Every organization – whether brand new or 150 years young – fosters a culture. It doesn’t have to be acknowledged to exist, but it must be nurtured to thrive, empower employees, and to have it contribute to the company’s goals, growth and longevity.
If your organization doesn’t currently have a defined culture, that’s ok. We’ll get there. And if it does, there’s always room for improvement.
So, let’s get down to brass tacks. Culture: What’s the big hubbub anyway?
Company Culture, Defined
Culture may be a buzzword in today’s business realm, but without actively nurturing yours, the risk of a fundamental breakdown in beliefs, behaviors and engagement runs exceedingly high.
Before you can build or advance your company’s culture, you must define it.
In general terms, your company culture is the shared values, practices and beliefs of your organization and its employees.
Because every individual, including you, has a different answer to the questions of what we do, what we say, what we believe, how we function, how we behave, how we treat each other, and so on, defining your specific culture requires your organization to:
- Clearly define every aspect of your culture in a way that’s inspiring and motivating to employees and teams.
- Keep an open dialogue on every element of your culture so everyone is on the same page and understands why they’re important to the organization
- Live your culture every day and stay true to it in every endeavor.
How to Create Company Culture
The process of defining your culture is exciting and can gain steam quickly. Keep in mind, however, that creating a successful company culture doesn’t happen overnight.
In fact, it’s always going to be a work in progress. Since your company is constantly changing, growing and innovating, your culture will and should evolve too.
Many business owners and leaders question the importance of company culture, but think of it this way: Your organization’s structure is the body, and your organization’s culture is its soul.
Your soul is the only truly unique identifying quality your business has. Your strategies, products, marketing tactics, customer service approach, and innovations could all be replicated by other companies. Your culture is what drives all of these things forward with purpose and heart, empowers you to stand out among competitors, and makes you an outlier in any market.
At the core of creating a culture, you must know how you want your employees to feel and think about your company. From there, it’s a matter of putting in the time to build an inspiring and motivating culture, trusting your employees to do the right thing, and watching them prosper and take the company to new heights.
Steps to Create Organizational Culture
1. Solidify a Foundation
This is the defining stage, as discussed above. Ultimately, your foundation should be anchored in what you, as an organization, stand for.
Of course, this is no easy task, but your company’s employee satisfaction, retention, productivity, innovation and bottom line all depend on a clear direction for how your company and its employees function as a whole.
2. Collectively Build Upward
While an organization’s leadership must set the tone and establish the cornerstones of the culture, including your employees in some of the defining process – such as communicating your ideas and asking for feedback from every employee – can go a long way in garnering trust and establishing a transparent culture.
After all, the work environment you’re building belongs to your employees, and they will be directly affected by every decision made, every day of the week.
When employees feel a part of the process – especially one as big as this – they’re more likely to feel invested in the company and become more engaged. The more engaged employees are at work, the less likely they are to leave/turnover, which ultimately impacts a company's bottom line. It costs employers 33% of a worker's annual salary to hire a replacement if that worker leaves1.
3. Promote the Culture
A lot of time, commitment and hard work went into defining and creating your company’s culture. It can be hard to launch a new or revitalized way of life for your company, but don’t overthink it. You have to let it fly in order for it to become an innate part of your organization.
Don’t wait for every detail to be perfect. After much talk and planning, your employees are eager to breathe new life into your organization.
Promote and celebrate your company’s culture and values, and lead by example to ignite the excitement.
4. Fill in the Gaps
Your organization’s culture is a living element, and once it has been enacted, gaps will be noticed, inefficiencies will be identified, and employees will have feedback.
Welcome all of it. Your employees are your greatest resource and the reason your culture will flourish or flounder. Collect helpful, eye-opening feedback through:
- Small focus groups comprised of employees from different teams and experience levels
- Anonymous surveys
- One-on-one sessions with various employees at different times of the year
Your leadership team should be continuously monitoring the culture, asking for feedback, reviewing responses, and making tweaks – big and small – when necessary.
How to Empower Employees & Promote Your Culture
Promoting culture boils down to one fundamental necessity: Leadership must walk the walk. When employees see and hear you embodying the values, practices and beliefs you established, they are more likely to buy-in.
Above all, the importance of useful and honest transparency in communications when promoting culture and any new programs cannot be overstated.
There’s a multitude of ways you can promote your culture, but it’s important that each method is targeted at empowering employees, such as:
- Pointing out employee accomplishments and abilities
- Complimenting individuals
- Praising employees or teams in meetings
- Expressing gratitude for your workforce
- Encouraging self-care, mental health and exercise
- Allowing employees to work where they feel productive and inspired
- Providing employees alternative areas to socialize or conduct business in
- Allowing employees to take a break and get out of the office to go do something fun together, like a baseball game, indoor obstacle course, etc.
Here’s a pro tip from Deanna Wolfe, Bravo’s Wellness Solutions Strategist: Encourage managers to talk about well-being and work-life balance with their team. What does well-being mean to them? What do they need from the organization to be at their highest well-being?'
Want to build a stronger, healthier culture? Implement an employee wellness program.
A culture that places a prominent focus on wellness not only empowers and encourages employees to continuously make healthy behavioral choices, but it also shows your employees that you are committed to investing in them as individuals.
Furthermore, a wellness program that’s specifically tailored for your culture and employees’ needs will help increase productivity, boost employee satisfaction and retention, and attract top talent.
If you’re thinking about making a wellness program an extension of your culture, it’s time we talk.
Learn more about how Bravo uses communications to help participants understand the value of your company's wellness program to support your corporate culture.
Download our Wellness in the Workplace Guide to find out how you can overcome industry-specific challenges and cultural barriers to well-being.
1Avoidable turnover costing employers big.