Culture is a word you’ll hear many leaders talk about – and making theirs a positive company culture is most important these days.
But it’s more than a buzzword or passing fad because research shows that investing in building a positive company culture delivers bottom-line results. That’s because employees are more engaged and productive when they believe their employer fosters a positive working environment.
So, how do business leaders start gauging the state of their company culture and then take intentional steps towards improvement? Like any business initiative, it requires a roadmap with measurable indicators for success or failure.
Positive company culture impact
Before moving too far down the road on the topic of culture, it’s essential to define what a positive company culture means. Of course, what constitutes positive culture will be different for each individual. Some employees want an outstanding work/life balance, while others look for competitive pay and benefits.
At Logical Position (LP), we define a positive culture by asking this question: Is the general employee group happy and proud of where they work? We obtain the answer by regularly collecting employee feedback, primarily using targeted surveys.
Benchmark employee satisfaction
The methods you use for benchmarking employee satisfaction will depend on the size of your company. Because LP has several hundred employees spread across the country, surveys are an efficient and accurate way for us to gain insights into employee perceptions of their work environment and company culture. In addition to surveys, we employ several other tools to help obtain employee feedback:
- Subscribe and Survey: This method sends surveys to a group of employees who’ve opted in and asks culture and benefits questions.
- Quarterly Surveys: These surveys are more guided and go out to a larger group of employees. We use this information to gain a pulse about how people feel and identify friction areas.
- Virtual Suggestion Box: Employees are always free to send feedback to our virtual suggestion box on any topic, which often spurs many of our new ideas and initiatives.
- Leadership Communication: We also encourage our managers to keep a pulse on their people and funnel those results to higher leadership.
In addition to direct feedback, we also use metrics to judge overall employee engagement, like the number of people who open our newsletters, attend quarterly company-wide meetings or fill out response forms.
As you begin to intentionally build a positive company culture, you may find it helpful to use similar employee feedback mechanisms to benchmark current sentiment and judge progress toward improvements over time.
Once you’ve established your feedback mechanisms and gained some insight into how your employees view your organization’s culture, it’s time to build a plan for improving it.
Here are six focus areas that will start to move the needle.
1. Commit to strong communication
Employees want to know what’s happening at the upper level of their company, especially in growing businesses. So whenever it’s possible and practical, share the leadership conversations and plans.
Committing to regular, transparent communication is an effective way to show respect for your employees and can minimize rumors or fears that plans are happening in secret. Open communication also helps employees and management stay united as they work together toward company goals and objectives.
2. Build employee growth paths
Building opportunities for advancement helps both attract candidates and retain employees. It stands to reason that employees will be more engaged and productive when they can see a career path ahead of them that offers growth in salary and responsibility.
However, it’s critical that promotion paths also fill a business need. It won’t benefit the company, employee or the culture to create positions that don’t deliver value for everyone.
3. Promote from within
Promoting from within goes hand-in-hand with building employee growth paths. This practice is a great way to preserve institutional knowledge, while also showing employees appreciation for their length of service and contributions to the team.
For some roles, it may be imperative to seek outside candidates, but you’ll earn your employees’ respect if you look to your internal team first to fill open positions.
4. Take advantage of exit surveys
Many times, departing employees can offer valuable feedback on what your company culture is missing, and an exit survey is an excellent method for capturing this information.
These surveys don’t have to be complicated. Even simple questions that ask departing employees what they liked and what areas need improvement can reveal your company’s strengths and potential hidden pain points.
5. Listen and act
When you begin receiving feedback from employees, listening only goes part of the way to a positive company culture. Whatever employees are saying – such as asking for a better benefits program, more time off, revised pay models or work flexibility – remember they’re describing what a positive company culture looks like to them.
But asking for feedback and not responding with action or transparent communication can be demoralizing and negatively impact your leadership’s credibility. Ensure that feedback mechanisms offer two-way communication opportunities and follow-up from management that shows employee input does trigger action and changes or explain why not.
6. Replicate success
Are there areas or departments within your organization that have better retention and engagement statistics than others? If so, you’ll benefit by replicating those results throughout the organization.
However, to do this effectively your upper-level managers will need opportunities to talk with each other about their challenges and share their success stories. Whether that communication happens through a weekly stand-up meeting or more formal leadership retreats, replicating best practices from department to department is a free and effective way to promote positive change.
Culture is a journey, not a destination
Your commitment to fostering a positive company culture is a journey with no destination. It is always a work in progress.
Organizations that are known for strong and attractive cultures have pathways in place to stay connected with employee sentiment – and then they use that information to make meaningful improvements. While it is a process that takes time and extra effort to implement, the outcome will yield long-term returns for your organization with employees who stand proudly with you.