A positive workplace culture is something we all want, both team leaders and team members. Why then, does it sometimes seem to be such an elusive fish to catch? Workplace culture is not just about catering to your employees’ wishes, though it can encompass that to some extent. Who, after all, doesn’t appreciate a nice break room stocked with free snacks and a latte machine? However, a great workplace culture consists of much, much more than seemingly frivolous luxuries. Workers of generations past would scoff at the pampered workforce of today, but it’s not my intent to argue whether or not this trend is actually beneficial to our society or not; I’ll leave that question to the future generations of psychologists. The salient question right now is: how can we create a positive culture in the workplace that attracts and keeps talented and skilled employees? What follows are six tips that are good places to start.
1. It starts with you.
A recent article by Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup, states: “Remarkably, 70% of the variance between lousy, good and great cultures can be found in the knowledge, skills and talent of the team leader. Not the players, but the team leader.”
The old adage that goes something like “when you point one finger, there are three fingers pointing back to you” seems to apply when it comes to workplace culture. As much as you’d like to effect change in the world, or even just in your small (or large) team of employees, the change must first begin with you, the manager. To set your own internal house in order is a difficult task, but it is the primary one that can lead you to the result you desire, namely, a great workplace culture filled with highly engaged team members.
Start scrutinizing your day to see where you might be able to improve upon your own levels of productivity and engagement. Is your desk a disorganized mess? If you’re like a lot of us, it probably is a lot of the time. So dust off the filing cabinet that’s been occupying space in that one corner of your office and use it; it’s not just there for decoration. Cleaning up the physical space around you can have a huge impact in helping you cut through the mental clutter that may be holding you back. Once you have a system in place for putting things in their proper places, and a retention policy for knowing when to toss them, you’ll be able to process whatever new materials get thrown your way much more efficiently. That means you’ll have more time for other tasks.
2. Maintenance, Maintenance, Maintenance
Once you have your own domain sorted out, and you feel you have a good grasp on your organizational system and physical space, it’s important to maintain the order you worked so hard to achieve. Unless you’re some sort of superhuman, you probably have had the experience of “letting things slide.” You know what I mean. That one piece of paper on your desk is just one piece of paper – until it turns to ten, and then twenty. Or on your computer desktop, there’s that one file that you don’t know quite know what to do with. Soon your lovely wallpaper photo of your children has become one in which they look like they have all developed measles for all of the files covering them. We all know it’s a lot easier to maintain orderliness than it is to clean up a mess when we’ve let things slide.
Work time into your weekly schedule for maintenance. Set aside an hour or two every (pick a day) morning or afternoon to address the paperwork, files, or post-its that have accumulated and gone unaddressed in the past week. Use this as your time to play catch-up and address them. If you’re really on top of it, you can do this clean-up work daily. Once you’ve set a dedicated time for maintenance, don’t allow anyone to intrude. It’s nice to be accommodating and flexible, but if you are really serious about creating an orderly work environment, you need to be rigid on this. Let the phone go to voicemail, silence your cell phone and computer email alerts, and close your door. Let others in your workplace know that you’ve set this time aside for organization. You are not being rude. You are working to maintain sanity in your life. Unless you are in an occupation where emergencies can mean life-or-death, most likely any interruption can wait an hour or two.
3. The Whole Package
Once you have become a stellar manager who has everything together, never wastes time, and always approaches every obstacle with that “can-do” spirit (or you are at least striving for those qualities), maybe then you can start to tackle the issues that are keeping your workplace culture from being all that it could be. First, it’s important to ask yourself the question, “Why would an employee want to work for me, or for this company?” A Forbes article cites five key aspects that play a major role in an employee’s decision to work for you. These are salary, health insurance, work-life balance, career development and advancement, and meaningfulness. Do you offer this whole package to your employees? If there are weaknesses in any of these areas, work to address them.
Are your company’s benefits and incentives competitive with those being offered by other organizations in your community, your state, the country . . . the world? Realistically, you are competing with every other company in existence to attract top talent, as many potential employees are willing to relocate just to be part of a burgeoning organization. Work to make your company one that’s vying for the lead in the competition.
4. Flowing Versus Stagnant Water
As human beings, we are wired to seek adventure, to grow and change, to face struggles and overcome them so we can become better people. Life is a drama on a grand scale, and it’s innate to desire to be a part of it. If life does indeed imitate art, you can see it in countless movies and works of literature – there is always a conflict to overcome. Usually, the protagonist comes out victorious in the end, but even where he or she is defeated, there is still always some lesson that was internalized. What does all of this have to do with creating a positive workplace culture? We are the protagonists in each of our own dramas, and we don’t want to be caught up in a plot that’s headed nowhere. No one wants to swim in stagnant waters. To create a living, thriving workplace environment, you need to give your team members flowing water to swim in, i.e., opportunities for education, paths to career advancement, and work that challenges them. Employees who feel their workplace fosters personal and professional growth will be much more engaged and committed to your organization’s mission.
5. Appreciate and Motivate
What is one sure-fire way to keep your top talent sticking around? Make sure you let them know they are appreciated. Creating a culture of appreciation is statistically proven to benefit your company by reducing turnover. Research by Bersin & Associates has found that “companies with recognition programs highly effective at improving employee engagement have 31 percent lower voluntary turnover than their peers with ineffective recognition programs.” Apparently, the type of recognition employees receive matters greatly. First, your team members need to know your recognition program even exists at all, since, in many instances, managers are surprised to find out that their team members have no idea their company has a recognition program. Employees then need to be recognized on a regular basis and for performance and achieving goals, not just for hitting specific years of tenure.
When your team members know they are appreciated, they are motivated to perform at a higher caliber. Bersin & Associates research has also revealed that “in organizations where recognition occurs, employee engagement, productivity and customer service are about 14 percent better than in those where recognition does not occur.”
If you want to create a positive workplace culture through appreciation, Terryberry’s comprehensive suite of tools can help you get started.
6. Realize You Can’t Make Everyone Happy
“You can’t please everyone;” “you can’t be all things to all people” – pick your maxim. They may sound trite, but Grandma wouldn’t have said them if they weren’t true, and they haven’t been passed down through the generations without good reason. Even when you think you’re doing everything you can to create a thriving workplace culture, and you’re getting great feedback from many of your colleagues, there are still going to be those individuals who you’re just not going to reach. Maybe the fit is not right. Maybe they need something your company can’t offer and need to search for it elsewhere. Whatever the reason, you need to realize that no matter how wonderful your workplace culture is, there will still be unhappy and unmotivated individuals who work for you, and, as in dating, it really is them, not you.
People all have lives outside of work, and sometimes those pesky personal problems cross boundaries and interfere with our work lives. This will probably happen to all of us at some point, and these disruptions can last for various lengths of time. When you see individuals in your organization who are struggling, first and foremost it is wise to have a magnanimous spirit and give them the benefit of the doubt. If, after time, they have been given opportunities for improvement and they are still the weak links in your company, it may be wise to make the difficult decision to let them go. As Grandpa always used to say: “misery loves company” and “one rotten apple spoils the barrel.” Underperforming workers will affect those who are performing well, creating discord, and you definitely don’t want that emotional virus spreading around your company. Separate the wheat from the chaff. You and your organization will be the better for it.
Creating a workplace culture that fosters intellectual growth, achievement, appreciation, and loyalty to your company is a challenge, but not an insurmountable one. Terryberry can help no matter where your company’s culture currently falls on the spectrum of not-so-great to outstanding. The challenge is a worthwhile one. Take the first step today.