How to create a great work culture

Contributed June 22, 2021 by Cheryl Viola, Executive Director, MBA

Company culture affects nearly every aspect of the company. Recruiting top talent and improving employee satisfaction are the backbone of a happy workforce. Today businesses face the challenge of attracting and retaining employees. Some workers are returning to the same companies with slightly different jobs and others are searching for new jobs. Throughout our lifetime, we will spend one-third of our life at work. This is why finding an enjoyable work culture and a good fit is important.

I read a great article in Harvard Business Review about work cultures. The article explained that many people describe their work culture as ‘the way things are done here.” There are three elements to a culture: behaviors, systems, and practices. Some people look for perks. We hear stories of fortune 500 companies like google that have created a fun work environment that includes lunch, a gym, and for some even daycare. Not many businesses have the luxury of being able to offer those kinds of perks.

As people are returning to work, some have had to find new jobs and one of the things at the top of the priority list is finding a work culture that fits you. When I speak to employees in a variety of industries, they all say the most important cultural element for them is transparency from the top down. Workers are feeling less in touch with their teams than before. We have the opportunity to re-invent the work culture. Some people discovered they enjoy working from home. Others have felt disconnected and out of touch. One local business owner told me that they send handwritten notes. They celebrate employee milestones and have built a culture where people feel loved and cared for.

Leaders have a tremendous opportunity to improve the work culture:

  • Initiative is Key
    • If something isn’t working find a new way of working to address it. Some team members may not seem as available. Maybe you feel you are not getting enough informal time with your boss. Maybe you realize you need more structure for your days. Address the issue proactively with grace, empathy, and an eye for a solution.
  • Share your preferences
    • Our personal lives are more integrated with our work lives than ever before. If you work best in the morning, do so. If less travel is working better for you be sure to communicate that. Not all preferences will be able to be honored, be a part of the solution to contribute to a culture where people can work, share and apply what they have learned about what works best.
  • Engage spontaneously
    • Be proactive to stay connected. Connection happens with intention. Give a colleague a call outside of a scheduled meeting. Send a text, leave a voicemail. Let others know you care and think of them. Recently I visited with a volunteer who is having some tough challenges in their personal life. I asked how they were doing. This person said that they had to keep laughing or they would cry. I asked if they needed a hug and they responded that a hug would make them fall apart. Others need to be aware that they are noticed. We are all dealing with things outside of work and to many, the kind word saying “how are you doing? I was thinking of you” means more than you will ever know.
  • Be responsible
    • This means to be responsive to others. Accountability means your available to people in a timely manner. Strong work culture is cultivating by empathic leaders. Employees need to feel valued. Regardless of the position or duty, each person plays an integral part in the success and growth of the business.

Recently I was told that I had some character flaws. They included: integrity, honesty, transparency, and accountability. Of course, these were said with humor, and are not flaws at all but strengths. To build a strong work culture we want all our leaders to have these character strengths.

John Maxwell said: “Who you attract is not determined by what you want. It is determined by who you are…leaders help shape the culture of their organizations based on who they are and what they do.”

Employees are loyal to people. The better the leaders, the better the work culture people will stay.