5 Realistic Approaches to Building Corporate Culture
By: Richard Porter
What’s the difference between an OK place to work and a great place to work? Hint: culture.
Building corporate culture doesn’t happen by accident — at least, an intentional and caring culture doesn’t just appear overnight. A rewarding work environment is very much the product of careful, incremental changes, both from the top-down and the bottom-up. And creating a culture that’s good for people is also good for business.
Simply put, a corporate culture must be cultivated, especially by people in leadership roles. Cultivation may sound overwhelming, but, like tending a garden, it’s a matter of constant, small, simple efforts. Cultivation requires intentionality, a dedication to pulling out and elevating the very best qualities of yourself and your team members.
By contrast, a company or organization will atrophy if left unattended. Setting management to “cruise control” is a sure-fire way to lower morale, isolate workers, increase miscommunication and foster apathy.
Want to change how things are done around here? Cheers to moving toward a brighter, more intentional future for your organization! In that spirit, here are five simple steps for the aspiring cultural architect of the workplace.
5 WAYS TO HELP BUILD CORPORATE CULTURE
1. Seek mentorship
Start building corporate culture by working on yourself. To do that you will want to find a mentor. Who is that person in your field? The one who is at the place that you want to be at in five years, ten years — maybe thirty years? Offer to take that person to lunch (or, opt for virtual mentorship, if working remotely).
Seeking a mentor in your field is a great way to glean free wisdom. By learning from others you can avoid the toll of hard-earned lessons. Is there someone who exemplifies the values and goals that you see for your organization? Ask them their secrets. Take notes. A few hours with a well-chosen guru could yield a nugget of wisdom that changes the way you do your most important work.
2. Regularly evaluate yourself and your team
As a leader, you must periodically ask “how can I be a better leader?” And don’t just ask yourself. Ask your employees. Regular self-evaluation, team evaluation and crowdsourcing feedback can help you to understand, objectively, where you’re at and where you need to grow.
3. Actively listen
This is true for any cultural architect in the workplace because it’s true for anyone trying to foster a healthy relationship. No single person can have an omniscient, omnipresent understanding of their organization. We must learn to actively listen to others — peers, superiors, employees — when they speak their minds and bring different perspectives to the conference table or virtual meeting room.
4. Recognize your organization’s culture champions
Recognize your coworkers who are exemplifying the traits that your company says they value. Who is walking the walk? Try to anticipate how they’d like to be recognized and dole out the kudos.
Proper recognition reinforces your chosen values in your corporate culture. And a little recognition can go a long way. Share employees’ wins in a team email, give them a shout out in a team meeting or recognize their efforts in your employee experience program.
5. Create (reasonable) expectations
Hybrid work, telecommuting and video calls have replaced “regular” workday patterns. Employees are already prone to workplace anxiety. And few things produce more anxiety in the workplace than unclear expectations. How can an employee aim for a mark when there is no mark? Or a hazy mark? Or, worse, when the mark keeps moving?
Make sure your expectations of your coworkers are reasonable, definable and achievable. Communicate them clearly. Aim for the goal and then cheer your team on to reach that goal.
WHY STRENGTHENING WORKPLACE CULTURE MATTERS
Consider the benefits of building corporate culture.
If you can articulate your company’s culture, then you can hire for culture fit. You can know who your people are, who would be a great addition to your team or perhaps even inspire them. Know yourself, then hire others according to your values. This will strengthen your team.
Increase productivity and decrease turnover.Our research clearly shows that a large majority of workers report that they are likely to work for a company and apply themselves if they like a company’s corporate culture. Small acts of cultivation can translate into big investments in the bottom line.
Save yourself the headaches that can come from an unintentional approachto interpersonal workplace dynamics. Being present, asking questions, elevating values — these small steps are all about showing how you care. Invest in yourself and your team incrementally. Your investment will pay off and save you grief in the long run.
Constant care and repeated effort will take your team energy from OK to great. Or, at least, it will keep you all functioning and healthy.
Keep building corporate culture, bit by bit. Your employees will thank you — and, if you keep at it, you will definitely thank yourself.
Building an employee well-being culture isn’t just about getting steps in. It's about communicating that the whole company cares.
About the author
Richard Porter is a freelance writer based in Seattle. His work has appeared in the Microsoft blog, ROVA Magazine, and ParentMap, among other publications. More of his writing can be found at porterwordsmith.com.