What's your organizational culture? 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 company culture ideas you can implement today to improve your organization, which should always be a top goal for HR leaders. Let’s jump in!
For an innovative take on how to improve company culture, check out this thought-provoking talk by our VP of Product.
What's arguably the best way to improve company culture? Ask your employees! Stay interviews can help you identify strengths and weaknesses in your company culture.
1. Embrace transparency
Transparency isn't just positive for employees. The effects of a transparent company culture impact the entire organization and produce highly engaged employees.
Highly Engaged employees are 2.1x more likely to report working for a transparent organization than Actively Disengaged employees.
–Bonusly's Engagement and Modern Workplace Report
Trust is the foundation of a great organizational culture. If you want an open and transparent company culture, your first step should be ensuring that your team has the modern technology 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Outdated communication tools can be a major barrier to transparency, especially if you’re working across different offices and remote employees.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 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 in your organization:
If you're going to do one thing, start with this. Openly share and recognize the successes of individuals, your teams, and your organization with everyone.
It's a major motivation boost for the team to hear the positive results of their hard work.
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 minutia 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.
2. Recognize and reward valuable contributions
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. In fact, a recent Bonusly survey found that nearly half of respondents have left a job because they felt unappreciated.
Almost half (46%) of respondents have left a job because they felt unappreciated. Another 65% admitted that they would work harder if they felt like their contributions would be noticed by management.
On the flip side, 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.
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, then recognize and reward those behaviors as frequently as you can.
Most importantly, get everyone in on it! 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-to-peer recognition is the most effective method of infusing recognition into your culture. Peer-to-peer recognition also dramatically reduces the managerial overhead required to make sure everyone's being recognized for the work they do. In a recent customer survey, 73% of respondents said they spend just 2 hours or less on Bonusly admin each month! (If that doesn't convince your leadership team to invest in recognition, our webinar about securing executive buy-in might.)
Employee appreciation is 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.
Make improvements to your company culture before employees leave.
3. Cultivate strong coworker relationships
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 space for 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.
If your organization is hybrid or remote-first, you can still find meaningful team-building activities and encourage organic collaboration!
4. Embrace and inspire 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 ignite 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.
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
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, 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.
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
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
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 provide an employee with the tools they need to improve and grow. 😬
Ideally, you should be providing feedback on a regular cadence, like in your one-on-one meetings, and allowing your employees to give feedback in stay interviews, 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 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.
Retain your top employees by getting their candid feedback on your company culture:
9. Stay true to your 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.
If you want your organizational culture to stick, you need to develop genuine core values and stay true to them. You can start by reading about the value of aligning recognition with your company values.
10. Give culture building the effort it deserves
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 organizational culture is a constant work in progress, because as a company evolves, so do 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.
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 and is an initiative that'll make everyone feel good.
For a simple way to start improving your company culture today, download our free Stay Interview Template. 👇
The free PDF template includes:
👉 Step-by-step instructions for conducting stay interviews and using the template.
✅ Guided questions around manager feedback, company feedback, and building connections.
💡 Tips on how to make the most of your stay interviews.
⚙️ Additional tools and resources to build engaged, resilient teams.