A positive company culture can do wonders for your business, turning regular employees into brand evangelists that go above and beyond for you and your customers. But to build and maintain such a culture, you have to understand what it takes to get your employees to buy-in to your company’s core values and transcend thinking of your company as, “just another job.”
Here are a 5 ways you can work to improve your company culture by motivating your employees…
1. Define Your Core Values
You can’t build a brand on smoke and mirrors, and your employees can’t get behind your brand if they don’t know what it stands for. If the answer isn’t abundantly clear to you, take the time to sit down and really give it shape. What’s your mission? What does your business value the most? What policies can you hold to that will make your customers choose you over your competition? Don’t just deal in abstracts, boil down core values to things like reliable customer service, a strict commitment to quality, prompt shipping, or a forgiving refund policy. You may even find that you want to invite feedback from employees on this. What better way to get everybody onboard than to make it their idea?
Once you have something you can be proud of, make sure it is visible and understood. And then stick to it. Revisit these core values frequently to evaluate your own performance and see what you’ve done in line with your mission, to further your goals, and to stay true to what your business stands for.
2.Â Hire the Right People
At first, this one sounds too obvious and idealistic – if you could just hire an amazing team of zealots that bleed your company colors, you would, wouldn’t you? While it’s not exactly that simple, you can make adjustments to how you evaluate potential hires and their compatibility with your core values and company culture. Work into your interview process questions that focus in on loyalty, passion for one’s work, and ability to communicate and work well with others. These traits can have a remarkable impact on the productivity and the cohesiveness of your workforce.
Feel free to get creative with how you hire. Online retailer Zappos, for example, offers new employees $2,000 to quit. The logic is that anyone willing to take the money and walk away from the position isn’t dedicated enough and would be poisonous to the Zappos company culture. On the other side, those who don’t take the money show an implied commitment and reinforce their own loyalty.
3. Build a System of Trust and Accountability
Your employees need to know that you respect them and trust in their abilities. Start by empowering qualified employees to make or share in decisions affecting the company. A small amount of additional responsibility shows your confidence and will hopefully encourage your employees to excel with the opportunity. If your employees make a mistake, keep them accountable – not by punishing their failure, but by analyzing the mistake. Clearly outline what went wrong, how to fix it, and how to make sure it never happens again.
Trust and accountability extend beyond employee interaction to your interaction with your customers. If your business is not honest with its customers, your employees will pick up on that and it can damage how they feel about working for you. Own up to your mistakes (gracefully, of course), and keep your promises.
4. Tear Down Office Walls
A big part of building a strong company culture is to remove the barriers that keep employees isolated. In the literal sense, this could mean removing actual walls and opting for a more open floor plan to encourage interaction. In the figurative sense, this means fostering interaction between employees in settings outside of work. No amount of on-the-job team-building exercises can match the lasting benefit of taking some or all of the team out to lunch once in a while or everyone going out for a drink after a long week.
FreedomVoice, as an example, treats all employees, along with our families, to a group dinner out on the town once every month in the name of celebrating birthdays for that month. One time, we even went to Hawaii. Events like this give everyone a chance to sit down, reconnect with coworkers, and share our lives outside the office. Put simply, it’s made us all friends, and we carry that back into the workplace in the respect and trust we show one another.
5. Reward Success
People typically respond well to deserved praise (it’s science) and are motivated by such reinforcement to continue doing the good work that upholds your company’s core values. The best way for you to leverage this fact is to create performance incentives that reward employees when they reach goals. The reward doesn’t have to be monetary – you can alternatively offer small, unique privileges such as a better parking space or an honorary title (e.g. the ubiquitous, “Employee of the Month”).
The strength and vitality of your company culture comes down to how pleased your employees are to be doing the work that furthers your core values. This positive attitude will spread to everything they touch – improving customer relations, gaining new business, and improving how your brand is perceived by people outside your company.