6 Steps for Building a Positive Company Culture

Katy Mrvova
building positive company culture

“Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast.” This notorious quote by Peter Drucker seems more relevant than ever these days.

More than money, the new wave of employees from Generation Z is motivated by opportunities to work in companies with strong, positive cultures where they can thrive and grow.

We recently had the chance of reading through the 2018 Global Culture Report, which identifies the six most important aspects of a great company culture.

The report calls them the Talent Magnets. By improving these, companies are able to build a stimulating workplace that engages and motivates both young, entry-level employees, as well as senior, more experienced ones.

Let’s take a closer look at what the six Talent Magnets are and the lessons we can learn from them.

1. Focus on purpose, not profit

Purpose is the essence of the company people can identify with and be inspired by. It needs to be heard, seen and felt inside the company every day.

According to the Global Culture Report, only 53% of employees find their company’s purpose inspiring or motivating.

The Millennials and Gen Z-ers, in particular, seek companies with a sense of higher purpose. They want to make an impact on the community, on the world; they want to know their work makes a difference.

Real-life inspiration:

An American outdoor retailer, REI, has famously promoted its outdoors-loving purpose on Black Friday by closing all its stores, giving its employees the day off to spend outdoors, and urging people to follow suit. The campaign, under the hashtag #OptOutside, got huge attention and resulted in record sales for REI.

2. Create opportunities for growth

Even the strongest purpose cannot be fulfilled without the company giving its employees enough opportunities for professional growth.

Based on the report, the majority of employees feel that it is very important to have a variety of responsibilities in their job and to acquire new knowledge, skills, and experience.

Especially, Millennials and Gen Z-ers are eager to do things beyond their job description. They want to explore their potential, work on special projects or take on additional roles.

Real-life inspiration:

Google’s “20% Time” initiative gives its employees an opportunity to work on any Google project of their choosing one day per week. This internal initiative proved to be a great way to brainstorm ideas and helped build products such as Gmail, Google Maps or AdSense.

Positive company culture

3. Support success, understand failure

More opportunities give employees a unique chance to succeed. Or fail, for that matter.

For an employee, personal success that is encouraged and recognized by his or her leader is one of the strongest motivators. Regular 1-on-1s, assessments and feedback sessions increase employees’ perceived feeling of success by 104%, as the report found out.

Failure, though, is a tricky thing to tackle. In a positive culture, leaders let their employees know it’s okay to fail sometimes and inspire them to learn from that failure. Almost 80% of employees said they would stay with the employer if they felt they are allowed to fail.

Real-life inspiration:

At Dropbox, failure is taken as a chance to learn new things and develop. Their effective “You’re smart, figure it out” strategy encourages their employees to sort things out themselves instead of being shown how to do something. This has driven innovation and increased employee satisfaction.

4. Always appreciate good work

Appreciating success publicly is very uplifting and pushes employees forward. Recognition for a job they’ve done well lets employees know that success isn’t taken for granted.

The report shows that employees who get authentic, verbal recognition by their leaders are more motivated, productive and five times more likely to stay in the company.

Real-life inspiration:

At Slido, we do regular silent hero sessions where everyone can nominate their personal “hero” for something impressive they have recently done or recognize them for their continual great work.

Zappos, for instance, developed a one-of-a-kind bonus program that allows employees to award an extra $50 a month to a coworker who went the extra mile or did a particularly good job.

5. Promote emotional wellbeing

Being genuinely appreciated is an important piece of a larger and more complex puzzle called emotional wellbeing.

We’re not talking about gym membership cards and free yoga classes here.

When it comes to emotional welfare of employees, the report stats are not flattering: While only about 25% of Gen X and Baby Boomers feel lonely in their workplace, almost half of Gen Z respondents feel isolated and report lacking meaningful relationships.

A positive company culture makes employees happy. It fosters friendships, creates opportunities for social interaction and enhances a sense of belonging.

Real-life inspiration:

Airbnb made the emotional wellbeing of its employees a priority. It allows them to work from anywhere in the world, motivates them to travel, take time off regularly and encourages them to move desks and teams from time to time to network, make friends, and think up new ideas.

6. Build a strong leadership foundation

Today, a leader is perceived as a mentor rather than a boss. Effective leaders are influencers; they inspire, motivate and provide guidance.

The report shows that effective leadership in a company is the cornerstone of employee experience. Employees who have a good relationship with their leader are five times more likely to stay with the company than the ones who don’t.

Building trust is very important in a leader-employee relationship. According to research, employees who don’t trust their leader have weak links to the company in general and feel disconnected from other aspects of the company culture as well.

Real-life inspiration:

Adobe ditched the whole leader-employee hierarchy and put its employees in charge of projects while serving only as their mentor. Instead of telling people what to do, employees were compelled to be their own bosses, taking only the leaders’ advice along the creative process.

Conclusion

The 2018 Global Culture Report confirms the impact a positive company culture has on companies’ ability to attract and retain talented employees. The results show that the quality of a workplace culture directly affects employees’ productivity, engagement, loyalty and, in the long run, the company’s growth and success.

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