6 Small Things A Company Can Do To Improve Company Culture
It’s usually pretty easy to recognize if your company culture is bad. Whether it’s increased employee disengagement, rampant employee turnover, bad recent reviews or otherwise, observant company leaders can typically recognize when their company culture needs some work.
And if that isn’t already enough to grapple with, the thought of trying to actively improve company culture is often seen as a major overhaul: a project with 1-, 3-, and 5-year goals requiring substantial investment of time and money.
While that’s not so far from the truth – making any significant changes to an existing company culture indeed takes commitment and time – there are actually a myriad of small steps you can take to move your organization’s company culture in more positive direction…steps that don’t necessarily take tons of time or money.
Here are 6 small steps you can take to improve your company culture that, for what it’s worth, are much more effective than adding some “cool” perks:
1. Implement a regular leadership rounding schedule
Leadership rounding is when members of your company’s leadership team (whether C-suite or senior executive) regularly walk around the floor, or the “front lines” of your company, with the sole purpose to observe and communicate how things are really going across the organization on a daily basis. When upper management is visible, available, and interested in their staff from bottom to top in this way, communication improves, problems get resolved, and you give trust and rapport an opportunity to build among different levels of the organization, which bridges the gaps you’ll typically find when an company has layers of employees and managers. During leadership rounds, be sure to ask individual team members how they’re doing and if there’s anything you can do to improve their experience, their workflow, or their results, and most importantly, follow through on your promises.
2. Resolve known issues
Known, ongoing issues in a bad company culture, such as one or more toxic employees, can destroy an entire organization’s company culture when left to their own devices… but what makes things even worse (and disheartening for other employees) is when company leadership knows about the issue(s) yet fail to address the situation appropriately.
If you have an employee, or several, who others fear, tiptoe around, feel disrespected by, are unable to work with or even have honest conversations with, set clear expectations for healthy workplace behavior with those troublesome employees and follow through on the consequences if they don’t make a real effort towards meeting expectations. You should also communicate that termination is a possible outcome if they’re unable or unwilling to improve after being given the opportunity to rectify the problems they’ve contributed to; this demonstrates how serious you are about only having employees in your organization who want to make things better, not worse, for everyone else.
3. Focus on personal development
Just like one toxic employee can spoil the whole company culture, an uninspired team member (or several) can drag down the mood of your company culture too, whether through subtle negative comments, complacency, or carelessness. If this sounds familiar, address the situation head on by focusing on personal development of your team members. You can start by getting to know where individual employees they see themselves in 3-5 years and identifying ways for you to empower them in that path. Doing this the right way also includes taking and sharing honest and constructive feedback of their performance, and helping them go through the exact steps they should be taking for their own growth.
Investing in your employees’ growth doesn’t necessarily mean investing a whole lot of time or money, either; it could be a matter of having regular check-in meetings with them to keep both you and them accountable, connecting them with other company leaders and subject matter experts for mentorship, or asking them to join a new project in the company that aligns with their growth goals.
4. Give managers permission to lead compassionately
Regardless of policy and risk, managers must be given permission to make empathetic and compassionate exceptions to the rule in order to put people before policy. While your managers are still responsible for working through any fallout that occurs as a result, support them when they support their staff and do the right thing, even when it doesn’t align with policy.
An example scenario: if an employee suffers through especially tough times in their personal life, but has run out of PTO (personal time off), consider giving them some flexibility and allowing them to take some time off anyway without impact to their job security; this isn’t only the compassionate thing to do as human beings, but it’s the type of genuine support anyone would hope from their employer. As a result, the employee will gain appreciation and respect, and other employees will feel proud and relieved that they work at a company where everyone is truly supported – all of which works to improve company culture.
5. Invite bottom-up input
Involve employees in different levels of the company – not just management – in problem-solving efforts. From little things like how to introduce a better coffee selection to the break room and to bigger things like where to have the next company kick-off and how to define next year’s marketing budget, getting employees involved leads to great outcomes, such as: 1) you get unique perspectives that you may not have had on your leadership team, 2) you build buy-in more effectively than if decisions were made from the top down, as employees are just as invested in the solution as leadership is, and 3) you lend more power and accountability to employees who don’t always experience a whole lot of those things in their day-to-day roles.
6. Be an example and do the little things
It’s much easier to improve your company culture if there are examples of healthy, positive people in it – be that person in your organization. Greet your coworkers warmly when you pass them in the hallway, remember the names of their spouses and their children, send them home when they’re sick, share a handwritten note to celebrate achievements, and refrain from gossip. These little things have more power to impact company culture than nearly all of the big things combined, and it all starts with leadership.
Company culture takes shape in different ways in different organizations, so use your best judgment to decide which of these small steps toward improving your company culture would work for you.