the example – the expectation of policy, how others should be treated, adherence to company programs, and living by the company’s values and shared purpose.
In his article, The Role Leadership Has In Company Culture, Forbes contributor William Craig shares his thoughts: “Leadership cultivates the foundation of culture to empower employees to achieve the company mission and realize how vital each of their contributions is to furthering those goals.”
When leaders are engaged and modeling the values of the company, employees will follow suit.
Think of your experience when sitting in a hospital waiting room. How does it look, smell, and feel? Perhaps the word “sterile” comes to mind, with white walls and outdated decor, cold in temperature and atmosphere. And maybe wafts of bleach fill the air. This kind of environment doesn’t invoke feelings of joy, productivity, or positivity, does it?
With many Americans spending their days in cubicles and office buildings, the environment makes a big impact within the culture, and on their health too. Some offices feel like hospital waiting rooms, instead of inviting and collaborative places to create and produce. Office environments should be warm, perhaps with color on the walls, nice decor, comfortable seating with ergonomic desks, healthy plants, and natural light. They also need to be places where people feel safe and have the ability to focus. Spending time and funds on creating a beautiful office may seem frivolous to some people, but if it creates an environment that encourages creativity and inspiration, then it’s money well spent.
An alternative is to allow employees to work remotely. Many people would rather work from home, or another location that provides them with the type of environment that is best for them personally. Plus, what employee doesn’t love to have options and flexibility? This option can also save the company money, as there will be less funds spent on overhead when employees are remote.
It’s also becoming more common for companies to go completely virtual. Scopic Software is one of the largest virtual companies, currently with 230 employees in over 20 countries. It takes a specialized focus on creating a strong culture with untraditional ways of staying connected, in order to make a company like this work. With no signs of slowing down, businesses like Scopic, Buffer, Basecamp, and Zapier offer these basic principles for success in a remote worker environment. A virtual agency ourselves at mConnexions, we offer our own additions to the list, such as weekly video conferencing calls, coffee shop huddles, and digital applications that keep our team connected online throughout the workday.
“Working remotely sounds great in theory, but it isn’t the best choice for everyone,” said Julie. “Some people thrive with a flexible schedule, and are more productive without an office full of distractions. But others find that they need the strict routine of going to the office in order to stay on track, and the lack of social interaction can feel isolating. We put a lot of thought into this when we’re hiring. We know that for our team, this has been an incredible experience to work virtually. But it also takes work to make it a success.”
Appreciation and Gratitude
Both appreciation and gratitude are paramount when building a thriving company culture. Kira Newman, in her article in Greater Good Magazine, How Gratitude Can Transform Your Workplace, writes: “Yet evidence suggests that gratitude and appreciation contribute to the kind of workplace environments where employees actually want to come to work and don’t feel like cogs in a machine.”
People want to feel that their work matters, and know they’re appreciated. When a company realizes that their employees are their greatest asset, beautiful things begin to happen, and a tremendous ripple effect can be felt company-wide. This may include increased recognition for jobs well done, better personal interactions, promotions, improved benefits packages and flexibility, and so much more.
What comes next is gratitude for the company. When employees are appreciated and respected, they are grateful and loyal to their employer, followed by decreased rates of turnover and burnout, health care claims, and time off work. With gratitude, the culture and health of the population improves — and productivity goes up.
So what can you do to improve the culture of your company?
Here are six key areas to focus your attention:
- Determine your company’s mission and core values, share them company-wide, and lead by example.
- Encourage your leaders to model the values, engaging with employees through respectful and meaningful interactions.
- When hiring, keep in mind that a diverse employee population leads to greater insight, innovation, and creativity.
- Make sure your policies, values, and behaviors reflect a welcoming and inclusive culture.
- Create an environment where people enjoy working, feel safe, and feel inspired.
- Believe that your employees are your greatest asset, and show them your appreciation and gratitude.
You can create big, positive changes in your company culture by starting with these concepts and policies. Shifting culture can take time, but studies show it is well worth the effort.
A storyteller at heart, Julie Holton is the Owner and Principal Strategist of mConnexions, a full-service marketing and communications agency that focuses on developing digital marketing solutions for clients. Before launching mConnexions in 2017, Julie led the strategic marketing directives for a mid-sized law firm of nearly 50 attorneys practicing 70+ areas of law at three offices across Michigan. Prior to that, Julie spent more than ten years working in top television newsrooms across the country, as an Emmy award-winning writer, producer, and executive producer. Julie worked with her news teams to develop digital and social media strategies – even before social media sites began to peak in popularity.