Culture in a workplace is often what makes the difference between a company that attracts incredible staff, and one that churns through them every year.
It’s that invisible force that strives employees and teams to work better together, to reach for shared goals with excitement, and just genuinely look forward to coming to work.
In this article we’re going to explore what a workplace culture is, and how to build an incredible one in your business or team.
What is a workplace culture?
A workplace culture is that consistent sentiment or attitude that runs through the entire business, and impacts every decision and interaction that happens inside a business, as well as effects the views employees have about working in a particular team or business.
It’s made up of a few key ingredients, such as:
- The values of the company
- The values of the senior leaders and executives
- The way people treat each other
- The goals and ambitions of the company
- Codes of conduct
- Even the layout and feel of the actual office space
Workplace cultures can be positive, and they can be toxic
Every workplace has a “culture”, and having one is not necessarily a good thing. For example, a workplace could have a toxic work culture, where people aren’t appreciated, hard work isn’t acknowledged, and you’re required to work long hours with little reward.
However, on the other hand, a workplace can be a positive, and even inspirational environment. Having a positive work culture comes with a tonne of great benefits, which can include:
- Improving interactions amongst teams and employees
- Improving productivity
- Improving staff retention
- Improving innovation
- Creates better transparency and accountability
- Helping to attract superstar prospective candidates for jobs
How to build a positive workplace
A great company culture doesn’t come about by accident, and why leave it to chance when it’s something you can control. Here we’re going to break down so simple, not necessarily easy, but simple ways to start building and leveraging the power of a great company culture.
#1: Decide what your team or company stands for
First things first you need to define the values that your company stands for. This includes the things you value as a company, what you value in your employees, and how as a company view your market and customers, your overall mission as a company, and what codes of conduct will define the way you go about achieving your mission.
This needs to be in paper, and shared with all new employees, and re-iterated time and time again, until it becomes ingrained almost into the air of your workplace.
#2: Hire for cultural fit as well as role fit
Culture all comes down to the people in your company. If you company values humility, then hiring people with large egos isn’t going to help develop the kind of culture you’re aiming to create.
So a great culture starts with the HR. You need to have great screen procedures to attract and hire candidates who align with the core mission and values of your company.
#3: Ensure that values are reinforced by company leaders
Values trickle down from the top. If the senior executive in the finance team doesn’t foster a culture of encouragement, then it’s unlikely that a culture of encouragement will grow amongst the rest of the finance team.
Employees look to their senior managers and executives for cues on how to behave, and what is and is not acceptable or normal to do within an organisation.
#4: Operationalise your culture
“Operationalising your culture”is just a very corporate sounding way of saying, make your desired culture part of your operational routine. That is, if you want a sense of creative collaboration to form part of your company, then schedule weekly free-form brainstorming sessions.
The managers and executives need to take charge, and ensure that the company values and culture are reflected in any special or unique operational quirks, including themed meetings, the way projects are developed and delegated, how people are rewarded, and how people get together to solve complex problems.
#5: Building a positive culture takes leadership
Leaders have a powerful effect on a company. Not just in what decisions they make and their impact, but how they make those decisions, and how they’re communicated to the wider business.
In almost all groups in society, people are looking to their leaders for cues on how to behave. If a leader doesn’t enforce a culture of accountability, then this likely won’t trickle down into the wider team. So if you have culture values that you want to weave into the fabric of your team, department, or business, then it’s crucial that the senior managers and executives lead the charge.
Zappos: a case study in company culture
Zappos is a US founded digital ecommerce company which sells shoes and clothing apparel. Tony Hsieh, the founder and CEO, gave incredible attention to the building of a positive and influential company culture when he started Zappos.
In the video below, Tsieh talks about some of the guiding principles behind Zappos’ workplace culture:
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Will Vaughan is the Founder & CEO of Your Career Mastery. He’s dedicated to helping young professionals discover and land the job of their dreams using a mix of proven strategies, tips, tools, and mindsets. He currently works as a Content & SEO manager for a 100 million dollar tech company in Melbourne, Australia.