Last week’s article “Defining Your Company Culture” helped you ask the questions – and come up with the answers – that hone in on, and clarify, the culture you want your business to represent. But, it’s not enough to just define your culture, you need to maintain it, communicate it and keep it a living, breathing part of your business. Consider these seven ways to nurture your company culture.
Define and communicate your core values. It’s easy to be cynical about this – until you realize how important it is. Some companies come into existence knowing their core values are to “never sacrifice quality” or “always do the right thing.” But if they don’t communicate it, and hold employees to that standard, those values go unsupported. Know your values and communicate them. If you’re not so clear on your values, ask your team to (anonymously) comment on what they think the company’s values are. This could be a rude awakening if you haven’t been careful to manage your values, but it can also give you an idea of what messages are coming across – so you know which messages you need to manage. Defining and communicating your values is key to bringing everyone on the same team to support the specific vision of your company.
Keep it fun. Culture is all about a certain version of fun. No matter what business you’re in, you can have fun. You could host events for families (summer picnics?), publish media that is specifically for your employees (weekly newsletter to keep them informed and inspired), dress-up days (wear costumes to work) or any engaging and fun activity that purposely blurs the lines between personal and work life.
Show employees you care about them (for real). To build loyalty among your employees, make sure to show you care about them in the totality of their lives. When they start working for you, find out their kids’ birthdays and their wedding-anniversary date, to commemorate those events with a card or a call. Ask about their hobbies and interests, so you can talk about those things, or reward them in ways they’ll actually enjoy.
Hire only the types of people who fit your culture. Finding people who fit for your company can be difficult. It’s common to interview dozens of people and only find one that would actually match your environment. Though hiring is a challenge, don’t settle for someone just because they’re a body to fill a position. Make hiring easier by narrowing the field. Place well-crafted employment ads that define the culture, and demonstrate what fitting that culture would mean in action. Create interview questions that help you define the candidate’s fit for the culture (“How do you spend your free time” or “Select three values from the list below that tell us what kind of person you are.”) Administering a skills test during an interview is a great way to see what aptitudes a person brings with them and get a feel for how a person reacts when they don’t know exactly what they’re doing. Everything about your interview (and possibly a probationary period) should allow the candidate to demonstrate how well they fit your vision, mission and culture. Hire only the employees that really fit.
Get rid of employees that “don’t fit.” Now that you’re trying to hire the best fit for your company, apply that logic to deciding who to keep. Odds are you have staff that are holding you back from embodying the identity you’re trying to bring to life. Many of us have worked for a company where employees whine, act like children, are difficult to work with and generally don’t produce the work results or have the personal qualities that make them a good team member. If you’ve given employees the tools they need to succeed and they aren’t succeeding, you have an obligation to remove them from your team. No matter how developed your culture, retaining staff that undermines your cultural values has a negative effect on your team.
Check in to see how it’s going. Come up with ways to measure your employees’ satisfaction periodically, and then respond to their feedback. Be sure to make any feedback you request anonymous, and don’t just focus on the positive feedback while ignoring signs that you need to improve your management. Employees want to know that you take their ideas seriously. When you receive feedback that is negative, act on it. Change the situation. Make things better. Employees will notice if you pat yourself on the back for the positive feedback and ignore the rest. Deal with the criticism and use it to make your culture stronger, clearer and more attractive for your employees.
Acknowledge your employees. Everyone loves getting a paycheck, but that’s not the most important thing about having a job. We spend so much of our time at work that how we are made to feel at the office determines how happy we are. We all want acknowledgement, respect, recognition, and a simple “thank you.” Don’t expect that paying the wages is all it takes to get great work, and loyalty, from your team. Give them a little extra appreciation and they’ll keep supporting your culture and company success.
Once you’ve taken steps to define your culture, keep developing and maintaining it. After all, when employees enjoy coming to work, they are more likely to contribute their best efforts and stay around. Though nurturing the culture you have defined is a daily, challenging task , it can help you boost productivity and retain your top talent.