By: Sarah Kyo and Lauren Dellarocco
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, and the company values that are featured on the “about” page of the company’s website and 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. When seeking a new job, many people will assess the company’s culture to determine whether they’re a good fit for that specific work environment.
Workplace culture includes the company’s mission, employee engagement, ethics, core values, actions, employee perks, benefits, and more. Strong company culture isn’t built in a day, and it doesn’t remain static behind a glass case on a shelf. Rather, company culture is alive, dynamic, 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 company culture depends on alignment between published company values and what is valued within the company in day-to-day practice.
For example, if one of the company’s core values is honesty, but the company 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 core values. If these differences are significant enough, then the company will struggle to find the best employees, to get employees on board with the culture, and to get employees to adopt the culture wholeheartedly.
When the overall workplace atmosphere is disagreeable or even toxic, figuring out how to improve company culture will become mission critical for the employee experience and the company’s overall success.
Meanwhile, one of the most amazing things about having a strong company culture is that its impact is more than just happy employees and high employee satisfaction scores. Research has shown the positive impact a strong company culture can have on the achievements of your business, by inspiring team members to go the extra mile for the greater good of the organization’s success.
Data from Lighthouse Research and Advisory show that corporate culture fundamentally affects the market performance of a company. Companies with extra collaborative or creative cultures have greater overall performance.
Additional research shows that organizations with a focus on high performance have four times the revenue growth of those organizations that do not. Plus, almost half of millennial workers are actively looking or at least open to new jobs elsewhere, and one of the major characteristics they consider in their next job is an improvement in “quality of work.” Quality of work includes professional development opportunities, purposeful work, work-life balance, and company culture. Studies show 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 than previous generations. They want to be treated as an individual and have access to valuable perks, including flex time.
This is in stark contrast from a century ago. Organizations in manufacturing and 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% 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 or hiring 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, quarterly all-company meetings in the office space 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.
Internal communication is an important tool to set the tone for your team members and increase 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 key to increased employee engagement and an improved company culture is to utilize every possible communication channel, like 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 to Create the Best Employee Experience
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 nine 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 co-founders, CEOs 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.
If you ask 10 different employees to define the corporate culture, you will most likely receive 10 different answers due to varying 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 good that they will be more likely to buy into the great company 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 to in-office workers.
In fact, the remote work option is among the most popular employee retention strategies used by employers in competitive industries. A Stanford University study determined that the employee turnover rate in a group of work-from-home employees was nearly 50% less than the turnover in a group of in-office employees.
3. Define and encourage professional development.
One of the main reasons companies experience employee turnover is because employees feel that there is a lack of opportunity for career growth and professional development at their current organization. Consider professional development ideas to include in your employee value proposition, like 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, and life experiences 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. According to a study by Korn/Ferry Leadership and Talent Consulting, approximately 96% 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 provides validation and reward 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.
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 hires searching for a new 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 comprehend the investment that the company is making in their team members, which will increase employee engagement and employee retention.
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 the onboarding and hiring processes.
Allied reports that 24% of new employees will quit within their first year. Out of these new hires who quit, 36% of new employees leave a company due to a poor relationship with their managers or supervisors; 33% 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.
8. Communicate core values and expectations.
Creating an amazing culture at your organization is one-part art and one-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 tend to be better at decision-making.
- Leadership “walking the talk”: Leaders that live out the core values of the company in a public way encourage employees to buy in.
- 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.
9. Go the extra mile to create a fun, positive culture.
Managers and leaders who go the extra mile to establish a great company culture will see the return on their investment, across-the-board, in different departments. Improve the employee experience by adding some fun to the work culture.
Consider any of the following ideas to reward employees for hard work and showcase the positive culture to prospective clients and prospective hires:
- Take to social media to develop work culture through fun celebrations, accomplishments, announcements and team spotlights.
- Host happy hours, virtual or in-person, to allow employees to mingle and get to know each other in an informal setting.
- Add a foosball or ping-pong table to the break room so employees can temporarily disconnect from the work day.
- (Breaks can be extremely beneficial for work productivity! Studies show that the top 10% of productive employees tend to take small, regular breaks throughout the work day.)
- Consider a catered lunch to reward employees and incentivize them to produce their best work.
Fun work culture ideas, like catered lunches, break room activities, happy hours, and social media spotlights are excellent for team-building and prove to have a positive impact on the employee experience.
Taken alone, any of the above nine components is a good practice to implement. However, when combined, they create a powerful way to influence workplace culture throughout the organization by connecting culture to core values. 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.
Figuring out how to improve company culture and then actually following through with those changes all hinge on proper communication of 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.
Through transparent communication alongside 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.