A good workplace culture is crucial when it comes to business success yet it is often put in the too hard basket when it comes to improving it. When we first start a business the main focus is to simply get it off the ground and be viable in the short term. Culture was not something ever needing to be considered as part of this process. But through business success the need to employ becomes essential and a culture starts to form. This culture takes time to develop and mature with every business being very unique. Unfortunately there is no quick metric or dashboard that can be implemented to measure and manage how the culture forms so it can often feel like this is just the way it is going to be.
With all the complexities and time involved in the development of a culture could you be the simple explanation as to why it is the way it is?
So lets cover off on what workplace culture actually is. Essentially it is the personality of your business ("the way we do things here"), and it can be an important contributor to not just your overall success but be your point of difference. It is built on a shared set of values and beliefs, that feeling of togetherness while having aligned goals, while embracing a set of assumptions for how the business operates. Taking steps to improve your business culture can be as simple as;
- Creating that Business Plan - and share it!
I have raised this on previous insights and really if you haven't found the time to start this process then you need to do it now. As the visionary for the business how is anyone going to know what direction they are to paddle when you haven't communicated what the journey looks like? How are they to know the standards to which they are to operate or the reason particular tasks are so important? One document that communicates a consistent message to the entire team will help align the culture.
- Helping your team see how they fit with the bigger plan - set them goals
We all want to feel like we matter and every team member is key to the success of any business. Setting goals and linking them to Key Performance Indicators will help achieve this and give each position within your business a real sense of importance. You will be amazed at what people can achieve and this will be a powerful tool for their personal growth.
- Having regular interactions as a team - not just a drink in the office on a Friday
Yes, everyone is busy. Yes, there are not enough hours in a day. But making the time to spend together as a team (whether recreational or giving back to the community) will go along way to forming strong bonds. Getting to know people on a personal level allows them to be seen in a different light, sparking common interests and eliminating communications that are simply to achieve an outcome for the business.
- Leading by example - and expect the same from your management team
For me this is the most important of them all and drives how the assumptions for the how the business operates are formed. Fail here and it can be very difficult to stop the culture nose dive. As a leader you set the tone for your business and this can either be in a positive or negative way. Actions always speak louder than words and it is these actions that your team will pay attention to.
Observing what actually gets noticed.
A great example here is with workplace safety. Having someone performing a task in a dangerous manner and being pulled aside by management sends a positive message that safety is taken very seriously within the business. On the other hand, not saying anything or maybe even performing tasks yourself that are unsafe sends a message that it doesn't matter and to just do whatever it takes to get the job done.
Observing what goes unnoticed.
Ever worked with that person that would never arrive on time and was always the first to leave? We all know what happens next if the issue is not addressed and that is other team members acting in the same manner or even worse loosing their drive and commitment. As a result of leaders not wanting or being able to have these tough conversations to address the issue the culture is negatively impacted.
Observing what gets said versus what gets done.
Stating something such as "we are a business that really values employees having a work / life balance" which is followed by the business having insufficient resources to complete the tasks required resulting in team members consistently staying back late and working weekends. Embrace the standard that "we do what we say we are going to do" and have it apply to both internal and external relationships. If your team doesn't believe a word that comes out of your mouth your culture is going to be the least of your problems.
As a business owner all of the above directly reflect on you so chances are you are a big reason for the culture that you have in your business today. Thankfully you can also be this driving factor when it comes to changing them. While this might be something low on your list of action items it is said that a strong business culture can increase revenue five times more than other organisations..... so just maybe part of the strategy to improving your bottom line is to address your culture.