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A business’s culture is vitally important, and has a significant impact on both employee engagement and financial performance. However, it can often be misunderstood, and many businesses fail to grasp how to build a company culture not realising the impact it can have on operations as a whole.
Beyond engaging staff with the purpose of driving revenue, a strong company culture can also encourage collaboration and innovation. However, it can often be difficult to define.
In your place of work, the culture is the everyday reality of working life. It is not defined solely by your mission statement, financial performance or the employee handbook; it is embodied in what the company does, what it says, the manner in which it behaves, and the way its employees treat each other and their customers/consumers.
So, how can you build a strong company culture that's lasting and powerful, one that encourages employees to be its most loyal ambassadors? We explore this below.
Assign an 'owner'
It may sound simple, but having one person who is directly responsible for the culture of the business is an effective way of promoting it as an important concept. Of course, this individual cannot do it all on their own, but having someone to focus on culture and push people in the right direction is essential for setting the tone for the future. Depending on the structure of your business, this responsibility can fall on the managing director, but the board in general or the marketing department also have an important role to play.
Identify your ambassadors
Do you have an employee who lives, eats and breathes your culture? Do they understand exactly who you are as a company and what you stand for? These key individuals are your biggest advocates because they love the company as much as you do and can effectively champion the business to external stakeholders/potential employees.
This type of employee is an incredibly valuable asset. Once you have identified who they are, ask them what they love about the current culture and also what they do not like. Ask why the culture of the company matters to them – this will help you discover if you should continue as normal or make changes to the current culture.
An ambassador’s role does not lessen over time. In fact, they will become increasingly important to your business. Your customers and clients are likely to remember those who are positive and knowledgeable about the company or brand they represent. Often, setting up a team of employees from a cross section of the business is an effective way to identify who these ambassadors are.
Lead by example
Culture is largely shaped by how leaders act, so ensure your leadership team embodies the type of business you want to be. Each leader needs to reflect the company’s values, while also being strong advocates for the brand and exemplifying what the company stands for.
Leaders who display passion for what they do and have a strong work ethic are an important source of inspiration for other members of staff, as well as those who want to join the company.
Being a transparent leader who is trustworthy and open with members of the team will help to preserve the culture you originally envisioned for the business.
Rethink your structure
Is the current structure of your businesses limiting your success? If so, change it. Apple famously elevated the design group in the organisation by having them report directly to the CEO. So, if your business structure is holding you back, you have the power to make a difference. If you take pride in being a product-driven business, like Apple, but the key design teams are buried under a marketing leader, there is scope to rethink the way you operate.
Company away days are an excellent way of strengthening your company culture, encouraging all employees to connect outside of the workplace and learn to communicate better with each other. Giving individuals from across the business the chance to leave their everyday work environment can encourage them to think differently, while helping them to improve both their interpersonal and professional skills.
Some organisations prefer high-octane activities such as go-karting, assault courses or zorbing for their away day of choice, while others prefer to keep things simple with a cookery class or quiz. Sellick Partnership regularly takes part in team building activities and away days in which members of the team are encouraged to work together to strengthen our culture.
Communicate the values and culture of your business continuously and explicitly, both internally and externally. It is essential that employees understand your culture and why it is important. In a bid to encourage them to engage, reward those who advance your culture with benefits that are suited to their individual aspirations, and be open and honest with those you feel could be making more effort to convey the brand’s values.
The way your business talks about itself, the language it uses through PR and social media posts, and the awards and accreditations it gains are vital tools in communicating your culture both within the team and to outside parties.
Promote a workplace where everyone feels they have to be truthful, and approach things with the utmost integrity. A vital part of being truthful as a business owner is to be completely honest about any strengths, weaknesses and biases within your organisation. It is incredibly easy to boast about your talents, but never ignore your weaknesses and convey these to everyone on the team so you can make improvements where necessary.
A leader needs to communicate the business values continuously, both internally and externally, and, in turn, all employees must understand the culture and why it is important to preserve it.
Following on from Covid-19, many workplaces have adopted a hybrid working model or are continuing to work remotely, with some businesses getting rid of their offices altogether to save on costs.
This means that, if employees are working from home (either permanently or a few days a week), you may want to think about what you can do to build your company's culture remotely go bring about the same benefits.
This can begin at the onboarding stage, ensuring your new team member has all of the equiptment they need ahead of starting and all of their correct log in details on their first day, as well as a call with their team scheduled, this is to ensure they're feeling as supported as possible.
As a manager of a remote team, or a part-remote team, it is important to communicate on a regular basis to collaborate effectively. Instant message chats can build bonds between colleagues and task management programmes like Trello can keep the team organised, with everyone having visibility of the overall projects.
If you are working with a team where some of the employees are remote working and some are hybrid/office working, it's vital to give both the right amount of time and attention. While everyone may require a different level of support, you don't want anyone feeling left out or isolated.
Support healthy work-life balance
For many employees, it is difficult to switch off when your home and office environment is the same. This is why it's crucial to ensure staff are 'switching off' from work. You can offer flexible schedules to help with this or remind people that they need time out.
Think about bringing in some earlier finishes and encourage people to take advantage of them. For example on the Friday before a bank holiday you could let staff finish an hour earlier than they usually would to begin their long weekend with family and friends.
Business owners have a lot to consider when it comes to creating a strong culture, but with the right employees and a dedicated team of ambassadors, the task becomes much easier. The key to a brand culture that can be celebrated is honesty about your strengths and weaknesses, as well as a workforce that embodies your values. With these essential elements, your business can enjoy every success.