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Every company has a workplace culture – even if you didn’t build it intentionally. Your culture has a real effect on the bottom line and can affect hiring decisions, innovation, and even your customer relationships. If you’re worried that your work environment has negative vibes, now is the time to make big changes and create a culture of positivity – here’s how.

Is your culture positive or negative?

Before you can make any changes, you’ll need to determine the current state of your office vibe. Here are some of the signs that tell you whether your employees work in a safe and positive space, or that your office culture needs to be improved.

Signs of a positive culture

  • Everyone knows what the company is trying to achieve and they feel like they’re contributing to something bigger than themselves.
  • Employees feel safe to critique decisions, suggest new ideas, and try out new strategies.
  • Managers and HR offer an open-door policy for employees to discuss problems or personal issues that may affect their work.
  • If people work hard, they’re able to achieve their individual and team goals.
    There’s a high retention rate for existing employees and frequent in-house promotions.
  • Employees will often refer friends and family to open roles.
  • Employees are confident and have the knowledge to perform their jobs well.

Signs of a negative culture

  • There’s a communication divide between leaders and employees.
  • Employees receive infrequent rewards or acknowledgments of their hard work.
  • Many of the processes and rules are poorly planned and inefficient.
  • There is gossip, workplace bullying, and open political power struggles.
  • There’s a widespread fear of failure. Surveys show that at companies with negative workplace cultures, 28% of people are afraid of punitive measures if they make a mistake at work.
  • Employees are over-stressed, disengaged, and more likely to get sick and call out from work.
  • Leaders are only focused on short-term profits with aggressive deadlines.
  • There is high employee turnover and managers struggle to hire new talent.

Why it’s important to foster a positive culture

Companies that make it on to any “Best Place to Work” lists typically have strong, positive cultures and they see 20% higher ratings from their employees compared to other businesses. The key is that they feel valued for their contribution to the company’s success.

Recruitment and retention

A positive culture gives your company a hiring advantage. People want to work for places that are known for caring about their employees’ wellbeing and success.

Review sites like Glassdoor allow anonymous feedback on what it’s like to work for a company. Negative reviews have a major role to play in recruitment success. One thing is for sure, top talent won’t consider employers with poor ratings.

The same goes for retaining your best employees. When they enjoy coming into work every day, remotely or in-person, it becomes much harder for your competitors to woo them away.

According to a 2020 LinkedIn survey, companies that invest in employee training and growth see 53% less attrition. Those that build a purposeful mission statement see 49% less attrition. Finally, when employees are acknowledged for accomplishments that align with their company’s core values, their chance of retention increases 6X.

How to measure your culture

There’s no one easy way to measure the health of your company culture, but there are indicators that you can collect and quantify like retention rates, absenteeism, and how much sick leave employees use each year.

Customer satisfaction scores can also tell you a lot about your employees. If there’s a problem with customer support scores, find out why – it could be that employees don’t have ownership over how to help their customers which is stressful and unsatisfying.

If you don’t already, regularly schedule employee surveys. Companies can utilize employee engagement software to collect anonymous feedback on their experiences. Include questions about accountability culture like:

  • How easy is it for employees to collaborate with other teams?
  • What is the process for delivering criticism and feedback?
  • When something goes wrong, who takes responsibility, if anyone?

Monthly one-on-ones with every employee can get ahead of issues before they become more serious. For more ad-hoc feedback, consider setting up anonymous suggestions boxes for employees to share ideas about how to improve work/life balance, wellness programs, and management practices.

Make use of exit interviews. People want to help their company do better, even if they’re on their way out. This is an opportunity to collect candid feedback about management, compensation, and more.

How to create a culture of positivity

Building a positive culture is not a one person job, it’s a conscious effort for everyone to live by core values from the top down. If you think that your company is too small or too new to worry about culture, think again. Establishing what your company stands for early on can guide all of your initiatives.

Establish your mission statement, vision statement, and core values.

Every successful business has a dream they’re trying to achieve. For some, it could be creating ground-breaking products that change the way we live our lives. For others, it could be solving some of humanity’s biggest problems. There are three components to flesh out to clarify how your company impacts the world. They also serve as the foundation for how your employees and leaders behave every day.

Every successful business has a dream they’re trying to achieve. For some, it could be creating ground-breaking products that change the way we live our lives. For others, it could be solving some of humanity’s biggest problems. There are three components to flesh out to clarify how your company impacts the world. They also serve as the foundation for how your employees and leaders behave every day.

  1. Mission statement 

What your company is trying to accomplish in the world. Your mission guides employees towards achieving something greater than themselves.

  • TED: Spread ideas.
  • Patagonia: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
  • Starbucks: To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.
  1. Vision statement 

What your company wants to accomplish over the next 10 or 20 years. This helps employees think past today and plan for tomorrow.

  • The Alzheimer’s Association: A world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia.
  • Tesla: To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
  • Google: To provide access to the world’s information in one click.
  1. Core Values 

These are the fundamental beliefs that dictate the behavior of your people and the organization as a whole. These values are critical to your company’s success.

  • Uber: We value ideas over hierarchy.
  • Salesforce: When our customers succeed, we succeed.
  • American Express: Integrity – We uphold the highest standards of integrity in all of our actions.
Other initiatives that support a healthy culture
  • Promote diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Prioritize employee health and wellness.
  • Prioritize respectful behavior from and for all employees.
  • Set clear and realistic goals for each department.
  • Create employee recognition programs.
  • Deploy a learning management system and deliver specialized training for all roles to increase confidence and reduce stress.
  • Increase communication and transparency between leaders and employees.
  • Create or optimize relationship-building between employees and with their managers.

Focus on relationship building

Business leaders have perfected the art of customer relationship building and now it’s time to apply that mindset to your employees. There are two layers to consider when weaving strong relationships into your company culture.

First, prioritize your one-on-one meetings with employees. Don’t repeatedly re-schedule because of other commitments. Second, create opportunities to build relationships across the business through in-office or virtual events, your company intranet, or community volunteering. You can also provide a discretionary budget for team bonding events like taking the team out to lunch or happy hour.

Senior leaders should take an active role in building relationships from the top down by meeting with new hires about a month into the job. This is their chance to get feedback about how the job is living up to what was pitched during the recruitment process. If things are not as expected, find out why and make any necessary changes.

Best practices for your culture

  • Hire for values fit, not a culture fit. You don’t need everyone to be the same, but you do need them to have the same values.
  • Train people managers how to be coaches, not micro-managers.
  • If your employees are sitting in an office all day, invest in ergonomic equipment to support their physical wellbeing.
  • Practice gratitude and express your appreciation for everyone’s hard work.
    Set a no-tolerance policy for toxic behavior like bullying, favoritism, and gossiping.
  • Provide training to discourage sexism, racism, and discrimination towardsLGBTQ+ people.
  • Encourage accountability and respect for colleagues’ time and energy.
  • Offer flexibility. In today’s environment, this is a big factor that’s sure to make your company competitive.

Culture creates your future

Today’s companies are hiring employee experience specialists because creating a positive workplace culture is a daily and continuous effort. As your company grows, leaders must commit to living out the core values of the business and set an example for new hires.

Remember, a positive culture isn’t just a nice-to-have, it directly impacts your company’s ability to succeed and achieve your goals. More than ever, culture is making or breaking companies. The “Great Resignation” is driving more employees to seek employers who offer great (and genuine) culture and flexibility.