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10 Dead Simple Ways to Improve Your Company Culture

Written by
George Dickson
George Dickson

What’s the company culture like at your organization? While individual teams can have sub-cultures of their own, company culture is always informed by your larger company values, mission, and goal. But… where do you start? 🤔

Company culture is never a one-size-fits-all solution, but there are some easy, actionable steps you can take today to improve your company culture, both in the short and long term. Let’s get started:

1. Embrace transparency

 
transparency

Transparency isn't just positive for employees. The effects of a transparent company culture impact the entire organization and produces highly engaged employees.

Highly Engaged employees are 2.5x more likely to report working for a transparent organization than Actively Disengaged employees." 
–Bonusly's 2019 Engagement and Modern Workplace Report

Trust is truly the foundation of a great company culture. If you want an open and transparent company culture, your first step should be ensuring that your team has the modern communication and collaboration tools to do so. 

Outdated communication tools can be a major barrier to transparency, especially if you’re working across different offices and remote employees. It's imperative that your team has an easy and efficient way to connect with one another and to share crucial information. 

In addition to improving your communication and collaboration tools, another crucial step to take is simply defaulting to transparency.

This is primarily a mental, rather than a logistical shift. Instead of asking "is it absolutely necessary to share this?" ask, "is it absolutely necessary to conceal this?" 

It's that easy.

Here are some other ways to embody transparency at your organization: 

Share success. If you're going to do one thing, start with this. Openly share and recognize the successes of the organization, its teams, and its individuals with everyone. 

It's a major motivation boost for the team to hear the positive results of their hard work.

Share challenges. You hired the best and smartest people in the room for a reason. By being open about the challenges you and your company are facing, you’re presenting opportunities for the team to come up with solutions together

This doesn't mean you need to share every minutiae of every logistical challenge, but when it comes to solving complicated challenges, several minds—especially when those perspectives come from diverse backgrounds—are more powerful than one.

Diggin’ these tips? Click here to save this list as a PDF and send it to your coworkers!

2. Recognize and reward valuable contributions

employee rewards

Did you know that companies that emphasize having a recognition-rich culture also tend to have dramatically lower turnover rates? 

Employees who don’t feel recognized are twice as likely to quit their job in a year, while the top 20% of companies with a recognition-rich culture have a 31% lower turnover rate.

How much would a 31% reduction in your turnover rate save your company? A lot more than you think. Try our Cost of Employee Turnover Calculator to find out in a matter of seconds: 

Try our Cost of Employee Turnover Calculator

If you'd like to see that kind of impact on your own turnover rate, you can. Here’s our first suggestion: identify specific behaviors and results aligned with your company's goals and values, and recognize and reward those behaviors as frequently as you can.

But here’s the key to implementing tangible change at your company: make it possible for everyone to recognize anyone on your team. 

Here’s why. 

Employee recognition doesn't have to come exclusively from the top. It's often even more impactful when recognition comes from all around—from leaders, from peers, from everyone.

Peer recognition is the most effective method of infusing recognition into your culture.

It dramatically reduces the managerial overhead required to make sure everyone's being recognized for the work they do. (If that doesn't convince your leadership team to invest in recognition, this webinar might.) 

It's also a great way to organically build stronger relationships between coworkers—which is the next step towards building an outstanding company culture.

If you need to start somewhere, start with employee recognition. 

Download The Guide to Modern Employee Recognition

3. Cultivate strong coworker relationships

Work Friends

Having strong relationships at work drives employee engagement, but it doesn't happen automatically. Building strong coworker relationships takes time, effort, and sometimes, dedicated team-building activities. 😉 (Don’t groan. Our list is fun!)

But more than that, employees also shouldn’t make it a practice to scatter the moment their leader approaches the water cooler.

In fact, research suggests you could benefit from doing the exact opposite—companies should be creating spaces that encourage, and even generate “collisions.”

We’ve learned, for example, that face-to-face interactions are by far the most important activity in an office... our data suggest that creating collisions—chance encounters and unplanned interactions between knowledge workers, both inside and outside the organization—improves performance.

Think about both the physical and cultural environment in your own organization. In addition to providing spaces focus, productivity, and collaboration, something that many offices miss out on are these collision areas. 

For example, think of where you eat lunch. Is there a dedicated kitchen and eating area? Or is there only a microwave, and then everybody goes back to eat at their desk? Eating lunch together is one of the easiest ways to get to know your colleagues if you’re on teams that don’t normally interact, and it's an easy and low-budget way to encourage relationship building. 

Are you missing these collaboration and collision spaces? Make the shift. Engineering spaces and situations for interpersonal interactions is a simple way to improve your company culture.

4. Embrace and inspire employee autonomy

employee_autonomy

No one likes to be micromanaged at work. It's ineffective, inefficient, and does little to inspire trust in your company culture.

You hired them, so you should trust your employees to manage their responsibilities effectively! 

There are a few ways you can inspire employee autonomy, like allowing employees to exercise choice, letting go of the 40-hour work week concept, establishing autonomous work teams, creating decision-making opportunities, and reining in overzealous bosses and coworkers who tend to hover or bully others.

Embracing your team's autonomy allows them to make the sometimes difficult, but incredibly rewarding, leap from being held accountable to their responsibilities to embracing accountability as they begin to take on and own their initiatives. 

Save this list as a PDF so you can reference it later!

5. Practice flexibility

Many companies have begun to understand the value of providing their employees with added flexibility. It can improve morale and reduce turnover.

Workplace flexibility could mean many things, from a parent stepping out for a few hours for a school event, to work-from-home opportunities, or an employee taking a much-needed sabbatical.

If you're unsure how to begin implementing a policy of flexibility in your workplace, start here: The Dos and Don'ts of a Flexible Work Schedule

6. Communicate purpose and passion

purpose

Over the past 40 years, researchers have confirmed that people have an inherent need and desire for meaningful work—work that they experience as significant and purposeful.

Today, experiencing a sense of purpose in work seems more important than ever.

Studies show that when people believe that their work matters, they’re four times more likely to be engaged, are more motivated, learn faster, and are more fulfilled.

It's possible to find purpose in any type of work, but it’s up to a company’s leaders to connect their employees to purpose. 

We met with Arthur Woods recently, who shared an excellent explanation:

‘We find that purpose is derived from your relationships, your sense of impact, and your sense of personal growth... If you think about it, those three things are possible in any job. Anyone can build deep, nourishing relationships; anyone can feel like their work matters, and anyone can push themselves to develop in any setting.
Arthur Woods

One of the most influential functions of a leader is the ability to infuse purpose into people’s work and enable positive meaning.

Reflect on your own company culture: do you regularly show team members how their work benefits others? Do you often recognize team members for the impact they’ve made on your company’s goals?

If not, that’s a good place to start.

7. Promote a team atmosphere

Team Atmosphere

Don’t think of the other employees at your company as simply groups of other people you work with, but as integral members of your team.

This shift in mentality from people (or siloed groups of people) working toward individual goals to a unified team, all pulling in one direction, can make an enormous difference in the results of your work.

8. Give and solicit regular feedback

employee advocacy

Giving—not to mention receiving—feedback is hard

It doesn’t help that a lot of feedback, even with good intentions, is vague or not actually helpful.

You may be thinking, "We do annual performance reviews. Feedback: Check."

We’ve got news for you. 

Once-a-year feedback doesn't come close to providing an employee with the tools they need to improve and grow. 😬

Ideally, you should be providing feedback on a regular cadence, and allowing your employees to give feedback, as well. Sending out regular employee engagement surveys is a great way to understand your team's concerns and challenges in a timely way—and is a way to understand what your company is doing well, too! 

Take it from our 2019 State of Employee Engagement Report

Highly engaged organizations are more likely than other organizations to measure engagement, and they are more likely to measure it more than once a year.

Giving frequent, candid feedback is a benefit to everyone. You can reward good behaviors and results as they occur, which just encourages more of the same.

Plus, an employee who’s having trouble meeting management's expectations should never be blindsided at an annual review. Asking your employees meaningful questions and soliciting discussion provides the support they—and you!—need to make corrections. 

It's vital to recognize employees when and why they're doing well, and work together toward solutions when a fix is needed.

9. Stay true to your core values

Core Values

Core values are much more than a list of bullet points on a company's About Us page. Core values are a company’s North Star. They’re informed by an organization’s mission and goals, and are the principals at the heart of an organization.

As such, they're not something you pick just because they sound good on your website.

Your values determine what is important and meaningful to you. They align with your purpose, and speak loudly and passionately to others—and to yourself—about who you are and what you're called to do in this world.
Lolly Daskal

If you want your company culture to stick, you need to develop genuine core values and stay true to them.

10. Give culture building the effort it deserves

Build Culture

Few things will have a greater impact on your organization than its culture.

Building a company culture takes time and energy. It doesn't just happen. Your culture should align with your mission and values—and it should resonate with everyone in the organization.

Failing to allocate the necessary time and effort into building a company culture you can be proud of will leave you with a company culture you simply accept, or worse, dislike. 😰

There's no finish line. A truly amazing company culture is a constant work in progress, because as a company evolves, so does its people. 

Devote time to nurturing your company culture. Exemplify it in every way you can so that your team will be able to recognize and emulate it.

To get started, save this list as a PDF and send it to your coworkers!

Which of these steps are you going to take first?

A truly amazing company culture will always be a work in progress, evolving in tandem with your organization and your people, which is why it’s up to you to decide where to steer that evolution and which of these steps to take first!

Our tip? Start with employee recognition. It contributes to so many of the factors we discussed above, and is an initiative that'll make everyone feel good. 

To see how easy it is to build a recognition-rich company culture, check out our Guide to Modern Employee Recognition

Download The Guide to Modern Employee Recognition

Originally published on November 18, 2015 → Last updated May 15, 2020
George Dickson

George is dedicated to strengthening organizational cultures with thoughtful leadership and frequent recognition. George formerly managed content and community at Bonusly.

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Bonusly is a fun, personal employee recognition and rewards program that helps people feel engaged and successful at work. ✨