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8 Ways to Improve Company Culture (+3 Ideas That DON’T Work)

March 21, 2019

Forget profit-margins and closing big deals – company culture is the most valuable asset to your company.

Don’t believe me? It’s true. Company culture and employee engagement are at the heart of everything your company does and it's one of the most important parts of any successful talent management strategy. Improving company culture doesn’t just boost the morale of your employees – research shows that companies with highly engaged employees have a 21 percent greater profitability. [Gallup]

Company culture is not defined by a singular aspect of your business. In fact, there are many things that work together to define your company culture including: your mission, employee satisfaction, values, ethics, and more.   

Think of how your employees would describe the ‘personality’ of your company. Is it a fun, easy-going place to work or is it stressful and high pressure? These things help define your company culture.

How to improve your company culture

Want to know a dirty little secret that nobody will tell you about corporate culture? No matter how good you think your company culture is, every company can improve. The truth is, more than half of the American workforce (51 percent) is disengaged at work. [Gallup]

Tip: Having trouble with employees leaving your company? Learn how to reduce employee turnover and retain high-performers.

Whether you’re looking to fix a bad corporate culture or just improve the company culture you have right now, there is a never-ending list of things to try.

1. Ask your employees for input

The tricky thing about company culture is that, while it’s easy to define, it’s hard to measure. In order to track the effectiveness of your company culture initiatives.

The very first thing you should do to help improve company culture is involve your employees in the process. You should stay in constant communication with your staff and ask for their opinion of their success through an employee engagement survey or tracking system.

Don’t have a way to track employee engagement? You might consider investing in employee engagement software.

See the Easiest-to-Use Employee Engagement Software →

2. Offer your employees flexibility

Technology has become one of the biggest driving forces that shape the way we do business, but it’s also shaping the way employees work. Cloud sharing, video conferencing, and other remote work options have made it less necessary for employees to sit in their office five days a week.

As the market for talent heats up, employees are looking for places that offer them flexibility in how and where they do their work. 51 percent of employees say they would leave their job for one that offers them flexible work hours. [Gallup]

What are some ways to improve your company’s flexibility?

  • Offer flexible working hours outside the normal 9-5
  • Create a work-from-home policy for employees
  • Consider moving to an unlimited PTO policy
  • Offer the option for a 4-day work week
  • Create a summer hours program

Your employees don’t have the same lives, which means you need to treat each employee’s needs differently. Instead of focusing on treating everyone fairly as a whole, consider what is fair for each individual employee.

Tip: More than half of employees (53 percent) say a role that allows them to have greater work-life balance is "very important" to them when considering whether to take a new job. [Gallup]

The underlying theme of offering flexibility to your employees is trust. When you offer employees more options for when and how they work, it shows them that you trust them to get their work done while enjoying these perks.

Tip: Looking for more ways to offer employee flexibility? Check out this piece on 7 ways to prevent employee burnout.

3. Clearly define and encourage career development

This is especially important when dealing with young professionals who are just starting out in their careers. Many employees will only stay in a job long enough for them to learn everything there is to learn before moving on. Are you offering your employees room and space to grow? If not, you could be inadvertently pushing them out the door.

Tip: Lack of development and career growth is the No. 1 reason employees leave a job. [Gallup]

Career development is more than just offering someone a promotion. There are several options you can give employees that go beyond the more traditional way of thinking about career development.   

You can start small by offering one or two of these programs before expanding to something more complex. Remember, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You need to decide what works for your company’s budget, time, and resources.

4. Make diversity a priority in your hiring process

Investing in creating a team that accurately reflects the culture we live in should be a priority for any company. Too often people get caught up in finding candidates that remind them of themselves or have the exact same qualifications that they do.

If you’re struggling with your company culture and looking for a quick way to improve, take some time to reexamine your hiring structure and process. Make it a priority to hire qualified people different from those who already work for your company.

Diversity within a team is something more and more employees are saying is important to them when looking at company culture. 67 percent of employees say that diversity is an important factor when they look for a job. [Glassdoor]

Having a diverse workforce does more than improve your corporate culture – it pays in the long run.

How does diversity impact profitability

The advantages of having people from different walks of life working for your company are abundant. They offer a different perspective, fresh ideas, a variety of skills, and they bring something new to the company culture.

5. Recognize employee achievements 

We all get busy at work and sometimes that translates into us expecting more and thanking people less for their hard work. Forgetting to thank someone for a job well done may seem like a slight oversight but over time the impact can have serious consequences.

Think employee recognition isn't a huge deal? Think again. Employees who do not feel adequately recognized are twice as likely as those who do feel adequately recognized to say they'll quit in the next year. [Gallup]

How can I reward employee loyalty?

  • Create an employee of the month / year award
  • Offer a small bonus on important work anniversaries
  • Give your employees the day off on their birthday
  • Create an employee ‘shout-out’ board where employees can give each other props
  • Make it a point to compliment one employee a day for their hard work
  • Shout them out on your corporate social media channels
  • Give them a free day of PTO for a job well done
  • Treat valuable teammates to a nice lunch after closing a big deal / finishing a big project

Again, many of these methods require little to no financial investment to get off the ground. Pick one or two of these ideas that you like most and use those to jumpstart your company culture.

6. Offer competitive pay and benefits

There’s a misconception that company culture means you have to invest in bean bag chairs, foosball tables, and beer on Friday afternoons. The truth is that most of your employees would rather you invest in them.

Tip: At least one-third of workers say they would leave their job for specific benefits and perks. [Gallup]

Your company should be checking the pay and employee benefits you offer your employees against the industry average every year. In addition to that, you should be giving your employees a cost of living raise each year on top of the raise they receive for great performance.

This process will take longer than others to implement but it’s a crucial step in improving employee happiness and company culture.

7. Encourage innovation and spontaneity

As you implement these changes to your organization, you’re going to have employees that are excited and want to help. It’s in your best interest to not only listen to these employees but to engage them in the process.

These employees can act as ambassadors of your new company culture initiatives and provide feedback from fellow employees as you try new things. You may even consider designating them a special role for new company culture ideas that you roll out in the future. This will help engage them and make them feel valued.

Here are 5 things you can do to encourage innovation:

  • Hold a contest for the best new idea in the office every quarter
  • Create a suggestion box that anyone can submit ideas to
  • Have a team brainstorming session once a quarter to get new ideas flowing
  • Dedicate a whiteboard space for people to write and share new ideas
  • Create a culture committee where employees can plan potlucks, luncheons, holiday parties, and more

It’s important to provide people a way to suggest their ideas anonymously. Some people are not motivated by recognition and would rather quietly offer their suggestions without the fuss and fanfare. Be careful not to alienate those people when you’re creating your company culture initiative.

8. Be transparent with change

As companies grow, so do their policies. An organization with 30 employees might not be able to afford the same resources when they grow to 200 people. For example, frequent office lunches and snacks may become a financial strain, and your organization may decide they can’t offer this anymore. Or perhaps company outings have become too expensive and it's time to reevaluate the budget.

These changes aren’t necessarily negative. They’re a natural reaction to company growth and, in relation, change. One way to avoid trouble or discontentment with these changes is by communicating them clearly, and making them true for everyone.

Perhaps your organization wants to adopt more business-professional standards and make changes to the dress code. Communicate that clearly and well in advance with written regulations, and ensure there are no exceptions.

Failing to communicate these changes clearly will leave your employees with mixed messages. Veteran employees will be upset that new rules and changes are unclear, and new hires will be upset that they’re following rules other employees are exempt from. Various managers, depending on their personal convictions, may enforce the rules differently among their teams, leaving employees feeling unfairly treated.

The best way to avoid this is to enact changes across the board, holding every employee or team member to the same standard. Your team members should never feel like they have to guess what’s okay, or like they may be punished for disobeying rules they don’t fully understand. Bypass some of the tension associated with rule development by remaining open and honest with your employees about why these changes are necessary.

3 company culture ideas that won’t work

We’ve talked about ideas for improving your company culture, but what about the ideas that won’t work? While there is no specific plan that will work for every company, there are a few things that everyone should avoid.

1. Giving people things they don’t want

If the majority of your employees are burned out and wishing they could work from home, adding an espresso machine in the lunch room isn’t going to help boost their mood. You need to work with your team to identify what they are motivated by first before deciding how to approach improving your company culture.

2. Over-promising and under delivering

A common pitfall of some companies is overpromising to employees and then falling short of expectations. While it’s important to be transparent with your employees about the changes that are coming, you should be careful not to roll out any company culture initiatives before they are ready. Remember to start small and expand your program slowly to avoid any missteps.

3. Trying to force people to participate

No matter how exciting and creative your company culture ideas are, there will always be employees who don’t want to participate. Some people prefer to come to work, keep their head down, and leave - and that’s okay! Pressuring someone to participate will only create a negative atmosphere that will taint your overall company culture.

Related: Check out 8 common company culture myths

Do it for the culture

Now that you’ve got some ideas on how to improve your company culture, it’s time to get to work! The work may seem hard at first, but extra care and attention you give to improving the culture for your employees will be worth it in the end.

Read up on how to create a core values list for your business or take a look at these HR hacks you can implement at your company.

Get your complete guide to human resources, FREE.    Explore →

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