One of the most important aspects of any company is its culture. A positive workplace culture can push employees to take risks and really innovate, while a negative culture can hinder performance and limit productivity. Excellent leaders understand how to pay close attention to how the culture is developing and take proactive steps to push development in the right direction.
Culture can change rapidly, and only a few employees with negative attitudes can make the environment feel unsupportive to other staff members. Diligence remains very important for leaders who want to create and maintain a culture that maximizes productivity and drives innovation. Some other tips to keep in mind include:
Provide different orientations of physical space.
Different people work effectively in different environments. Today, many business leaders tend to adopt open floor plans because they believe this setup invites collaboration and innovation. While this thought can prove true for some people, it is not universally true. Leaders may want to take the time to listen to Susan Cane’s TED Talk, which examines introverts in the modern American workplace.
Cane argues that most workplaces cater to extroverts and can thus hinder productivity among introverts, many of whom feel like they need the ability to close a door or create some other physical barrier to reach peak productivity. While business leaders may wish to retain much of their open floorplans, they should also think about including more traditional office space for workers who would prefer to work in that manner.
Spend some time thinking about organizational design.
Many business leaders do not think much about organizational design. These individuals tend to do things how they have been done before or emulate other systems that they have seen and liked. Organizational design encompasses a number of different facets, from how important messages are communicated to whether or not doors are closed during a meeting.
Each of these decision sends a message to employees about how things are done and what the company values. Business leaders need to think critically about how to create the environments that they want. Sending emails creates a different culture than calling meetings to disperse important information. Leaders need to think about how they can make employees feel most supported.
Help employees create a positive work-life balance.
In today’s increasingly competitive marketplace, many companies have adopted a culture that values busywork. This pushes employees to work more hours than they should. Busywork can lead to burnout and ultimately limits productivity. Leaders should encourage employees to take breaks throughout the day and vacations that let them recharge.
In addition, leaders can have a significant positive impact on corporate culture by changing the conversation surrounding busywork. Instead of focusing on being busy, leaders should focus on results. Emphasizing results helps people feel less overwhelmed and encourages them to collaborate and help each other. When results matter the most, individuals will take the time to ask for insight from their coworkers.
Understand that culture comes from the top down.
Leaders create culture by living and working in a certain way. Top managers will take their cues from the leader about how to act, and then all employees will follow suit. Business leaders who embrace inquisitiveness, respect, and other values and act accordingly become models for how all employees carry themselves at that company.
When leaders notice individuals behaving in a way that does not align with the company’s culture, they can intervene and explain how and why the behavior is unsuitable in that context. Working proactively to preserve culture shows all employees how important it is and makes them feel safer and more secure in their positions because they know exactly what to expect from their leaders.
Encourage employees to offer feedback about their experiences.
The only way to know how employees experience the culture of a company is to ask them. Leaders should go out of their way to solicit feedback regarding their employees’ experiences and invite constructive criticism that could improve the environment. Of course, not all employees will want to have a face-to-face conversation, so leaders should provide multiple means for employees to give feedback, including anonymous ones.
Often, leaders are surprised by the feedback that they get when they ask. Issues that may seem minor from the leader’s perspective may have taken a major toll on morale at other levels of the company. The feedback received may not always be consistent, but at least it gives a leader a sense of how the employees feel at any given time.
Transparency leads to mutual respect.
Few things degrade morale faster than lack of transparency. When employees feel that things are being covered up or hidden from them, they begin to get suspicious and may start to feel like they are not valued. Often, leaders are afraid that transparency will lose them respect, especially if they admit to a mistake, but the opposite is true.
In fact, leaders who are open about their mistakes illustrate that making mistakes is a normal aspect of professional life. This encourages all workers to take responsibility for their missteps. Employees should feel like they can ask questions of their leaders and receive an honest, open answer. On the other side of the coin, leaders should also expect openness and honesty from their employees.