Every company wants candidates and employees who have a positive, can-do attitude. But in our experience, that positivity is something that can be developed from the inside out by a company’s values and overall working culture. Creating such a culture is the tricky part, though. That’s why we’ve penned this blog!
Read on to learn about building a positive workplace culture, including its importance and best practices you can follow to make sure your company’s working culture measures up.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CREATING A POSITIVE WORK CULTURE
Companies that create a positive workplace culture always feel the benefits. That’s because happy employees, who feel valued and encouraged to grow, tend to stay where they are and work diligently to achieve the business’s targets alongside their own career goals.
Some of the most well-rounded candidates we see come from companies with just this kind of culture. Naturally, there are precious few of them on the jobs market at any one time – and making your organisation as attractive to the ones that are is likely to be a win-win for all concerned.
Which brings us to…
HOW TO CREATE A POSITIVE WORKPLACE CULTURE
These are the do's and don’ts of creating a positive work culture that can not only help you retain your best people, but also attract the talent you’ll need to take your business to the next level.
GET YOUR TEAM TOGETHER REGULARLY - BUT RESPECT YOUR PEOPLE'S TIME, TOO
Getting your people together is a great way to disseminate the information you need them to know. You can share successes, offer solutions to problems, facilitate discussion so people feel heard, and catch up about project progress. Whether it’s just one department, a cross-functional working group or even a company ‘town hall’ style meeting, get-togethers help everyone buy into your culture and sing from the same hymn sheet.
Booking too many meetings, however, has the reverse effect. It creates meeting fatigue and gives rise to that old saying “this meeting could have been an email.”
Worse still, when employees have a hectic workload, and unnecessary meetings are then layered on top, they can eat into people’s work-life balance and even lead to employees feeling resentful. That makes scheduling meetings one of the big do's and don’ts of creating a positive work culture.
OFFER FREE FOOD - BUT NOT AS AN INCENTIVE OR REWARD FOR COMPLIANCE
This point ties into the one directly above. Putting on a good spread of food and drink is a great way to create a convivial atmosphere before a company meeting, and can make people feel that their needs are cared about. However, if the length or frequency of said meetings directly impacts an employee’s quality of life (in the office or otherwise), suddenly the snacks can start to feel more like bribery and employees can quickly lose their appetite – for your food, and your company culture.
It all comes back to that salient point about respecting people’s time, and treating them well in a way they care about – not just giving them the things you as a company think they should care about. Which brings us to…
ASK EMPLOYEES WHAT THEY WANT - AND COMMUNICATE AROUND THE CHOICES YOU REJECT
When considering how to create a positive workplace culture, it doesn’t get simpler than just asking employees what they want. You can do it in person, or using digital survey tools that offer a layer of anonymity. But either way, employees love feeling like their voice is being heard.
However, expectation management around this can be critical. If you find early survey participation is high but then drops off a cliff, it’s likely to be because your people don’t feel they were listened to and lost faith because of it. Acting on the good suggestions (and making it evident that you did) while also explaining your reasoning for the initiatives or ideas you’ve turned down, can be one of the smartest ways to create a positive work culture.
MAKE A BIG DEAL ABOUT PERSONAL CAUSES - BUT BE CONGRUENT IN YOUR HR PRACTICES
One of the more interesting reasons for leaving a company we’ve heard recently revolved around a candidate’s mental health. Their employer, they explained, had run a business-wide initiative to raise awareness around the issue of emotional abuse in the home. They’d even put up posters advertising a mental health charity, and held regular drop-in public forums offering advice on how employees could better manage their mental health.
This all seemed very progressive, so when the candidate themselves started to suffer experiences in their personal life similar to those mentioned on the posters, they told us they had initially felt relieved they could go to their management team to seek support.
Unfortunately, in practice, not only did their employer not understand the situation or its effects, they actually glossed over it in future performance-related meetings, and failed to make mention of it in any official HR write-ups. The candidate told us they sourced separate resources to support their mental health, and inwardly made the decision to leave shortly thereafter.
This shows that, in a working world that’s growing ever more tolerant and empathetic, one fundamental way to create a positive work culture is to create a safe space where employees can be vulnerable with, and seek support from, their managers. The kind of loyalty this can earn from employees can be invaluable.
Conversely, not doing so can be one of the fastest ways to lose the loyalty of people who are experiencing personal challenges and feel less than supported by your organisation.
OFFER FLEXIBILE WORKING PATTERNS - BUT WITH SENSIBLE GUIDELINES
Flexible working will be one of the most attractive things employers can offer in the post-pandemic working world. This can mean:
- The ability to work from home or in the office
- Starting work earlier or later and finishing in line with that
- The ability to purchase more holiday time in exchange for money off your monthly salary – or to sell back any holiday over the company’s minimum number of contracted holiday days
- Or even the ability to work over and accumulate flexi-time, which can then be used at a later date for an early finish or even entire days off.
At the same time, the working world is an intricate system where few people work in isolation (even those located in their own home office). One person’s workload can often depend on another completing a task, and flexible hours can occasionally prevent the needed collaboration from happening – which can, ironically, actually serve to frustrate your highest-performing employees.
The importance of creating a positive work culture should not be overlooked, and flexible working is a vital part of that. But as many businesses transition to a hybrid hot desk working model, it would also be wise to put in place practices and policies that make sure flexible working doesn’t undermine overall productivity, and to communicate those to employees in a timely and relatable manner.
OFFER PROGRESSION AND PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT - WITHOUT FORCING IT ON ANYONE
We love go-getters. People determined to prove themselves, climb the career ladder and achieve great things are the lifeblood of our business and our industry. They’re also the candidates who can push your business to greater heights, making finding and retaining such talent a challenging but worthwhile endeavour.
And because those people want to feel like they can achieve all of their dreams with your company, that makes offering clear progression and personal development opportunities essential to the importance of a positive work culture.
At the same time, not everyone is a go-getter. Some people might be ambitious but simply not in the right place to pursue career development. For instance, is a new parent who’s just returned to work going to be in the right headspace to focus on their career goals, when just getting a decent sleep is their biggest challenge at home? Or is a contractor going to take your personal development process seriously when their contract is due to expire before the planned review date comes around?
Fashioning an environment where employees feel they can learn, grow and be appreciated is one of the very best ways to create a positive work culture. So, by all means, seek to create that – but also, be mindful not to force it on those who want to grow along different lines.
Instead, why not ask them what those lines might be? It could be that the skills which interest them can’t be gained in your department – but might well be offered by a different area of your business. Present that option instead, and make it their choice whether or not they explore it.
RECOGNISE ACHIEVEMENTS - WHILE RESPECTING PEOPLE'S RIGHT TO PRIVACY
We mentioned celebrating successes earlier, and it’s worth reiterating here that reinforcing accomplishments is one of the do’s of creating a positive work culture. Overdoing that, however, can also be one of the don’ts.
Organisations are made up of all kinds of personalities. So while you’ll want your people to all be team players, there are those for whom a job well done, coupled with a “great job” from their manager and a positive performance review, will be all the reward they really need. Publicly showering praise on employees in team gatherings isn’t for everyone, and should be used with restraint to celebrate the truly big wins.
However, if you’ve decided that recognition is one of the ways to create a positive work culture in your business, a more low-key option could instead be to use a recognition tool. These allow your team to digitally call out the people in the company who made their work lives better, without making a big deal about it in public.