While every employee (including your remote workers) can play a critical part in establishing and maintaining company culture, it’s always going to be the leaders that can make or break your atmosphere. After all, leaders are the people who motivate your staff to success, drive change throughout an organization, and guide specific working styles.
Why is culture so important in the first place?
Before we discuss how business leaders can impact workplace culture, it’s worth considering what makes culture so important in the first place. Culture is so much more than an abstract concept. It’s a unique set of shared goals and values that unite the employees in your organization, regardless of their background or departments.
A strong company culture doesn’t just make your employees happier – it also makes them more committed, efficient, and productive too. There are plenty of research findings out there that support this idea, including studies that suggest:
- The likelihood of employee turnover in companies with strong culture is only 13.9%.
- Companies with high engagement levels are 22% more profitable.
- Happy employees in a strong culture are 12% more productive.
So, how can leaders help to shape their company culture into something that positively impacts their bottom line?
1. Start with clear and transparent goals
Today’s employees don’t just want a job – they want a purpose. When your employees are working hard to create something for your business, serve your customers, or simply make a profit, they begin to wonder why they should be dedicating their life to you. While it’s fair to say that you reward your employees by giving them a regular salary – the chances are that they could get an income from another employer too – so what makes you so special?
Bringing your people together with a shared vision or mission makes it easier for them to see where all the hard work is leading. For instance, maybe you’re not just selling software, you’re selling software that helps to make healthcare companies more efficient so that they can deliver life-saving support to patients?
No matter what your goals might be as a company, leaders need to help their teams to understand the “why” behind their work if they want them to be as passionate and committed as possible. By setting transparent goals for the company, you can ensure that everyone in your organization knows what they’re striving to achieve. Plus, transparent goals make it much easier to track performance and offer feedback – something we’ll return to in a minute.
2. Be consistent and accountable
Whether you’re a leader driving a remote team, or a standard product manager, you can contribute to company culture by demonstrating the importance of accountability and consistency. No culture can thrive when people are always sweeping the truth under the rug or trying to avoid owning up to their mistakes. CEOs and other leaders need to set the tone by showing that they’re willing to hold their hands up when something goes wrong.
Remember, as a leader, it’s your actions and the behavior of other important team members that will help to showcase culture. Your employees will notice if you tell them to behave a certain way, but you aren’t “walking the walk” yourself. Think of yourself and the rest of your leadership team as role models for your business. If you consistently present yourself in the right way, your team will start to learn from your example.
Just remember that everyone in your group should be required to follow the same standards. If someone starts behaving in a way that contradicts the cultural vision you’ve tried to establish, it’s important to address that problem as quickly as possible. Avoid any special treatment – regardless of how crucial you think one employee might be.
3. Develop your culture by developing your employees
The more you explore the concept of company culture, the more you’ll learn that it’s a concept that’s constantly evolving. As your business grows in revenue, clients, or staff size, your culture will change and transform to suit new trends. Just as you invest in other resources like office space or IT solutions to support this growth, it’s also important to invest in your culture too.
Your company culture should provide team members with plenty of great opportunities to expand their skill sets and continue giving something back to the business. If you show your team that you’re willing to invest in them, they’ll be more likely to invest their time, effort, and energy into your brand in return. A few development options you can explore include:
- Skills development: Give employees a chance to learn new skills through training seminars, online courses, and one-to-one lessons. You can focus the training on specific talents that might be relevant to your team’s performance in the business, or you can offer training sessions that are designed to enhance important cultural characteristics – like teamwork seminars.
- Mentorship: mentorship can be a great way to create a company culture that’s all about learning, sharing, and support. Encourage your senior team members to mentor younger or recently-recruited employees. Additionally, allow people within your business to offer learning opportunities to their peers if they have a specific skill to share, like a knowledge of social media, or a time-management style.
- Networking: Finally, give your employees plenty of opportunities to expand their personal brand through networking and business conferences. This helps them to see that you’re invested in helping them to grow their career, which can lead to greater feelings of engagement and commitment that enhance your company culture.
4. Hire the right people
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to make sure that your company culture remains strong as it begins to develop is to invest in hiring the right people. Leaders are responsible for bringing new talent into a team, and when you look for ways to fill the gaps in your organization, you should be searching for people who share the same values as you. For instance, if you’re a company that’s dedicated to the environment, you might hire someone who prefers to spend their money on ethically-sourced and sustainable products.
From day one when you start interviewing people who might be able to contribute to your business, make sure that you spend time learning as much about them as you can. This means moving beyond the skills they’ve written on their resume and getting to know what kind of people they are, and how they’ll fit into your current environment.
While it will be difficult to cultivate a team of employees that all get along perfectly together, hiring employees that share the same fundamental values can help to support your culture, and reduce the risk of conflict in the workplace.
5. Constantly manage performance with feedback
Finally, as a leader, you know it’s your responsibility to motivate, inspire, and push your employees when you need to. The only way to make sure that your staff knows what they’re doing right, and what they need to work on, is to manage their performance with regular feedback.
Studies suggest that the most engaged employees are those that receive regular feedback on their work. What’s more, these well-informed individuals can outperform their less-engaged counterparts by up to 22%.
Establish open channels of communication that you can use to provide your staff with the feedback you need to thrive. While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach here, a few golden rules to keep in mind include:
- Don’t criticize in public: If your employee does something wrong, take them aside and talk to them in private. Shouting at someone in public can harm your company culture and make it less likely that people will be willing to take risks in the future or speak out about their concerns.
- Customize your rewards: When you’re rewarding someone for a job well-done, make sure that you customize the benefits you give to suit their preferences. While some people on your team might love a gift like a new coffee grinder, others might prefer to simply finish work an hour early one day.
- Remember that feedback is a two-way street: Leaders should make sure that their employees have an opportunity to speak openly about their concerns and ideas. Giving feedback is a two-way street.
Creating culture through effective leadership
A powerful company culture is defined by more than just the perks you offer, or the way your team members talk to each other. The culture you create for your company will be something that you build according to your goals as a business, the needs of your employees, and the expectations of customers and shareholders.
As a leader in your organization, it’s up to you to guide the development of a strong, and lucrative company culture for your brand. Remember, your employees will turn to you for an insight into how to act, and what to do each day. Make sure that you’re setting an example that can pave the way for a brighter tomorrow.
About the author:
Raj Jana is the CEO and founder of JavaPress, an environmentally-friendly coffee company that supports fair trade around the world. Raj believes that great people are at the heart of a successful company. When he’s not dedicating himself to leading his brand, Raj can be found reading up on corporate wellness articles and invest in his own vision of economic sustainability. Find Raj on LinkedIn and Twitter.