Cold cubicles. Fluorescent lights. Long, grueling hours.
None of these are appealing qualities in the workplace. When it comes to your job — whether you’re an owner or an employee — having a positive work environment and a healthy workplace culture is crucial to both job satisfaction and general productivity. If it’s in your power to change it, take steps necessary to making your place of a business an environment that people enjoy coming to every day. Your culture is going to be a direct reflection of who you are and the type of company you want others to see.
Does your team want to do good work? Do they feel good about coming in to the office and feel satisfied at the end of the day? These are the questions to ask yourself. Are you walking the walk of being a great company with a great environment and culture, or are you simply talking the talk?
The quality of a work environment — both bad and good — greatly impacts a team of employees, both in the short-term and in the long-term. And whether we realize it or not, the impact a workplace environment and culture has on a great team will also impact your clients, vendors, outside team members, partners and even those companies that support you. Your lenders, banking relationships, maybe rental or sales agents, insurance companies… the list can go on and on, and your workplace environment and culture can be a positive reinforcement for each of those relationships. Or it can drive them away!
It is up to each business owner to decide the type of environment they are going to develop. Make no mistake, an environment cannot be forced. It has to be created over time and with consistent dedication and action from the top down. When your team buys into the positive, awesome environment you are creating, then you will see every metric you use to monitor the health of your company improve.
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8 Ways to Build an Awesome Workplace Culture
Understand the Personalities on Your Team
To state the obvious, people are different. Certain personalities may clash with one another or create strife. One step is to simply have your team evaluated by a basic personality test. There’s the Color Test and other work-specific evaluations, as well as psychological tests, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Knowing how your teammates tick can help you work together more harmoniously.
We prefer to have our team members read the book StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath and take the test at the end of the book. This helps us to figure out which team members are leaders, which are followers, which ones work well under stress and which ones need a more relaxed atmosphere to do their best work. It is a great way to determine the strengths of your team!
Once you know who can do what and what motivates as well as de-motivates each team member, you can begin to get your team in the right places based on their personalities. As James Collins points out in his business classic Good to Great, having the right people on the bus yet in the wrong seats is going to lead to a bumpy ride. Take the time to go through StrengthsFinder 2.0 with your full team and learn the traits that make them great. Do not focus on improving weaknesses. That is a waste of time. Instead, focus on making your team stronger at their individual strengths and then use those strengths to create a positive, happy and motivated culture.
Make Communication Personal
When you communicate with others at work, do you struggle to talk anything but business? While you don’t need to waste time with too much chit-chat, a little personal touch to conversation can have great positive results. People need to know that their efforts matter and that they are valued. Remember to frame criticism well (as an opportunity to improve and learn rather than failure) and learn about what your team values as individuals. What excites them? What matters to them? These are the people that will help to make or break your company so knowing who they are and what makes them tick is vital!
Spend a little time to personally get to know your team and encourage this positive environment by creating social timeframes within your business — catered lunch, breakfast at staff meetings, tickets for the whole crew to ball games, etc. The list for creating personal time can go on and on, and it fosters an environment where your team will get to know each other on a personal level so when you ask them to work for each other, they will do so gladly.
Create Room for Fun
Many businesses are too uptight for their own good. Work doesn’t have to be a fun-free zone. Allow time for a get-together outside of work and socializing. There’s always the fear that time is being wasted, but a little allowance for fun to break up the hum-drum pattern of the workday can really boost morale. Celebrate birthdays and milestones and learn to take healthy breaks.
This definitely goes hand in hand with learning to allow yourself and your team to be personal with one another, but they are separate. People want to work somewhere where they are allowed to express themselves and show a little creativity. Bring that energy into the workspace and allow for some fun time. This break from monotony will absolutely help create a less stressful environment, and your team will enjoy planning and looking forward to events.
No employee does good work when they’re run into the ground. Work-life balance is especially important. How can you improve it? Give yourself (or your employees) rules, like not checking or responding to emails after working hours. If you want your employees to take vacation time and whether you have a formal vacation policy or not, make sure they are getting away from the office.
Nothing is better for a team than regularly scheduled breaks. It allows you to stress-test your company and make sure that leaders are actually teaching their team members how to function when the leader is not around (take a look in the mirror on that one… you need to take vacation, too!). It also allows your team to feel refreshed while working hard because they have taken the time to rest and relax.
One other important part of balance is the daily balance of family. I take my kids to school 3-4 times a week and will pick up once or twice. Those are important activities for me and my family. Make sure if you value something as an owner, you allow your team members to value that as well. If you are flexible with your own schedule and are able to be a part of your kids’ daily routine, encourage that in your team as well. They will thank you for it and work harder because of it!
Create a Mission Statement
How important is your mission statement? It means everything to your company, and if you go about creating one in the right way, it can help you grow your brand and develop your culture in a way that no one can compete. Mission statements are often confused with buzzwords and fad statements. Too often a company creates a Mission Statement out of the blue and fills it with marketing lines. That is not going to help create a great atmosphere and culture.
Allow your team to participate and encourage them to create a mission statement that reflects what is valuable to the whole team. Social awareness, giving back, attitude and service are all themes to address in your Mission Statement. Simply make sure that it is the team that develops the overall Mission Statement and not something that is written one morning by the owner of a company. It seriously needs to reflect the passion of a company, and if done properly can become a fantastic rally point for a company’s culture.
Highlight and Live Your Core Values
Core values, just like a Mission Statement, are a vital part of a company’s culture. However, core values cannot be developed by the team. Core values come directly from the top and need to reflect what is truly the fabric of the company. If the team knows what is important to the owner or the leader, then their actions will reflect those same values. That is how the core values, passed down from the top, work their way into the daily routines of your team and become apparent to your clients and potential clients.
The core values cannot be a bunch of words numbered onto a piece of paper. Whether you have one core value or ten, it is vital that each are truly important to you and that you and your team reflect on those core values for decision-making. There may not be a better tip for creating a truly valuable and unique culture in your business.
Reward Good Work
When something good comes out of work, take the time to appreciate it. Give your coworker a pat on the back and recognize the value of their success. Employers, consider how you can reward stand-out team members: bonuses, company merchandise, dining out, certificates — get creative! Just remember to recognize good work.
There is something to be said for celebrating all wins. Big and small alike, it is important that you celebrate your team and each of the wins they produce along the way. They will remember and then they will start looking to celebrate each other.
Unity is a difficult state to achieve in the workplace. Is your team on the same page and working towards the same goals? Have consistency, clarity and positive two-way communication. If you’re all working towards the same, mutually beneficial goals, your business will be better for it. Too many businesses lose track of the main reason they are in business. Having great communication, a clear set of core values, and a mission statement developed by the team, along with great opportunities to grow and celebrate together, can all be extremely unifying elements.
What is amazing is that when you take these steps as a company, everyone will notice. When potential clients come to visit your offices, they will recognize that they are somewhere different, unique and special. They will have entered a business unlike any other they have visited, and suddenly you will not have competition.
Much like Joe Calloway writes in his book Becoming A Category of One, you will have separated yourself from the mediocre and truly built something special. Not many companies can call themselves a category of one company because the steps I listed are not easy. Some will feel unnatural, and others simply take discipline and practice to make them habits. For those readers willing to follow these steps with a new business or even an existing company that just needs a little kick in the pants, you will look up to find yourself in the middle of an amazing environment with a rich culture and bright future!
What qualities do you value in your work environment?
Let us know in the comments.