It may seem like an obvious statement, but the creation of a diverse and positive workplace culture is essential to the health and success of any business. Not only is a supportive, inspiring atmosphere great for productivity, but also the wellbeing of your staff. A happy team is a more effective team – full stop. But creating a positive culture isn’t a one-time deal: it’s a continual practice that employers should strive to perpetuate all year round.
So what do we mean when we say ‘workplace culture’? Well, it’s the innate character of the organisation, and covers everything from the values of the business to overarching work practices. Workplace culture is heavily influenced by the following elements: leadership; company policies; systems and structures; environment; and, of course, the people.
Creating a Positive Workplace Culture: Where to Start
There’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach in business – but this is especially true when it comes to workplace culture. In order to create a really positive dynamic, you need to strive for specificity, or the changes you make won’t resonate with your staff. Therefore, the first steps have to involve evaluation, analysis and goal-setting.
The leaders of the business, as well as their HR team, should ask themselves the following questions:
Do we have a vision or mission statement? If not, creating one is the first job on the list.
What are our values?
What are our goals – both externally and internally?
How do we want our employees and senior staff to behave at work?
How do we want our employees and senior staff to feel at work?
What policies and practices can we design and enable in order to effect all of the above?
Devoting some time to answering these questions, as well as performing a ruthlessly honest assessment of the current culture, will help those at the top make a solid plan.
Key Elements of a Positive Workplace Culture
Whilst creating your plan, it’s important to understand some of the most important facets of a healthy work environment. The following prompts might be useful when considering what constitutes a positive culture at work.
What drives us?
Unsurprisingly, if your message to your staff is ‘our business is run with the sole aim of turning a profit’, they aren’t likely to feel all that inspired! And a crucial component of a positive culture concerns creating an inspiring, motivating atmosphere in which to work – which means showing your staff that their work has a higher purpose (which isn’t to do with cold hard cash). People want to feel like they’re part of something that matters.
How does your product or service help people? How do you give back to society? Zero in on that part of your brand’s message, and shout about to your team: make sure the message gets across, loud and clear. (How, we hear you cry? Well, we’ll get to that next…)
How do we communicate?
What follows next is probably the most important part of this whole article. Bottom line: good communication is the foundation of a positive workplace culture. You can have the best intentions in the world, but if you don’t communicate these effectively to your staff, nothing will change.
Effective communication breeds motivation; engagement; connection. Employees will understand the value they bring to the business; will feel inspired by its ethos; and will be more engaged with both the brand message and the expectations of the organisation. Without it, staff may feel cynical, disconnected, demotivated, or even resentful. All of the above can hamper productivity and create a toxic, unhealthy culture.
So how do we communicate effectively? Regular check-ins are essential. Every employee – no matter what department or level – should have access to the latest information, so they’re fully apprised of the company’s mission, goals, and developments. There are different ways in which you might achieve this: frequent zooms with company leaders, team meetings, online knowledge hubs, intranets, newsletters, or a thread on a company messaging platform (like Slack – which we love here at Billsby).
Developing a robust framework for communication will also create greater opportunities for teamwork (an essential component of healthy workplace culture) and feedback.
How do we encourage feedback?
No one is perfect. In fact, people make mistakes all the time – it’s part of doing business, whether your business is thriving or just surviving. But it’s how you treat these errors that can make or break your workplace culture.
Errors aren’t occurrences that should be swept under the carpet: they’re valuable pieces of intel that should be discussed, analysed, and learned from. And the best way to ensure that this is the case is to empower your staff to give feedback. Not only will this increase honesty with the organisation (people will be more likely to own up to mistakes and potentially nip problems in the bud before they escalate), but also will show your employees that their opinions matter, encourage them to try new things, and inspire them to be honest with you about what’s really going on in all different areas of the business.
Providing staff with opportunities to feedback early and often is critical to the health of your business – and essential to creating a positive workplace culture.
How do we cultivate growth?
Staff don’t only want to feel listened to and inspired by the company’s mission – they also want to feel that they, personally, are growing. It’s vital, therefore, to establish a structure for tangible workplace development – whether that’s through offering training, regular reviews, or setting up a mentoring scheme.
How do we hire?
By now, we all know that diversity is key – right? So why aren’t things changing? Well, for one thing, there’s still a tendency to hire people who ‘fit’ – who perhaps obviously ‘share’ the company’s ethos (whether this is in terms of a physical stereotype or some overt adherence to a similar belief system). In fact, diversity of thinking is equally important to fostering a positive workplace culture.
Employers should be striving for diversity across all categories. A truly diverse workforce will enrich your organisation – and will be much more likely to offer fresh ideas and true innovations. Consider setting up a shortlist quota that concerns particular characteristics, or asking for ‘blind’ CVs (CVs that remove many identifying characteristics) when hiring at every level – and remember change often starts from the top, so it’s important to adopt a new approach when recruiting senior staff, too.