Much has been said about the importance of creating and sustaining a great workplace culture. Unfortunately, there’s a comparative scarcity of concrete guidance about what it takes to make that happen. From investment dollars to programs and policies, making your company a certified Great Place to Work requires a sustained and strategic effort between leadership, human resources, and team members.
In my experience, these are the specific tips, techniques and best practices needed to take your workplace culture to the next level.
One of the biggest missteps companies make when building an innovative workplace culture is focusing too much on the high-profile extras before taking care of the basics.
Some comprehensive wellness programs, including my company’s, focus on the four pillars of health, wealth, mind and body. That’s not possible if you don’t have the right resources in place to handle everyday responsibilities in the workplace. If there is no work-life balance, it puts pressure on your team and creates additional stress. Workplace massages and continuing education programs are well and good, but if your team members don’t have work-life balance, they are unlikely to feel supported.
The first important initiative companies can take on to improve their workplace culture is to address staffing. Streamline and optimize your recruiting, hiring and onboarding process. Have a plan in place to identify quality candidates, and have them hit the ground running. Make sure that the orientation process includes integration around workplace culture and programs that begin on day one.
Communication can be another sore spot for many companies. Connect with team members as often as possible, through a range of different channels. Consider making company policies and key documentation available digitally — a PowerPoint presentation is likely to be more accessible and impactful than a printed binder that could be thrown in a drawer and forgotten. Be proactive about getting feedback. Touch base with new hires after a few weeks to ensure the onboarding process is going smoothly. Make it a priority to get to know them on a personal level. Doing so establishes trust, allowing team members to give genuine feedback when it matters most. Don’t just write down these policies; live them. Make sure they’re part of your cultural DNA.
Dollars And Sense
One common question we get about our work culture is, “How do you make the money work?” There’s a perception that creating a great workplace culture requires dramatic financial resources. The reality is different. While programs and structure that help create and sustain great workplace culture do require an investment — and a commitment of time and resources — you don’t have to be Google or Apple to make it happen. If you do things the right way, that investment works, and the ROI is impressive.
While you don’t have to spend big, you do have to spend smart. Be flexible: Keep what works, and ditch what doesn’t. If you have a workplace yoga program but only three team members are taking advantage of it, it’s probably not worth the investment. That money would likely be better allocated to different programs — or perhaps to a different iteration of the same program (like gym subsidies or fitness class reimbursements). Be creative and willing to experiment, but also analytical about what is and isn’t working.
An attractive professional culture can be a difference-maker when it comes to recruiting and retaining top talent. Keep that in mind when creating the programs, perks and policies that help make your company a popular place to work. Financial perks are welcome, but that’s only part of the picture. Unlimited PTO policies are becoming more prevalent. In-office meditation and mental health counseling can transform the mood of the workplace. Even if a team member doesn’t take advantage of a particular benefit, a robust program of perks and extras makes it clear that you care about your team members and heightens your appeal to quality candidates.
The Big Three
Companies looking to improve their workplace culture can distill best practices down to three basic principles:
- Get feedback (all the time): Ask questions. “Did you like the program?” “What do you want to see more of?” “What don’t you like about the initiative?” Don’t fall in love with something before you confirm it’s working. Leverage an online portal to make it easy and efficient for team members to share their thoughts at any time.
- Use metrics: Monitor everything, from cost to participation to results — as detailed and as often as possible.
- Assign a designated resource: Responsibility for benefits and wellness shouldn’t be an afterthought or tacked on to someone’s pre-existing job. Make sure there’s a dedicated professional in charge of these programs — a resource team members can look to.
Trust The Process
Continue to evolve your work culture to be successful, inclusive and cutting-edge. That requires both feedback and flexibility, as well as creativity and a willingness to try new things. Innovative companies are constantly coming up with interesting amenities, programs, offerings or opportunities. Examples include blood drives, one-on-one nutritional counseling, self-defense workshops, personal training consultations and chair massages. Financial training programs like 401(k) counseling sessions are also popular. Additionally, more companies are offering continuing education opportunities, which give team members credits throughout the year for participation. Other forward-thinking employers are launching mental health initiatives, with the goal of removing the stigma around mental health and creating a safe space where team members can reduce personal and professional stress.
Make it easy and enjoyable for team members to participate. Don’t neglect outreach for off-site personnel, who are more prone to feeling excluded. Be thoughtful about your programs. A healthy snack initiative is a great idea, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a little chocolate around for those who appreciate it. Work with your team members to learn their wants and needs, and in turn, your company can boost morale, reduce turnover and attract top talent.