10 Ways to Improve Company Culture

When in doubt, start with kindness and follow these steps.
Product Marketing Manager
October 15, 2021
Updated: June 29, 2022
Product Marketing Manager
October 15, 2021
Updated: June 29, 2022

If there’s one constant when it comes to company culture, it’s that it’s always evolving.

At its core, company culture is the personality of your organization. It’s the shared set of values, beliefs and ideas that influence every aspect of your company, from how colleagues work together to how you treat customers.

Each new person you add to the company introduces another variable. They add a new way of thinking and acting, a new set of beliefs and values that pushes your shared culture to change. If you don’t keep tabs on it and aren’t evolving with your employees, it’ll quickly fall apart, according to Charisse Fontes, founder of the culture consulting firm CultureCircle.

How to Improve Your Company Culture

  • Revisit your core values 
  • Evaluate your current company culture
  • Outline your plan for improvements
  • Track your progress 
  • Create opportunities for employees to connect
  • Help employees advance their career
  • Give employees flexibility
  • Make transparency a priority
  • Celebrate team wins
  • Address mental health

“If you establish space that’s needed for those variables, you will always have a good handle on your culture,” Fontes said. “It’s when companies or founders do not account for the variable and just focus on [growth] that culture starts to go to shit.”

While changing your company culture is no easy feat, it’s well worth the investment. Not only will you see positive results right off the bat, but you’ll attract talented professionals who can help take your company even further.

 

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How to Improve Company Culture

Revisit Your Core Values

Before you do anything else, go back to where it (should have) all began: your core values. A strong corporate culture stems from a thoughtfully determined set of values that guide everything from behavior to business decisions.

When companies have issues with value adoption, it’s often because they either have too many or they’re not relevant, according to Fontes.

“Kindness is free and can change how healthy a culture is. It’s not complex.”

Your values should be relatable to each employee and leader — meaning something they naturally practice at work and outside of it — and simple. Any more than five and employees tend to forget them, Fontes said. And when they aren’t relatable or applicable, those values can either become misconstrued or ignored. 

Check that your core values align with the best parts of your existing culture and are actionable. Values like “work hard, play hard,” might sound catchy, but they leave room for misinterpretation and should be eliminated, Fontes said.

If you’re just now outlining your company’s core values, ensure the C-suite, HR department and a few of your most tenured employees are involved in the process. Keep your long-term business goals in mind; the values you set today should still be relevant five years down the line. A helpful tip is to keep them human-centric, Fontes said. Think about how you want employees to treat each other.

“Kindness is free and can change how healthy a culture is,” Fontes said. “It’s not complex.”

 

Evaluate Your Current Company Culture

Once you’ve outlined your core values, assess your current company culture. Take a look at your employees: How are they working together? Are most people staying late and showing up early? Is employee engagement evident or are employees most eager to head home? If office gossip is rampant, you’re seeing high turnover rates or teams are siloed, those are all signs of a bad culture that’s in need of immediate attention. 

Then, determine the type of organizational culture you currently have and evaluate it in comparison to your broader company goals. Will the current structure help you achieve your long-term goals or are there serious limitations that need to be remedied?

Don’t forget to ask your people for their thoughts. While culture is set by leadership, employees are the driving force behind it and the most influential in its evolution. Employee engagement is a byproduct of company culture, making an employee engagement survey an excellent tool for collecting information on how well your culture resonates with your people.

In addition to short pulse surveys, talk one-on-one with a few of your long-term employees about how the culture has evolved over the years. They’ve been around since the early days and will provide invaluable insight on what has changed, for better or for worse.

 

Outline Your Plan for Improvements

Now that you’ve identified the aspects of your company culture to address, create a detailed plan of attack, including a strategy, timeline and budget. Additionally, set benchmarks so you’re better able to track your progress. \

For example, if employee relationships could stand to be improved, implement more employee engagement activities outside of work. Aim to host one social event per quarter to help foster meaningful personal connections between coworkers and track your progress. If you fail to meet the mark, adjust your efforts or strategy accordingly. 

 

Track Your Progress 

The only way to know if you’re meeting your goals and truly making improvements to your company culture is to regularly assess your efforts. Continuously ask your employees for individual feedback and measure employee engagement through pulse surveys to gather company-wide data. Because culture evolves as your team and company do, it’s important to continually track your progress and adjust your strategy accordingly.

 

Create Opportunities for Employees to Connect

No one works on an island. Even in a remote work environment, employees need to be able to communicate and connect with one another outside of just work. Creating opportunities for employees to connect develops trust, improves the company culture and increases employee retention.

To foster those relationships, leaders need to make it a priority. Hosting team lunches and activities like a remote movie watch party or a virtual escape room during work hours are great places to start. Leaders can also encourage bonding through smaller actions like taking the time to chat with an employee after lunch or asking an employee about themselves during a one-on-one. Those activities show that non-work related tasks are just as valuable. Beyond that, shared Slack channels on non-work topics and remote gatherings can also create spaces for employees to chat about something other than the project deadline.

Just make sure there are boundaries and that the events are inclusive. Not every team outing needs to be a happy hour or sports event. 

There can also be a tendency to equate employee relationships to being “a family,” but that can introduce a host of misunderstandings and challenges, Fontes said. She’s seen companies where they use “family” as an excuse to send emails and texts after work hours and ask employees for “favors” outside of their normal responsibilities.

Even if you invoke “family” informally, it can still cause issues. So it’s important to review how you frame employee connections and eliminate that phrase, Fontes said.

 

Help Employees Advance Their Careers

While celebrating employees and giving feedback is important, it won’t mean much if it doesn’t lead to meaningful career advancement. The most common reason employees leave a company is for new career opportunities, according to Work Institute’s 2021 retention report.

Consider creating a transparent career growth plan. Chart what steps employees need to take to advance in their career and make their goals a part of one-on-one discussions. Those guidelines will also hold managers accountable for who they’re promoting and why. When career growth opportunities are limited, providing employees with training opportunities can also be a great way to signal you are invested in them, Caitlin Golden, digital marketing agency closerlook’s VP of HR, told Built In.

 

Make Transparency a Priority

Employee satisfaction is greatly affected by the ability to trust senior management. Build trust with employees and cultivate a reputation as a trustworthy employer by increasing transparency across the company. Prioritize top-down communication by keeping employees informed about the business through company-wide emails and timely updates during town hall meetings.

Establish an open-door policy by making members of the C-suite more accessible through office hours and small group discussions. In a hybrid or remote workplace, you can over-communicate your thought-process with employees, set up daily check-ins (these can be done via messaging platforms like Slack if your team has video fatigue) and offer open virtual meeting hours.

While too many meetings can be counterproductive, don’t neglect the value of those personal interactions.

 

Create an Employee Recognition Program

Eighty-five percent of HR leaders say their company’s employee recognition program enhances their organizational culture. Show employees you value and appreciate their contributions to your company by recognizing top performers through employee spotlights.

Openly recognizing employees that reflect company values reinforces the values and culture that you want to create. Give teams the tools and resources they need to recognize their colleagues. This can be done through anonymous nominations that lead to a company-wide shoutout or through internal communication channels.

Doing so increases camaraderie between employees and encourages more standout performances. Recognizing employees also helps reduce turnover: 20 percent of companies with a culture that focuses employee recognition have 31 percent lower turnover rate.

 

Give Employees Flexibility

As employees have had to balance working from home and their life responsibilities, flexible schedules and open vacation policies have all become a necessity in creating a culture that keeps employees engaged. 

Life happens and knowing they can count on their employer to be understanding and accommodating makes employees feel valued. Beyond that, providing stipends that employees can use to address their mental and physical health, and even set up their own workspace can go a long way to improving the remote work experience for employees.

This leads to higher levels of employee engagement which positively impact productivity and profitability.

 

Celebrate Team Wins

Equally as important as recognizing individual contributions is celebrating company wins and milestones as a team. Employees adopt an owner’s mentality when they’re made to feel like part of the broader strategy team and including them when celebrating major achievements improves transparency within the company.

 

Prioritize Timely and Respectful Feedback

Employees crave feedback — both positive and constructive — and simply implementing annual reviews isn’t making feedback a priority. In fact, most employees find them ineffective: one-third describe their performance reviews as unhelpful. Encourage managers to incorporate more regular feedback sessions into their team dynamic so feedback is timely and employees can act on it.

Additionally, ask for feedback from employees more often. If you launch a new initiative or implement a new software, ask your team their thoughts shortly thereafter. Doing so will ensure that the decisions you make are benefitting your company culture and will make employees feel valued by their employer.

 

Address Mental Health

Employee burnout is on the rise. Job website Indeed surveyed more than 1,500 employees in March 2021, and found that 52 percent of respondents were feeling burnt out. That feeling is even more common among people working virtually, according to the survey.

As a result, it’s more important than ever to address employee health and wellness within your culture. A helpful place to start is to review the goals you set for employees. While it’s important to be ambitious, your expectations need to be reasonable and flexible. Reaching it shouldn’t come at the cost of an employee’s personal life.

It’s also important for managers to create space for employees to tend to their mental health. Incorporating wellness days, increased paid time off and flexible work hours into your benefits package can all go a long way toward improving employee work-life balance.

Finally, make personal check-ins a part of one-on-ones. When every conversation is about work and productivity, it can make employees feel like they aren’t doing enough. Carving out time to ask your employee how they’re doing gives them the space to vocalize when they feel overwhelmed or need some assistance.

Regardless of where you’re starting from, it’s important to remember that you can improve company culture. Ensure you have the full support of your leadership team, HR department and employees.

If you don’t, the changes you make won’t stick and may drive people away. Think seriously about what your team members value and what your company goals are.

This story was published by Kate Heinz in 2019 and updated with additional reporting by Brian Nordli in 2021.

 

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