The outward opinions of your company are often derived from what the company culture is perceived to be. It is also a large part of what potential employees look for during the interview process. Having a poor company culture can not only ruin your company’s reputation with the public, but it can also ruin prospective partnerships with other businesses or clients. After all, nobody wants to jump onto a sinking ship.
Why having a strong company culture matters in 2021
As human resources leaders, it is your responsibility to ensure that your company culture is one that is welcoming and holds a progressive mindset that aligns with the types of people you want to hire. It encompasses your company’s collective values and puts them to practice. Here’s why it matters:
It can affect your public reputation
Public opinion matters more now than it ever did before, perhaps because there are also more ways than ever before for the public to become informed on a company’s culture. Whether it be through social media or through job sites like Glassdoor, the public is going to talk about your company culture. If society collectively decides that the values of your company do not align with the values of society, you may experience issues like boycotts.
Let’s look at Starbucks for example. In June 2020, the company announced its support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Shortly after the announcement, it was revealed by employees on social media that they were told by Starbucks that they would not be allowed to wear clothing or accessories in support of the movement. As a result, the company experienced major backlash and retracted the decision two days later.
At first, this may seem like a policy issue rather than one pertaining to company culture. While Starbuck’s policy does state that employees may not wear personal attire advocating for political, religious, or personal matters, it seems that the company makes exceptions based on company culture. If you don’t believe me, check out this by The Washington Post, which mentions that the company often sends employees merchandise for the support of the LGBT community during Pride Month.
In this situation, the company outwardly showed support of a particular social movement but inwardly expressed different values. The decision was attempted by higher management to be reinforced by a policy that was shown to be conditional based on previous actions. As a result, Starbuck’s public reputation paid the price. Had the company not chosen to retract the statement so quickly, it is possible that the company would have seen a more detrimental outcome.
It affects the productivity of your employees
Employees who work within an atmosphere that has a strong company culture are more likely to feel more engaged and more motivated. This increase in productivity is tied to employee engagement and employee satisfaction. According to an article published by Smarp, 69% of employees say they would work harder if they felt better appreciated.
By cultivating a company culture that makes employees feel valued and as though their voices are being heard, your company will experience a boost across the board. Whether it’s in sales or employee retention rates, employees need a company culture that aligns with their own values to feel satisfied.
It matters to job seekers
In a study conducted by Fast Company, 66% of employees noted wanting to learn more about a company’s culture above all else when considering a job change. This number means that roughly more than half of potential employees are searching for a company that aligns with their values. Potential hires are either going to ask you during the interview to speak on the company culture, or they are going to conduct their own research and gather what they can from company reviews posted by former employees.
As mentioned before, the internet allows for all information, good or bad, to be available to the public. If your company culture is weak or lacking, it could hurt your recruitment efforts on top of everything else previously mentioned. Company culture isn’t a short-term game that only affects your internal operations. It has a hand in every aspect of your company.
How HR leaders can improve a company culture
There are times when a company culture is formed and progresses naturally based on the type of personalities employed there. Other times, it is formed when higher management actively takes a stand in creating it. As the saying goes, lead by example. Company culture is not simply something you preach to the masses, but something you prove in your actions both internally and externally. Regardless of where your company culture stands currently, there are ways you can help to improve it.
1. Encourage diversity and inclusivity
By encouraging diversity and inclusion, especially as it pertains to your recruitment models, you can create a team and an atmosphere that is more well-rounded and open-minded. Various studies have also shown that having a more diverse pool of employees not only brings a wider variety of ideas and innovation, but it also can increase revenue and sales.
2. Establish a zero-tolerance policy and follow through on it
This tip goes without saying. Discrimination of any kind should not and cannot be tolerated and should be acted upon immediately. By establishing a zero-tolerance policy, you are sending a message to your team that there is a standard in place. Those who choose to act against this standard will have to pay the consequences of their own actions.
Many companies include these types of policies and insist they are “zero-tolerance,” but then fail to follow through. This not only shows weakness in leadership, but it tells your employees who are experiencing types of discrimination or harassment that they are valued less by your leadership team than the perpetrator.
3. Ask for employee feedback
Asking for employee feedback and then implementing the proposed ideas is a great method for ensuring your employees feel heard and valued. While not every idea brought to your attention is going to be revolutionary, still, be sure to let your employees know they are being heard. Also, offer employees the opportunity to provide feedback anonymously. If you have dissatisfied employees, they are more likely to be honest about their feelings towards your company if they can do so anonymously.
Here are a few methods human resource leaders can use to garner employee feedback:
- New employee surveys
- Pulse surveys
- Review sites
- Performance reviews
- One-on-one meetings with management
- Exit interviews
4. Develop an employee recognition program
Creating and implementing a recognition program for employees helps to provide an incentive for hard work and it acknowledges employees who are doing exceptionally well. Naturally, this recognition will come from management, but it should be encouraged to come from all directions.
Not only does encouraging everyone on your team to offer recognition help to alleviate some of this responsibility from your leadership team, but it also helps to build stronger relationships among all employees. For more on employee recognition programs, refer to this article published by SHRM.
5. Be transparent
Transparency serves many purposes within an organization, but perhaps the most beneficial outcomes are that it builds trust and it makes employees feel safe. Safety and trust will spill over into many other aspects of your company, particularly when gathering employee feedback. It also ensures that employees are on the same page about what is occurring and how they should be preparing for any changes being made or goals being set.
Transparency begins with providing the tools for employees to have consistent and clear communication with one another and with management. Below, we’ve listed some popular, online tools to help increase and improve your company’s communication:
6. Create opportunities for socialization
To help create a company culture that your employees genuinely enjoy, we recommend you create opportunities for socialization. The choice in activity matters little so long as your employees actually want to attend. This method may pose a challenge in the beginning if your company culture is weak as it can be difficult to garner enough interest amongst a team that does not feel companionship. However, the benefits are greater than they may appear initially.
By offering employees the chance to get to know one another outside of the work environment, they will begin to feel as though their job is more than simply a job. Feeling companionship amongst the team can bring with it a sense of comfort that can benefit communication and productivity. Most likely, mandatory icebreakers aren’t going to be what does the trick. Instead, consider bringing a team out to lunch to a fun and laid back restaurant.
7. Prioritize mutual respect
Every member of the team should feel respected and valued regardless of title or experience. For instance, sending interns out to retrieve coffee for the team should be strictly off-limits. The fact that the intern is most likely a student versus a full-time employee does not matter. In fact, interns are bringing in a new wealth of knowledge that could be an asset to your team; however, if they do not feel valued, they will not offer these ideas to your company. It becomes a lose-lose situation for both parties.
If one member of the team shows disrespect to another, it opens the door for others to behave that way. Time and experience should not be allowed to overshadow youth.
8. Be understanding
Each employee is a human with their own personal lives and personal struggles. Many things in life are out of anyone’s control. When situations crop up, such as an employee taking an unexpected personal day, be ready to show kindness and understanding towards your employees. This action will not be forgotten when other opportunities may come their way.
9. Create opportunities for skill-building
When employees begin to feel stagnant in their jobs, they may be inclined to find a different opportunity elsewhere. This can not only hurt your company’s employee retention rate, but it can hurt the effectiveness of your team. Allowing employees to explore their skills by allowing them to participate in different projects with different departments can increase employee satisfaction and it helps you to create a team that is more well-rounded.
Your company should also consider covering costs for employees to earn certifications and grow their skills. Again, it produces employees that are going to become better at what they do, and it may also help your company to hire internally when higher-level positions become available.
10. Set and promote organizational goals
Every team understands their individual departmental goals that are set and how to accomplish them, but your employees may be less familiar with the organizational goals. By establishing these goals for your employees, they can further understand the bigger picture behind their work. It can not only provide your employees with a sense of purpose, but it can make them feel like they are apart of something larger at hand.
Company culture can be a difficult concept to define, and it can be even more difficult to identify within your own company. However, it is an important aspect of every business that plays an important role in how a company operates and functions. If your company culture is poor, your business will pay the price, even if it isn’t always the most apparent at first. By incorporating these methods into your daily operations, we are confident that you will see your company culture improve and your employees will be thankful for it.