More than 93 percent of executives and 88 percent of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is vital to business success, according to a recent Deloitte study.
Too many HR departments -- and senior managers -- think building a positive organizational culture is about a ping pong table, free organic snacks and a gym pass. (Although those are nice perks!)
So what’s the secret recipe that guarantees your employees will rave about where they work?
It doesn’t matter whether your company is fully remote, hybrid or back in the office. The qualities of an exceptional organizational culture that fosters innovation are consistent in all three settings, according to decades of research.
Here are nine rules to ensure you are getting work culture right:
- Communicate a concise, and clear vision. That’s not the same as a catchy tagline.
Can every employee state in three sentences why the company’s products or services are invaluable? What are you doing to help the receptionist, data analyst and graphic designer act as your firm’s cheerleaders and ambassadors?
- Don’t hire people like you. Don’t hire for “cultural fit.”
The laws of unconscious bias mean that we seek out people who are just like us, even if we say otherwise. So what’s wrong with that? A company with low cultural and thought diversity gets stuck in rigid habits. The lack of dynamism among a homogenous group means when change does come, or is needed, no one can see it, and no one wants it. Those who are different from you socially, economically, and ethnically might have a perspective you desperately need. As Inc. explains:
“Because they don't share your worldview, their ability to spot risks or greater opportunities is immensely valuable. You need to find these people, cherish them—and not turn them into clones.”
- Don’t be a hypocrite.
If you set a policy such as no cell phones allowed during meetings, then don’t start checking your messages during a meeting because you’re so important you always have to be “on.” There are also few things more annoying than trying to ignore someone who is electronically multitasking during a meeting. Be conscious of behaving in ways that reinforce whatever you are asking of others.
- Encourage people to disagree with you.
How comfortable does an entry level employee feel walking into the CEO’s office with a question or comment? Although without any hierarchy there would be chaos, strict protocols about who employees can go to when they have a big idea, or a big worry stifle creativity.
- Don’t confuse niceness with ignoring problems.
There’s a lot of emphasis today on making sure everyone is nice at work. And attention to equity and inclusion are much needed. But niceness can also be used as an excuse to avoid a productive confrontation with dysfunction. You need to send a message from the top that empathy must be accompanied by a tolerance for tension. Discord over ideas often leads to new, better ideas, especially when ego is put aside. In addition, fear of violating the faux niceness code may result in a refusal to address an organization’s chronic issues, from absenteeism to a low-quality service.
- Continuously seek feedback from outsiders.
Listen to outsiders, that means new employees, contractors, ex-employees, whoever it takes to point out what your culture is really like. Instead of making them conform, look for what they don’t find acceptable or expected. Joining a new company can often be like entering the movie set of The Emperor’s New Clothes. The outsider sees all the things that don't work but is afraid to say the truth and eventually just goes with the flow to fit in. What a way to kill innovation.
- Foster effective collaboration between departments, teams and off-site employees.
Now that you have made sure people can speak their minds, will they? That depends greatly on whether you provide the opportunities. To keep everyone connected in a remote or hybrid setting, consider holding biweekly standup meetings where there is communication across departments. Have quick check-ins by phone or virtually when you can sense someone might be feeling disconnected.
Make sure the number of your 1:1 between managers and subordinates is on par with industry benchmarks for boosting performance and engagement. And if safety and time allow, have at least two off-site get togethers annually.
People are more creative with those with whom they have established a steady, secure bond. So the more social connections you promote, the more likely employees will feel safe letting their creative juices work for the company’s best interests.
- Show with concrete measures that you are invested in employees’ career success.
Have a mentoring program so that people in your company have a chance to grow through connections across departments, gender and age. Offer reverse mentoring, so that more senior employees can benefit from the cultural (and technical) knowledge of younger employees. Diversity in experience and age, as previously mentioned, means everyone has something to gain through mentorships.
- Empower teams to make changes from the bottom up.
To find out more about your culture -- and your communication -- see how engaged your teams are by tracking their collective collaboration habits. Find out if they are bogged down by meetings and micromanagement. Discover patterns of collaboration that will provide you with insights on how often teammates work together, and apart.
**We recommend that teams and their managers use analytics to gain greater knowledge of their communication patterns so they can remove obstacles they are typically not aware of. How much time we think we spend in meetings and on Slack is, according to our own client evidence, very far from the reality. **
The takeaway from these rules is that before you can create a dynamic organizational culture, you first have to take a good look in the mirror. While transformation can start at the bottom, the commitment to soul-searching must start at the top.
Speaking of self reflection, Time is Ltd. can help you measure team productivity, engagement and performance without ever sacrificing personal privacy.
Our exclusive analytics enables managers and their teams to reach their collaboration goals and have more time to focus on deep strategy, as well as work-life balance.
Reach out to us today to learn how you can transform your work culture and ensure that your teams are getting the most out of their collaboration tools, meetings and communication across your company.