3 key ingredients to creating a healthy company culture

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What is company culture and how does a healthy culture positively impact your business?

While the expression of culture will vary greatly across industries and organizations, company culture is the “how” of what you do. It is very often what a company does to show care and concern for its teams and community.

According to a Gallup survey, 65% of the current workforce is not engaged at work. This creates an issue not only for retention but also for your culture, which can impact your bottom line.

This same survey shares that when compared to organizations with unengaged employees, the more engaged teams who focused on culture saw:

  • 81% difference in absenteeism
  • 14% more productivity
  • 43% difference in turnover
  • 23% difference in profitability

As part of our leadership series, we sat down with Tia Smith, Vice President of Global Talent at Collaborative Solutions, to discuss the key ingredients of healthy company culture: communication, connection, and celebration. We even throw in a bonus “c” by starting with a look at your core values as a company.

Here is everything you need to know to create a healthy company culture at our company.

Identify your company’s core values

Most companies realize the importance of having a set of defined core values and

have taken the time to identify a list of principles foundational to their business. Sounds easy enough, right?  

However, there is a key distinction here – having corporate values and understanding how they support the operations of the business and drive employee engagement and commitment are entirely different things.

What percentage of your employees can easily recite your company’s core values? In many companies, values are considered a one-time event. You define them, announce them with some pomp and circumstance, then they live on a poster in the breakroom.

Core values are at the heart of a strong company culture — they are the foundation of high employee engagement and commitment. But, it takes intention and repetition to weave core values into the fabric of the organization.

If your employees struggle to rattle off your core values and it has been a while since you evaluated their relevancy, it might be time for a refresh.

It could be as simple as an evaluation of how often and where you communicate your values to employees. When you communicate your values regularly, across multiple channels, it can be an incredibly impactful foundation on which to create and sustain a healthy company culture.

Do you infuse your values in employee orientations, onboarding, sales collateral, weekly meetings, or internal newsletters? Do your values make their way into performance reviews, awards, and Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)? If not, then you might consider an updated communication plan and a quick check to make sure your values are still reflective of your company and its direction.

Businesses change over time, so it’s not a bad thing to hit the refresh button on your core values.

If you are looking to revitalize your values, ensure you have leadership buy-in and make sure to seek input from your employees. Ask employees to:

  • Identify the values/core characteristics they feel make your organization great
  • Define each value with what the statement/word means to them
  • “Behavioralize” it by explaining what the value looks like in action (this behavioral component will be a critical piece of your communication strategy when rolling out the new values)

Once you’ve identified the new values it is vital to communicate them clearly and regularly.  

This brings us to our first ingredient of creating a healthy culture: communication.

Emphasize communication

It’s important that organizations foster an environment of transparency, respect, and teamwork.  But the onus isn’t just on HR. The entire company needs to participate.

In order to be effective, you need to continuously assess channels and ensure you communicate in different ways to reach all employees.

Clear, consistent, and accessible communication is especially important in this new virtual world; you can’t assume what resonated before will work in a virtual or hybrid work setting.

Over the last few years, there has been a shift in how we approach work. It’s time to cast aside all assumptions about our employees and what we think is important to them. The evolution of work is constantly changing, and it’s important we take time to listen and gather data often. 

As leaders, there are a few key questions to consider when determining an effective communication strategy:

  • How do your employees feel about work (more importantly, how do they WANT to feel about work)?
  • What kind of information is important to them?
  • What do well-being and belonging look like for employees?

As remote work grows increasingly more prevalent, it is critical that you have the right technology to easily gather data. Survey tools are critical to measuring engagement, how employees are feeling, how managers are performing, and overall effectiveness.

Once you have the output from those surveys, dig deeper by holding focus groups, which allows employees to express themselves and be part of the solution. Think tanks are another great forum to give employees a space to share radical ideas about how to better the business (and a great way to drive innovation). 

Having a variety of listening approaches shows inclusivity. It gives folks a way to select the approach that works best for them. Some prefer the anonymity of a survey, and others like sharing ideas in a group setting. Either way, they feel heard.

It’s also important to have a strategic plan around how you share information across the organization.  Consider which communication channels are most popular in your organization. How do employees access information? What’s the user experience across these different platforms?

Share information through a variety of mediums – town halls, videos, Slack/Teams channels, newsletters, and your intranet. Consider which channels get the most engagement with employees. Make sure they support open communication, transparency, and connection. This can have a compounding effect on productivity and creating a sense of belonging.

Manager Resource Channels

In addition to your broader communication efforts, make sure your managers have their own resource channels.

For example, create a private channel where you can share tips on how to discuss tough topics with employees, reminders on available resources to direct their teams to, and curated articles to help them hone their leadership skills.

Once you have great communication tools in place, it’s important to focus on intentional connectedness, which is the second ingredient of a healthy culture.

Build connections

If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that employees crave investment in the human aspects of work.

Employees are tired – they have been going full throttle. Seventy percent of employees from a recent McKinsey study said that their sense of purpose is largely defined by work. We really do expect our jobs to bring a significant sense of purpose to our lives. 

Yes, we want pay, benefits, and perks, but more than that we want to feel valued by our organizations and managers. We want meaningful interactions, not just transactions. If people feel connected, then they feel included.

Consider focusing on connection from two angles: corporate connection (how employees connect with your company) and peer connection (how employees connect with each other).

Companies need to truly understand their employees. That requires leaders to develop much deeper empathy for what employees are going through. Once we figure this out, we can really dig into the wants and needs of employees and begin to provide flexibility, connection, and a sense of unity and purpose that people crave.

A few questions that are important for leaders to understand:

  • Do employees understand their purpose and how it supports the overall mission of the organization?
  • Is the company invested in employee well-being?
  • Do you fully support a sense of unity and belonging?

Most organizations have established ERGs, which are a great way for employees to expand their network and connect with others. Creating a Culture Club to organize fun activities that bring employees together is another great way to deepen connections. 

Consider offering volunteer time off as an added benefit to allow employees to participate in philanthropic activities that serve their communities or support their passions. Mentorship programs are also a great way to deepen connections between employees. You could also implement an annual Week of Learning event to give employees the opportunity to share their talents or skills with coworkers – whether it’s gardening, yoga, or cooking, employees are encouraged to share their passions.

Manager training may not seem like something you would find on this list, but helping managers understand the importance of empathy, active listening, and psychological safety are important skills to drive strong manager/employee relationships. 

Employee wellness is now front-and-center for both employers and employees. This goes beyond basic benefits to include programs such as unlimited PTO, Flex Fridays, or non-traditional work hours to support better balance.  By offering holistic support and a diverse range of educational programs, you can help improve retention and compete for top talent with comprehensive wellness support (just ask Burnalong). This builds connection.

Fostering strong peer connections is also key to strengthening your company culture.  Create Slack or MS Teams channels that invite colleagues to celebrate successes, coordinate cross-departmental coffee and conversation chats, host fun theme days, start a team challenge, or encourage virtual happy (or healthy) hours. By offering opportunities for employees to build connections outside of traditional work projects, you encourage creativity and collaboration.

Collaborative Solutions recently offered classes on how to juggle and paint with watercolors as part of their biannual Week of Learning event—something completely unrelated to work but a chance to learn a new skill with colleagues. Those who joined not only learned something new but developed a connection with their peers that they may not have otherwise.

Now more than ever, fostering connections creates stronger ties and deepens company culture overall. Feelings of belonging aid in positive employee retention. The Employee Experience Index found that employees who feel a deeper connection both with their peers and management experience higher rates of retention at 44% versus those who don’t (21% retention). Simply put, connections matter.

This leads us to our final key ingredient of a healthy company culture: celebration.

Embrace celebration

We’re all busy, and we often forget to celebrate the wins. Or we wait to celebrate only the big things, like winning the big deal or finishing a large project.

Organizations need to focus on celebrating the little victories along the way, too. When we talk about celebration, it doesn’t always have to come in the form of a promotion or merit increase, but it must be sincere. 

A simple card mailed to an employee that says, “Hey, thanks! You really made a difference when you…” can go a long way. We just talked about the need to belong and connect. By building a culture of celebration we can hopefully create an environment of greater social support.

A culture of celebration includes benefits such as deeper employee engagement and higher productivity by making employees feel they are part of a group working towards shared goals.  The social exchange that comes from celebration reduces conflict, deepens empathy, and boosts trust. 

Taking a moment to celebrate a small win can go a long way.  Recognizing when someone goes above and beyond can raise levels of commitment, trust, and resilience. And most importantly, regular organizational celebrations typically make employees happier in their job, which reduces isolation and cultivates relationships – and this contributes to their desire to be more productive at work.

Empower your leaders with resources and language to celebrate their teams. Create channels dedicated to celebration and carve out time from team meetings to highlight key wins and milestone moments. Create awards to celebrate when employees go above and beyond in support of your company values.

With burnout and resignations still plaguing HR teams, focusing on celebration can boost the mood and lay the groundwork for a healthy company culture.

Start creating a healthy company culture

Communication, connection, and celebration –are core ingredients necessary for a healthy company culture. Each one is crucial on its own, but the true magic happens when you combine them all together. Strong communication creates deeper connections which can lead to better work and better results, and that gives us more reasons to celebrate.

Building a healthy company culture takes time and effort, but you don’t have to tackle this alone. Not only are there a myriad of tools and resources available to streamline communication, encourage connections, and spotlight celebration, but there are also full-service teams to help support your employees. From wellness to career development, remember you are never alone.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can support your employees and build a healthy company culture with Burnalong, their team is happy to chat. Similarly, Collaborative Solutions is a full-service finance and HR transformation consultancy that leverages world-class cloud solutions to help organizations reach their goals.

Let’s make this next year one that is defined by a cultural revolution that benefits our employees, companies, and communities.

About the author:

Tia Smith has spent her career working at the intersection of people and culture. She is an experienced and innovative certified Human Capital Strategist with the ability to translate business vision into HR initiatives that improve performance, sustain growth, foster employee engagement, and drive amazing culture. As an employee experience fanatic, she brings a uniquely integrated approach to all-things-talent; strategically interconnecting talent acquisition, employee/leadership development, career management, performance management, and learning & capability management.  Tia lives in Nashville, TN and has two teenage daughters who remind her daily that she’s not as hip and cool as she once was.

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