Building and reinforcing a stronger work culture can have a number of benefits, both for your organization as a whole and for the individuals working within that organization. The right work culture can unify your team, building bonds and increasing collaborative potential. It can lower turnover, since engaged employees will feel more “at home” in this organization. It can even improve your brand’s reputation and public image in the right conditions.
The question is, how can you establish a stronger work culture?
A Note on Remote Teams
First, we have to address the challenges of managing a remote workforce, since more and more companies are switching to a fully remote model. Traditionally, work cultures have been established and enforced with the help of physical surroundings; it’s much easier to get people on the same page when they’re working in the same location and have access to the same physical resources.
However, it’s just as possible to foster a strong work culture when working remotely—you just have to make a few adjustments. For example, you can circulate documents digitally instead of physically, and host virtual teambuilding exercises, rather than relying on in-person interactions. We’ll explore some of these options in the strategies that follow.
Tactics for Building a Stronger Work Culture
These strategies can help you create a much more consistent and powerful work culture:
· Define your company values. First, spend some time formally defining your company’s core values. You can look to the core values of other businesses for inspiration. For example, you might prioritize transparency if you want to remain open and honest with your employees and customers. You might prioritize communication, trust, or accountability. There really aren’t many rules to follow here; you can list as many or as few as you’d like, and choose almost anything remotely positive. The point is to have a list you can consult and build around.
· Document and enforce your official company policies. Next, use those core values to document and enforce official company policies. You won’t always have the option to translate your values into an official policy; for example, you can’t create an enforceable rule that requires employees to be humble. However, you can build in policies that encourage open communication, continuous education, diversity and inclusion, and integrity.
· Start with your leadership. Employees will look to their supervisors, managers, and other leaders as role models, so start building your culture there. If your team leaders embody all the core values and traits you want to support in your organization, it will be much easier to get the rest of the team onboard.
· Open your communication channels. Good cultures are propagated by open communication; the more you engage with your employees, and the more they engage with each other, the more your core values will spread.
· Host regular teambuilding events. Teambuilding events are perfect opportunities to bring your employees together and develop bonds that strengthen your overall work culture. Consider taking your employees to lunch, solving problems together, or even playing board games (remotely if necessary). Try to do this at least once a month.
· Publicly reward behavior that meets norms. Whenever you see an employee embody a core value of your brand, publicly acknowledge and reward that behavior. It’s a great way to set expectations with your other employees, and continually reinforce good habits.
· Privately acknowledge behavior that violates norms. Conversely, if an employee violates a norm or exhibits the opposite of a core value, consider speaking to that employee privately on the matter. Public scolding is embarrassing and unproductive, but you should still take advantage of the opportunity to correct this behavior.
· Hire employees who fit your culture. Once you have a solid understanding of your work culture, prioritize hiring employees who adhere to your stated core values. In your interviews, ask candidates what their personal core values are, and what types of environments they prefer. Prioritize skilled and experienced employees who fit well within your culture.
· Work to retain your best employees. Additionally, it’s important to retain the employees who best fit your culture. You can encourage employee retention by keeping employees engaged, giving them rewards for good work, actively listening to their questions, concerns, and suggestions, and remaining transparent and adaptable. If and when you lose employees, be sure to conduct exit interviews to learn more about the motivations for their departure.
Your work culture doesn’t have to look like the work culture of another organization—and in fact, it shouldn’t. Work culture is even more powerful when it’s unique. Take inspiration from competing businesses as a jumping-off point, but try to create something that’s all your own. In time, you’ll foster a much more robust and effective work culture for your employees.