How to make culture a business priority

Is your company thriving? If not, a focus on culture could be just what you need to kick start the sales.

Positive company culture is a powerful driver of productivity and performance. It inspires employee commitment. Organisational culture has the power to impact outcomes.

Any company can have great culture but it takes effort, time and patience to grow organically. If you are serious about culture then you simply have to make it a business priority.

Culture can be created, but it needs an instigator and the senior leadership team must be on board. In this article, I’ll be exploring what company culture is and how to make it a business priority.

What is company culture?

Every business has a culture. It’s just not all of them are good.

Company culture is hard to define. In his book The Power of Company Culture, company culture guru, Chris Dyer,opens his work with the statement “Culture is the bedrock of business success.”Dyer defines culture as having seven pillars:

  • Transparency
  • Positivity
  • Measurement
  • Acknowledgement
  • Uniqueness
  • Listening
  • Mistakes

Trust, collaboration and purpose are at the heart of good culture. So many businesses get culture wrong by focusing on profit not on its people.

How do you know if your culture isn’t particularly good? The symptoms of a culture in crisis are many, but there are tell tale signs. High staff turnover and declining revenues are the blatant ones.

Company culture isn’t a buzz word. It’s what differentiates successful businesses from the unsuccessful ones. Ignore the culture in your business at your peril. Empower your people and you will succeed.

If you want to stand out from the crowd, make culture a business priority. Here’s how:

Give employees a voice

Gemma Spinks, Account Director at Neo PR is passionate about company culture and is especially keen on giving employees a voice. She says it doesn’t matter what your job title is, you can still influence change. In her podcast interview with Jonathan Richards at breathe HR, Gemma explains,“once people know it is OK to say their opinions, then they will.”

At Neo PR regular, informal weekly meet-ups are the norm.Employees are encouraged to talk freely (good and bad) and are asked to give their highlights and low lights of the week, as well as any challenges faced.The company also operates a weekly anonymous survey asking simply one question.Once a month, employees are asked to rate from 1-10 how happy they are at work.

When employees feel safe to ask questions and contribute ideas, business benefits.

Demonstrate trust

Your employees are great (remember you hired them). Allow your teams breathing space to get work done in their own way. It doesn’t mean you can’t have deadlines or targets, it just means the path to the end result may not be quite the way you expected.

People need to feel trusted to perform their jobs well. Step into a business with a culture of trust and the energy is palpably different to an organisation poisoned with mistrust.

Create a social scene

If you really want to grow bonds between your employees, you need them to see each other as friends as well as colleagues. Millennials in particular (by 2025 Millennials will comprise three-quarters of the global workforce) want a better lifestyle. They want a social life and better work/life balance.

Flatten your structure

It’s a widely held belief that business needs a hierarchical structure to operate effectively and efficiently.

But, according to Lindred Greer, a professor of organisational behaviour at Stanford Graduate School of Business, “Effective teamwork … requires not hierarchy, but egalitarianism; not centralised power, but a culture in which all voices count.”

Flat structures create less conflict. Everyone feels as though they are on a level playing field. Greer emphasises that hierarchy is sometimes inevitable and unavoidable, and that outside of market forces hierarchical structures can still work.

However, in terms of growing great culture, managerial structures that imply inequality are never a great thing.

Care about your people

Valuing your people should be at the heart of your business culture. Your people have a life and they’ll face many challenges outside of work, so it’s important that they feel supported by you as an employer.

People need to know they can take time off when they need to. There’s this concern by many business leaders that if you give employees a free reign they won’t work hard. It’s simply not true when a business establishes a positive and strong company culture. Unlimited holiday is a controversial perk. But, in companies with great culture, holiday is seen as crucial for employee well-being.

Making culture a business priority isn’t a nice-to-have, it’s a smart essential.

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