By: Sarah Kyo
Corporate workplace culture has been a buzzword for many years, but it is not some random, meaningless catchphrase. In fact, it also goes beyond your work environment, perks, or even the company values that are featured on the about page of the company’s website or prominently displayed in the lobby of your workplace. Instead, think of company culture as the sum of all its parts—it is the set of qualities that make your organization such a unique entity for your team members and prospective job applicants. It includes your mission, employee engagement, ethics, core values, actions, and so much more. Strong company culture isn’t built in a day and neither does it stay static for eternity behind a glass case on a shelf. Rather, it is alive and continues to evolve as the people and business change over time as well.
Part of establishing a strong company culture is about creating a cohesive set of beliefs that can guide every decision that each person makes within the organization. As company culture experts Maddie Grant and Charlie Judy explain, a strong culture depends on alignment between published company values and what is valued within the company in day-to-day practice. For example, if a company says it values honesty, but punishes whistleblowers and individuals who offer constructive, potentially useful feedback to highlight problems in the workplace, that is a cultural red flag—the company’s actions are not aligned with their own words. If these differences are significant enough, then the company will struggle to get employees on board with the culture and adopt it wholeheartedly. When the overall workplace atmosphere is disagreeable or even toxic, figuring out how to improve company culture will become mission critical for the overall well-being of your employees and the organization itself.
Meanwhile, one of the most amazing things about having a strong company culture is that its impact is more than just positive feelings or a highly favorable employee engagement score in a collected survey. More and more research has shown just how vital a strong company culture is to the achievements of your business, inspiring your team members to go above and beyond for the greater good of your organization’s success. Data from Lighthouse Research and Advisory show that corporate culture fundamentally affects the market performance of a company. For example, employers with an overly competitive or controlling culture say that their performance management approach tends to be ineffective. On the other hand, companies with extra collaborative or creative cultures are much more likely to have better performance.
Additional research shows that organizations with a focus on high performance have four times the revenue growth of those that do not. Plus, almost half of millennial workers are actively looking or at least open to new opportunities elsewhere, and one of the major characteristics they consider in their next job is an improvement in “quality of work,” such as career development, purposeful work, work-life balance, and company culture. This feature is so highly valued by millennial workers that they are willing to take a $7,600 pay cut to receive it. On both micro (employee) and macro (company) levels, culture is more than a buzzword as you can see—it is a key lever for higher rates of employee engagement that result in a stronger overall performance for the organization.
Change Management Case Study: Creating a World-Class Manufacturing Culture
Having a robust company culture is especially important during times of change and transformation. For instance, Gallup research shows that employee engagement levels for manufacturing companies often lag far behind other industries. Nowadays, manufacturing employees and their peers in other industries expect to be managed differently compared with previous generations, such as being treated as an individual and having access to valuable perks including flex time. This is in stark contrast compared with a century ago. Organizations in manufacturing and other similar sectors have not adapted to these changing expectations from their employees and prospective job applicants. They often struggle with their culture because it is a notably disregarded topic in a field where quality and productivity metrics are a much higher priority compared with employee engagement.
One firm that has been able to successfully deliver a positive, engaging culture through intense growth is MBX Systems. As highlighted on the Manufacturing.net industry research website, MBX has doubled the size of its workforce in recent years while boasting an impressive 94 percent employee retention rate. The former president and leadership advisor of the firm, Jill Bellak, attributes this success to a few key company culture ideas, including:
- Directly engaging employees in process improvement activities by soliciting ideas and pursuing innovative concepts.
- Prioritizing training by rotating workers to different stations, eliminating bottlenecks, and increasing the skills of the workforce.
- Connecting members from disparate teams in social activities designed to break down silos and perceived barriers.
Perhaps most importantly, Bellak points out that communication is critical to culture development. As part of the onboarding process, a new hire at MBX has a one-on-one, meet-and-greet session with each member of the executive management team. Throughout the employee lifecycle, there are more direct points of contact through daily standup meetings on the plant floor, company newsletters, and quarterly all-company meetings and other forums for managers to share company performance metrics and encourage employee questions. MBX’s quarterly town hall-style meetings also include presentations from each department head, highlighting any major individual or group contributions that had measurable results. There are additional opportunities for recognizing individual contributors, such as newsletter shout-outs and Employee Appreciation Week.
Employee communications is an important tool for setting the tone for your team members and increasing the likelihood of buying into the company culture. It is hard for employees to be engaged if management does not engage with them in return. The cure for better employee engagement and improving company culture is to utilize every possible communication channel, including an employee communication software, to impart information, raise issues, recognize work effort, and facilitate an open dialogue with company leaders.
Any organization can follow these principles and learn how to improve company culture, whether in the manufacturing industry or not.
Company Culture Ideas for Creating the Best Experience for Your Employees
No matter how you describe your company culture—whether it encourages personal growth and teamwork, or it’s in desperate need of a massive overhaul—there is bound to be room for a gut check and a tune-up. Now that you have a better idea for what is involved to create a strong culture, review these eight company culture ideas to help take your culture to the next level.
1. Ask your employees for input
Let’s say that your organization is trying to create a comprehensive list of core values—but you weren’t sure if your list accurately depicted the actual values of the company. Rather than create the values in a bubble, you can decide to solicit ideas from your team members and then narrow the list to a set of key themes and ideas that embody the culture of the business. Why? Because while the CEO and leadership teams influence the culture, they don’t own it. The collective beliefs and actions of the workforce form the cultural backbone of the organization.
Besides, if you ask 10 different employees to define the corporate culture, you will most likely receive 10 different answers due to their various perspectives, roles, experiences, and other potential factors. By taking in feedback from multiple diverse sources, you are including your team members’ voices in the process and encouraging them to become empowered employees. By instilling them with the trust and responsibility of actively shaping the company culture, chances are that they will be more likely to buy into the culture that you are setting out to establish together.
2. Allow for flexibility
If the nature of your industry allows for remote work opportunities, create a work-from-home company policy, and use tools and resources to support remote employee engagement. Remote workers are more likely to be more productive with their job, more physically active with a much healthier work-life balance in their personal lives, and significantly less distracted throughout the work day compared with in-office workers. In fact, the remote work option is among the most popular employee retention strategies used by employers in competitive industries. For instance, a Stanford University study determined that the employee turnover rate in a group of work-from-home employees was nearly 50 percent less than the turnover in a group of in-office employees.
3. Define and encourage career development
One of the main reasons why companies may experience employee turnover is because employees feel that there is a lack of opportunities for career growth and development at their current organization. Examples of how career development can be included in your employee value proposition are tuition reimbursement for qualified educational programs, mentorship opportunities, attendance at conferences and workshops, and highlighting upward mobility within the company. Discover what makes the most sense for your organization and its budget, and then promote those opportunities to the rest of your employees using a strategic multichannel communication approach that connects the best with your internal audience: emails, posters, postcards, text messages, and much more.
4. Hire a diverse population
Workplace diversity unites people of all genders, races, cultures, interests, lifestyles, political ideologies, life experiences, and similarly individualistic characteristics in an inclusive workplace environment in order to reach a common goal together. A diverse workplace means respect for everyone is present from the top down, so it’s up to leaders and managers to model that welcoming spirit, as well as human resources to make sure there are programs and policies in place that support diversity in your organization.
Creating a more inclusive environment provides important support to your team members and exposes them to a variety of ideas and perspectives, which can lead to monumental results. In fact, according to a study by Korn/Ferry Leadership and Talent Consulting, approximately 96 percent of executives believe that diversity in the workforce increases employee engagement and overall company achievement.
5. Acknowledge achievements
Tracking goals and progress towards those goals are important components of any company’s performance management program. A combination of talent management software and regular manager-employee check-ins is key to reaching success. Once an employee has achieved their goals, it is validating and rewarding for their manager and company to recognize this achievement in a way that feels significant to the individual and is also in line with the company’s culture. For instance, a verbal shout-out in a team meeting, a mini feature in the internal email newsletter, or a fun award displayed on an employee’s desk are just a few of the ways that your company can help its employees feel valued—and inspired to keep up the excellent work at your organization.
6. Offer competitive pay
Compensation can be a deciding factor when it comes to prospective new hires searching for their next job opportunity or long-time employees considering a future career move. However, an employee’s salary is just a small piece of the compensation pie. Nowadays, benefits, equity, development opportunities, and other programs that make up your total rewards are part of the overall competitive package. Develop a strategic compensation strategy that takes into account what your competitors in the market are paying their staff, and then implement that strategy with the help of employee benefits communication software. That way employees can more easily comprehend the investment that the company is making into their team members—and be more inclined to be engaged and want to stay long-term.
7. Establish a new hire ambassador program
As the saying goes, you only have one chance to make a first impression. When you have a set of new employees starting at your company, you have a priceless opportunity to introduce your newest team members to what your company is all about and inspire them to buy into the culture, your company values, and overall mindset.
Bearing in mind the amount of time and money that is invested into hiring and training, employee retention needs to be taken into serious consideration during onboarding. After all, Allied reports that 24 percent of new employees will quit within their first year. Out of these new hires who quit, 36 percent of new employees leave a company due to a poor relationship with their managers or supervisors, 33 percent of them find a better job opportunity somewhere else, and the remainder leave a company due to poor work performance.
This is where establishing a new hire ambassador program can really enhance your new employee orientation. By giving your new employee a peer mentor, they will have a close colleague that will introduce them to other team members, demonstrate the corporate culture in person, and address any questions or concerns they may have every step of the way.
8. Communicate core values and expectations
Creating an amazing culture at your organization is part art and part science. While there isn’t a perfect recipe, some specific elements have indeed risen to the top of the list. A great culture requires the following:
- Clear values and expectations: When employees know what is expected of them, they can focus on delivering with excellence and not worry about what they are supposed to be doing.
- Leadership “walking the talk”: Leaders that live out the values of the company in a public way encourage employees to buy in, too, so lead by example.
- Celebrating core behaviors: As part of your employee retention strategy, employees should be recognized for exhibiting behaviors that align with the company’s values. This reinforces expectations both for the individual and their peers.
Taken alone, any of the above eight components is a good practice to implement. However, when combined, they create a powerful way to influence culture throughout the organization by connecting culture to core values. In fact, if cultural transformation is the goal, it’s important to be very clear about those values: What are they? How are they identified? How are they recognized? This is where implementing a core values communication strategy can help clearly outline expectations for everyone.
Tying Communications to Corporate Culture and Change Management
While these company culture ideas can help provide enhancements, transforming the overall internal culture doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it does require steady, consistent communication with a strategic multi-channel communication approach to educate and reinforce the direction of the organization. When leaders are trying to push the culture in a new direction, they must be vocal about it:
- Start a conversation about the culture during your team meetings.
- Send regular updates about the progress to employees.
- Highlight examples of employees embodying your organization’s culture.
Successfully figuring out how to improve company culture and then actually following through with those changes all hinge on properly communicating the type of culture you’re trying to create, sharing the journey with the rest of your team, and reinforcing information each step of the way. By being transparent and using a variety of communication methods, leaders can involve your team members and drive long-lasting results both internally and externally. Culture isn’t just a trend—by taking advantage of these company culture ideas and investing time and energy into building a workplace full of engaged and committed employees, you will help your organization reap rewards that are well worth celebrating together across the entire company.