In our previous posts we’ve covered how to attract talent to small organizations and how to reward your staff. The third post in this series will address something that’s extremely critical, yet quite intangible in any organization, culture. Developing and sustaining a strong corporate culture is not something that can be achieved overnight. There are a range of factors that need to align correctly in order for any company, big or small, to affect change in this area.
Readers of this blog are probably not working for Fortune 500 companies, so we’re going to direct our advice towards small to medium sized businesses. New companies and startups have the opportunity to start from a clean slate, more established businesses already have a corporate culture, they just need to define it first before looking to change it. We’re going to work off the premise that you have a company culture that you’re looking to improve on, that angles suits best. There are a number of ways to cultivate and maintain a strong workplace culture and we will address those here.
Training and Development
At the heart of a person’s identity at work is their role and their place in the company. No person wants to sit still and not learn new things or progress. Providing staff with avenues to develop themselves professionally is a critical starting point. This is linked to our last post about rewarding staff, so we won’t revisit that here, but role diversity, opportunities to learn new tasks, systems, roles and expand, grow and get promoted are fundamental to a happy worker and workplace. Now that this is out of the way, we can talk about some of the more fun things you can focus on.
Team Building and Training Days
These days don’t need to be reserved as prizes for performance or meeting sales targets. Company wide or team based days are great for developing a strong culture. Companies in this industry provide hundreds of options starting with the more casual cooking classes, paintball and go-cart racing days out. These are good ideas for bonding, socializing and having fun as a team.
At the other end of the scale you can find more technical corporate options that range from problem solving to skills development courses. One team building experience I recall fondly was a full-day seminar run by Afterburner Australia who were a team of former fighter pilots. They taught our management team how fighter pilots assess their missions and how these same winning techniques can be applied to the corporate world. Completely different but still a fantastic problem solving type day out. In another team day out I recall our team of six staff being locked in a room that we had to escape from within two hours. Think the movie Saw. That might sound like a nightmare rather than a team building exercise, but it had the same net result – team bonding.
The key point to stress here is that team building days don’t have to be alcohol fueled rewards days for sales teams or achievement based schemes.
Perks of the Job
It’s common to envy your friends and jobs. Why? You’ve never stepped into their office, never done their job, but you have heard about the perks of their job. This is one of the tangible elements that people attach to a good work culture. People love to feel like they are winning. Getting free extras at work is great for the psyche of the employee. It doesn’t have to cost much for the employer either.
- Language Classes: Everyone would like to learn a language, but most people never get around to it. Offer Spanish classes at lunch once a week. A Spanish tutor can cost $100 for a group class, that’s not much to pay and can be written off as a tax expense too.
- Yoga Classes: See above example – the cost benefit is high and staff will feel reinvigorated and energized following a lunchtime yoga session.
- Free breakfast: Many tech companies offer this perk, a kitchen stacked with cereals, muesli, fruit, bread and coffee costs very little. It saves staff money and time in the morning though – eating cereal at your desk saves you 10 minutes in a morning routine. Plus it’s free.
- Skills Training: Maybe your staff want to learn computer basic computer programming. Why not offer a one hour class once per week, run by someone in the office who can code.
The options to add value within the workplace are numerous and they don’t have to cost a lot. Think about how people talk about their workplace. They talk about the perks of the job, not the job itself. These are tangible values that employees love.
The Line Between Strong Culture and Productivity
A strong culture in the workplace should not come at the cost of productivity or your ultimate purpose at work, doing your job. A strong culture should enhance a person’s desire to work and contribute because they are personally invested in the company. The feel like they are part of something. People reading this may think that these activities are distractions and reduce hours in the work day/week. On the contrary. People who are happy at work will work harder at work and enjoy their time in the office more.
Finding the balance between relaxed and fun workplace and productive workplace is critical. Many companies have social outings together and a social workplace. Jokes, jibes, and memories from nights out together are great, but management need to find the right line between socializing, switching off and working. Fostering a strong workplace culture is an ongoing endeavor, however it doesn’t have to be complicated, it just takes a little effort from management and the rest will fall into place.