Finding new employees is difficult, especially in some industries like technology, education, construction, skilled trades and engineering. Overall, though, many sectors are facing a talent crunch, and that makes hiring harder than ever. It also places a renewed emphasis on retention. After all, companies dealing with labor shortages are recruiting your staff to fill their own vacant spots.

One of the best ways to retain workers is to focus on improving your company’s culture. This can also be a recruiting tool you can leverage to get new talent through your doors as well, but exactly what is company culture?

The short answer is that it is the shared values, goals and attitudes within your organization. In reality though, it extends to how these values and attitudes impact the atmosphere and effect how people feel about going to work every day. Many elements of management impact company culture, including leadership style, ethics, how goals are set, and expectations managed.

Additional factors that play into culture are the ability to be autonomous rather than micromanaged, flexibility and the ability to see one’s efforts pay off in the form of promotions and additional opportunities. But there is no one-size fits all when it comes to culture. How one person perceives their working environment depends on their preferences. For instance, some people are less comfortable with a casual workplace that does not rely on direct management and traditional office hierarchy.

Why does company culture matter?

Workplaces with positive company cultures often have more engaged workers with less turnover. Turnover is more than a frustration, it costs your business money in recruitment costs, training and lost productivity. According to Gallup, the cost or replacing an employee can range from one half to two times that employee’s annual salary. (Source)

Even if your turnover costs are less than this estimate, you’re still suffering from workforce churn. When your short staffed, your existing workers can be overburdened and less productive. If not addressed, this can lead to frustration and more turnover, creating a cycle that’s hard to escape from.

Company culture also impacts your organization’s ability to be effective and productive. Happy workers care more about their daily work, the well-being of their team and their ability to produce results. They are less distracted and produce more. And while there are studies that illustrate this connection, you only have to consider your own experiences to know that you’re more motivated when you’re in a positive working environment.

How can you create a positive company culture?

Company culture will happen if you cultivate it or not, so you might as well put in the time to build a positive environment for your team. Depending on the size of your organization, you may need to create a small task force to help define your goals and create change. This is especially true if you’re facing any type of culture problems, like apathy or a toxic working environment.

First, you’ll need to lay the groundwork for building up or repairing your company’s culture. Here are a few ideas on how you can get started.

Create a company culture statement: Express the ideals you want to see in the workplace in a single statement. This is an important first step in defining your culture and creating a plan to make it happen. You may want to create a workplace that embraces autonomy, individualism and accountability. Your focus may be on be to create a transparent company that encourages the free exchange of ideas and information. Take some time to think about this and what it would look like in your organization.

Identify current issues within your company: It’s never easy to admit to internal issues, but it’s a really critical step. All of your efforts to steer your company into a more positive direction will be wasted if you don’t address your current issues. So bravely ask your team for input about problems they see and ideas for correcting them.  Common complaints you are likely to hear include communication issues, lack of accountability, lack of transparency, lack of professional development and no room for career growth.

Create a plan for corrective action: Even the best of companies will have problems, it’s how you handle them that matters. So, once you’ve uncovered issues that need to be addressed, you should create a plan to solve them. You’ll want to make this a team effort so include your leaders from every department. They will be critical in setting the tone for change. 

6 Actions you can take to build your company culture

  1. Recommunicate your values so that everyone, especially leadership, is on the same page. How this looks is different for every company, but it might include revisiting your mission and vision statements on your website, sending out communications focusing on your company’s values and goals to uphold them. You should address them in leadership meetings, encouraging everyone to ask questions about your direction as a company.
  2. Focus on improving communication. Too often, company culture issues go unaddressed because people either don’t know where to go to address issues, or they are afraid they will face retribution. You want every member of your organization to feel like they have easy access to management and that they can speak freely regarding the problems they see.
  3. Proactively reinforce positivity in the workplace. People need to know that they are appreciated and that their hard work matters. You can do this by celebrating the small wins your team has every day. This can be as simple as giving praise on a regular basis, saying “thanks” and starting a “kudos” program so people can officially show their team appreciation.
  4. Break down the silos in your company. Departments can become quite isolated from each other, leading to an “us verses them” mentality. By creating opportunity for various departments to interact, you will create a more friendly workplace. This can include cross training in various roles and team building events.
  5. Consider creating an anonymous feedback system where workers can easily share their concerns. This can be especially important in environments that are currently struggling with toxic attitudes and trust issues.
  6. Create opportunities for social interaction when possible. This can be as simple as a company lunch or virtual happy hour. The goal is to give people a change to get to know their coworkers beyond just their role at work.

Company Culture in the Remote Environment

COVID-19 has created a new surge of remote workers, making it harder to manage company culture. Given the additional strain of living with the pandemic, company morale might be at an all-time low. Managing this requires extra work, but it’s important. The steps you take to re-engage your remote teams will improve everyone’s outlook.

You can have virtual game night, happy hours, lunches and other remote team building activities. Be sure to offer several different types of interactions so that everyone has a chance to join in. Additionally, consider creating a virtual “water cooler” chat room for your organization where people can drop in and say hi, get a break from routine and have non-work conversations.  

The material presented here is educational in nature and is not intended to be, nor should be relied upon, as legal or financial advice. Please consult with an attorney or financial professional for advice.