Company culture today is a far cry from what it was even just a couple of decades ago. Just take a look around your own company. Formalities such as designated corner offices and bullpen-style seating have given way to more egalitarian workspaces where open-style seating encourages collaboration and teamwork. And it’s not just the appearance of offices that has evolved. Technology has shifted the way that companies operate, too. At one time the only connection that most bosses had with their employees was when everyone was physically at their place of employment. Today, it’s not uncommon for coworkers to be connected 24/7, even if it’s simply shooting a text message in the evening to update a supervisor on the status of a project or being connected with colleagues via LinkedIn or some other social media platform. As business owners, we’re given the privilege to set the tone of how we want our company to operate. In other words, it’s up to us to put the wheels in motion when it comes to building a thriving and sustainable organizational culture.
One of the first ways to do so is considering what worked and what didn’t work at some of your previous jobs. Perhaps your former boss was quick to be off limits to his staff, only popping his head out of his office sporadically throughout the day and rarely if ever lifting a finger, whereas you work better in an environment where hierarchy is more fluid and everyone gets their hands dirty, regardless of their title and paycheck. Take a moment to consider what did and didn’t work at your previous jobs, and what you liked and didn’t like about your old bosses. Also, take a look at other companies that you admire and see what kinds of cultures they’ve built. Once you’ve considered this information, you’re one step closer to having a roadmap of what you do and don’t want to implement in your own business.
Another important step when building a work culture is creating a space where employees can thrive. According to a report published on IZA World Labor, an economic research institute, the happiest workers are also the most productive. One company in particular that the report cites as succeeding in this manner is Google. In the report, Lara Harding, the people program manager at the technology company, is quoted as saying that “at Google, we know that health, family, and well-being are an important aspect of Googlers’ lives. We have also noticed that employees who are happy demonstrate increased motivation.”
Some ways that Google has built a thriving work culture is by providing its employees with perks both large and small, from generous parental leave policies and onsite wellness services to encourage them to bring their dogs to the workplace and offering free meals. While many of these benefits may be costly, especially for small business owners or companies trying to get their feet off the ground, they’re a good launch pad for weighing what you do and don’t want to weave into your own company culture.
For example, one option that has proven popular among workers and has also show to help retain employees is allowing flexibility in the workplace. If viable, consider implementing a policy that allows employees the option of working off-site for a stated amount of days or hours each week. According to a two-year study at Stanford University, researcher and professor Nicholas Bloom noticed a 13-percent improvement in performance by workers given the opportunity to work from home. His study also found a 50-percent decrease in resignations at companies that offered employees this perk.
Thanks to technology, the rationale for having employees chained to their desks is becoming weaker and weaker. (Obviously allowing for remote work also depends on several factors, including what industry you work for and job duties—it’s difficult to work remotely if you’re a doctor, for example.) So long as an employee has access to a Wi-Fi signal and is equipped with a computer, it’s no longer out of the question to allow him or her to work offsite.
Once you have a feel for what kind of company culture you want to implement, it’s also a good idea to consider your workforce as you put these standards into place. Not only does this help make them feel involved, not to mention seen and heard, but it also gives you a better guideline of what works and what doesn’t. For example, perhaps your team is on the younger side. Research focused on how different generations of the population operate in the workplace has shown that younger employees thrive in work environments that encourage collaboration. If this is the case, consider creating a culture where working in teams is the norm and creating a space that nurtures this kind of mentality. In other words, reconsider creating a space populated with cubicles and opt for a more open environment where thoughts and ideas can be shared easily amongst coworkers.
Finally, as you begin to devise plans for how you want your company culture to operate, consider whether or not your ideas are actually sustainable. Many ideas are great in theory, but once you put them into action will you continue implementing them, or will you be faced with more headaches. These are all questions you’ll need to ask yourself as you move forward, but ultimately the bottom line is this: If you take care of your employees, they’ll be more apt to take care of your customers, making it a win-win for everyone.
About the author
Tabitha Laser is a multi-faceted professional with over 25 years of leadership experience in a variety of industries ranging from oil and gas, energy, manufacturing, agriculture, construction and more. Her diverse background has provided her opportunities to work with government agencies and some of the world’s largest companies, including Fortune 500 companies, BP, 3M, and General Mills. Her expertise has fueled her passion to help shape the next generation of leaders, especially millennials, to help avoid the pitfalls of their predecessors and lead beyond best. Tabitha is the author of Organization Culture Killers. The first book in a series of leadership books she calls, “The Deadly Practices.” Follow Tabitha.