Editors Note: This guest post by Nick Hedges originally appeared on LinkedIn. His opinions are his own.
At the heart of every successful business you’ll find a thriving organisational culture. Within these businesses is an environment where hard-working people combine their passion and intensity to produce great results. A strong company culture can be challenging to achieve and maintain but if you get it right you’ll have a unique and sustainable competitive advantage.
1. Determine your core values
Many businesses establish a set of values and these form somewhat of a personality for the organisation.
For some businesses, their core values may be sitting on the wall or on their website but they may not be embedded within the culture where they could be flowing through every aspect of the business both on-site and off-site. Employees enjoy striving for the organisation’s values and even more so when those values align with their own. Values are often encapsulated in words such as honesty, integrity, commitment and responsibility but it is also worth considering how your values are present in each and every aspect of the business. Values that fit in well can be lived and breathed by staff, sustaining the desired company image and perception.
2. Motivate and engage every employee
If a person was asked to run 20km for no reason they would most likely decline. If a person was told that their significant other is 20km away and in need of urgent medicine, and if this person was given the medicine but had no means of transport, it is almost certain that they would run the 20km.
Research conducted by Genos International has indicated that employee engagement is really driven by motivation which is strongly linked to emotions – like love, admiration and also fun. Genos state that emotions and the way we feel will impact on our decisions, behaviour and our performance. To motivate and engage employees it is essential to understand them. People care if you take a genuine interest in their future. Managers should take the time to regularly sit down with employees and get to know them and to gain insight into what makes each of them tick – their dreams, desires and goals – and align these with the business goals where possible. By promoting engagement and understanding your employees, this effort will result in lower turnover, higher retention and a ‘happier’ workplace.
3. Look at where the trust is
It can be an interesting exercise to analyse your business and look at where the trust is – in staff relationships, in suppliers, in systems – and to make these areas and connections as good as they can be. When a system is interdependent and there is full trust, all parts of the organisation can rely on all other parts and there can be harmonious and flowing productivity throughout.
Managers should look to nurture good relationships with employees and create situations, such as team bonding activities, to further promote good relationships based on trust.
4. Ensure open communication
Are you able to have an open and honest relationship with all your employees? Has a comfortable environment been created in which staff can constructively criticise and praise each other? A strong company culture thrives with open and free-flowing communication between all staff. People in organisations should be able to have meaningful and respectful conversations without the feeling that anyone will be victimised. An open door policy is a positive approach and it can still have its boundaries to enable an optimal flow of communications.
The inside and outside of companies are often reflections of each other so the outside image of a business is often strongly tied to the culture within. A business can take steps such as further embedding their values within all aspects of the business, understanding all employees and promoting an environment of trust and open communication. Once a business is operating on this type of basis, the culture will organically thrive and management can then create more opportunities to maintain and promote the organisational culture.
5. Don’t let your culture define you
Setting your company culture early is easier than waiting and needing to change it later when your group is larger.
Culture is like a garden. If you let it go, individual flowers and weeds that you never expected to be there will sprout and grow, some taking root and becoming difficult to remove.
If you don’t take proactive efforts to define your culture, you will find that it will begin to form by itself. Once enough people operate in a particular way, the culture may even begin to change how you behave towards your employees (or even your clients), how you feel about future plans, how you assess situations and make decisions.
It is vital that you take proactive measures to define your culture as soon as possible in order to cement the way you want things done within your team or business.