How to Develop a Strong Organizational Culture
Terms like “organizational culture” and “company culture” have gained increasing attention in recent years. As skill shortages continue to grow in industries around the world and companies continue to struggle with staff retention, creating the right workplace environment has become crucial.
Company culture, or organizational culture, is one of the fundamental ways businesses can engage their employees, boost productivity and reduce turnover. In fact, according to some studies, 40% of job seekers say company culture is a top priority for them when they’re deciding where to work.
Unfortunately, even in a world where “culture” is growing more essential, many business leaders still don’t fully understand what the term means, or how strong cultures are developed.
Today, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about defining and building a strong organizational culture.
Table of Contents
What is Organizational Culture and Why Does it Matter?
Let’s start with the basics: what is organizational culture?
Organizational culture, otherwise known as company culture, is the set of shared values, goals, practices and attitudes that define an organization. Essentially, it’s the shared “ethos” of your company, defining how people work, communicate, collaborate and stay motivated.
A strong company culture is built on a set of core values, a strong belief system and effective models for working. Although it might sound like an abstract concept, organizational culture actually significantly impacts a company’s chance of success.
If employees are aligned within a shared culture, they’re more likely to work collaboratively and cooperatively to achieve business goals. Additionally, great cultures keep employees motivated and engaged in the workforce, reducing talent turnover. Studies show that companies that actively manage their culture generally achieve 40% higher levels of employee retention.
The trouble is, building and implementing an effective company culture is no small task. Only around 28% of executives say that they fully understand their company culture today.
Which Factors Influence Organizational Culture?
One of the main reasons business owners struggle with company culture is that they don’t fully understand what the term means.
In the past, companies keen to develop a strong company culture simply thought that meant creating an open plan office within the business, or treating staff members to a few extra perks. The reality is that company culture isn’t defined by the presence of a pool table in the break room or a policy for pizza Fridays. Company culture is defined by factors such as:
- Leadership style: How is the company managed? What does the hierarchy look like between different groups, and what are the decision-making methods used in the organization?
- Mission, values and vision: What is the purpose of the business? What do the products and services you sell deliver to customers and what do you hope to achieve?
- Work environment: How is your workplace organized? Are you running a hybrid, remote or in-office workplace? How do people generally work together, or on their own?
- Communication: How do people communicate in the organization? Is communication transparent, honest and consistent? Which communication tools are used?
- Orientation: Is the business task-oriented, function-oriented or people-oriented? What are the priorities of the people in your teams?
How to Create a Strong Organizational Culture
So, what transforms an organizational culture into something that helps businesses and their employees thrive? Countless studies show that companies with a strong organizational culture outperform their peers, but what does it take to strengthen the “ethos” of your business?
Here’s your step-by-step guide to developing an effective organizational culture.
1. Create and Communicate Clear Values
Values are the driving force behind creating and maintaining a strong company culture. Your business’ values should define how your employees work towards specific goals, their priorities and even how they communicate with clients, and each other.
Creating a clear set of values for your business essentially gives your employees a map to follow whenever they’re unsure of how to behave in any situation. The key to success is making sure your values are simple and straightforward. Choosing around 4 or 5 values that are crucial to your company’s operations is usually a good start.
For instance, you might say your values revolve around consistency, customer service, empathy and innovation. Or your values might be linked to things like collaboration, community and transparent communication. Every decision you make for your business should be aligned with these values.
2. Build Your Team Carefully
The people you bring into your business will make or break the success of your organizational culture. After all, if the people you hire don’t share the same values as your business, or their style of work is in conflict with the behavior of your teams and managers, you’re going to end up with inconsistencies in your company culture.
Whenever you’re hiring a new member of staff, make sure they’ll fit well into the kind of company culture you’re trying to create. Examine their ethos and approach to work, think about how well they collaborate with others, and how easily they’ll be able to adhere to your expectations. Create interview questions which allow you to discover if each candidate shares your values.
Crucially, even if the people you choose to bring into your team seem like they’re a perfect fit for your company culture, it’s important to help them integrate into your workforce. Remember, around 30% of new employees quit within the first 90 days because they feel unable to engage with the company culture. Implementing an onboarding strategy is a great way to welcome staff into your team. It can also help you to set clear expectations which boost employee performance.
3. Enable and Empower Employees
In a strong organizational culture, every member of staff has the tools and resources they need to perform their best according to the standards set by leaders. In other words, you can’t just set expectations for how you want your employees to perform, you need to make sure you’re empowering them to thrive in the workplace with the correct tools and technologies.
Examine staff’s needs on a regular basis, and make sure you’re investing in tools to help them produce their best work. For instance, if you value high levels of productivity in your workplace, it makes sense to invest in productivity apps that can help employees to work more effectively, keep track of their to-do lists and stick to deadlines.
If you value collaboration in your team, but your employees are distributed across a range of different environments, platforms like Brosix can help unite your workforce. This user-friendly platform allows team members to share files, communicate via voice, video or chat, and work together from any location.
4. Prioritize Consistent Communication
Another core component of a strong organizational culture is excellent communication. In a thriving company culture, people feel heard, listened to and aligned with their peers. If communication starts to suffer in your company, your organizational culture will struggle too.
There are a few ways you can invest in top notch company culture within your business. The first is to train your employees with soft skills they can use during exchanges with their peers. Teach people how to listen actively to their colleagues and show empathy during conversations. Show your employees how to be mindful of other people’s communication styles too.
Implementing tools which enable consistent communication can also be helpful, particularly if you employ people from a range of different environments, who prefer to communicate in varying ways. Some staff members find it easier to communicate via message and text than by talking to colleagues over the phone, while others prefer video conferencing and face-to-face discussions. Make sure everyone can access the right method of communication for different situations.
5. Build a Sense of Community
While there’s no one-size-fits-all for building a truly exceptional company culture, the best business environments are often defined by a few principal factors: collaboration, cooperation and engagement. In other words, if you want to strengthen your company culture it’s worth developing a sense of community.
If your employees feel that they’re constantly fighting their teammates for attention, or competing with colleagues, this can lead to a toxic business environment. However, if everyone respects and appreciates each other equally, your business is likely to grow.
Building a sense of community means investing in the relationships between your team members. Encourage them to chat both inside and outside of work and consider exploring team-building exercises to bring staff closer together. Constantly search for and eliminate any silos you might notice appearing within your workforce.
6. Engage Employees with a Unified Purpose
A great company culture isn’t just collaborative and supportive, it’s also engaging. Unfortunately, building and preserving employee engagement can be notoriously difficult for any business owner. Only around 34% of employees today say they’re actively engaged in their work.
A good way to boost engagement and ensure your employees are invested in your organizational culture, is to unite your team with a shared vision or purpose. While everyone in your team might have their own personal goals they want to work towards, they should all be united around a quest to accomplish the same general “mission” in your company.
With this in mind, educate employees on the purpose of your business and provide them with insights on how your organization helps make the world a better place. Allow your team members to see how their contributions are helping to steer your business towards its goals.
7. Invest in Regular Recognition
Recognition is a valuable ingredient in a strong organizational culture for a number of reasons. Firstly, regularly recognizing your employees is an excellent way to make them feel respected and appreciated. This improves engagement and boosts your chances of having staff members who are committed to your organization. In an environment where 63% of employees don’t feel like they get enough praise, sharing positive feedback can be extremely powerful.
Secondly, regular recognition helps you to mold your employees into perfect members of staff. If you praise staff members every time they demonstrate your core business values, they’ll be more likely to continue those behaviors in the future. Similarly, if you provide guidance and feedback when team members aren’t acting according to your company culture, this can help reduce the risk of challenges and inconsistencies in the future.
Consider implementing a recognition program, and get your leaders, supervisors, and managers involved in regularly providing your teams with feedback.
8. Consider the Structure of the Workplace
The layout or structure of your workplace is another core factor influencing organizational culture. In a traditional office environment, where employees share a physical space, it’s important to think about how you can build an office that helps your team thrive. For instance, staff are more likely to be happy and engaged in a healthy bright office, than a dingy gray cubicle.
If your employees work remotely, then you could invest in strategies to help them build their own comfortable office spaces at home, providing them with resources such as ergonomic desks and chairs, to make them as productive as possible.
If you have a hybrid workplace, where your team members work partially in the office and partially from remote locations, you should think about how you can build an environment that makes everyone feel equally included in the company culture. For instance, building meeting rooms where people can regularly get together for immersive video meetings could be an excellent idea.
9. Commit to Learning and Development
Part of developing a strong company culture is being ready to invest in your team. Even if you’re cautious about the people you bring into your staff and the characteristics they have, you’ll still need to provide your team with regular training to ensure that they stay ahead of industry trends and remain as productive as possible.
Committing to regular learning and development opportunities for your staff members serves a couple of important purposes. Firstly, it ensures that you continue to make the most of your human resources as your industry evolves and grows. Secondly, it can boost your chances of engaging and retaining employees, by showing your team that you’re committed to their growth.
Additionally, investing in learning and development strategies is an opportunity for you to help your employees embrace the values that are crucial to your team. For instance, if you value innovation, it makes sense to invest in training sessions for your employees in using new technologies, creative problem-solving techniques and so on.
10. Listen and Adapt
Finally, while it’s important to have a clear idea of the company culture you want to develop in mind from the moment you start building your business, it’s also worth acknowledging that your business ethos might change over time.
As your business evolves and grows, the way you collaborate, communicate and keep team members in sync might vary. The relationships between staff members can shift over time and the values you prioritize in your business might evolve.
With that in mind, it’s important to listen to your team members, pay attention to your business and adapt your culture whenever necessary. Remember, the best culture isn’t just something that works for business leaders, it’s something that feels right for everyone.
Strengthen your Company Culture
Organizational culture isn’t just a buzzword or a business trend.
Developing a strong company culture is the key to making sure your business is as successful as possible. With the right culture, you empower your team members, unlock new opportunities for growth and ensure your staff remain invested and engaged in your business.
However, great organizational cultures aren’t built overnight. They rely on a commitment to constant investment in the right technology, practices and tools. Use the tips above to start working on a stronger culture for your organization.