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By Margaret Wood, Oct 21, 2016

Thousands of companies globally are making sweeping changes in improving workplace cultures. Creating the best culture  can be challenging – especially when working with a vastly diverse group of people.  Not only are workgroups diverse ethnically, religiously and politically, but companies now employ multiple generations that have to work as teams, compounding the challenges. Although team members are held equally accountable and held to the same standards, communicating with such a mixed group can be very stressful if the workplace culture is not setup to accommodate this diversity.

One of the factors driving these efforts is that many companies now face the  highest levels of low-morale, as well as disconnected and outbound employees. Top executives understand the importance of retention, realizing that the alternative is very costly in terms of lost skills, lost knowledge and costly recruiting and training of new personnel.

Here, we examine some of the issues as well as some proven methods that have been successfully utilized in dealing with improving workplace culture.

Spending too much time at work?

Many of us would agree that we spend more time than we should or we would like to dealing with work.Let’s examine some of the factors:

  • 8-10 hours a day in the office
  • Personal time invested on nights/weekends preparing presentations, reports, and other work-related projects
  • Work/Life balance is disrupted

This does not allow for a healthy workplace culture – today’s employees are dealing with more stress factors than ever, coming at them from all directions, exacerbating low morale, such as:

  • Deadlines
  • Demanding Leadership
  • Relationships – personal and professional
  • Daycare
  • Health care
  • Personal finances…etc.
  • Personal Health/Wellness
  • Job security
  • …and many more!

Unfortunately, no one can maintain this pace with no relief in sight. Thus, the burnout and the flight in search of the “perfect work home”. Once a person feels they have reached the point of diminishing return, their productivity declines, they become demotivated, a vicious cycle begins and the downward spiral commences.

People become discouraged, depressed, disappointed and perhaps even angry with themselves at their inability to be as productive as they once were. Reports are late, the error rate increases and people on both sides of the fence become irritable and less accommodating; some may even start to feel persecuted; some start to fear the loss of their jobs. Some simply move on.

The majority of today’s companies make  every effort to prevent things from degrading  to this point . However, over the course of time, top management changes, policies change etc. and it may take a while for things to start going awry, unless you have a watchdog group, such as HR, to focus on behavioral changes before they become problematic. If not, your company may fall victim to declined engagement.

Of course the optimum time to address workplace culture is BEFORE issues become apparent; this is not always possible. However, once these symptoms start to manifest themselves in your company,  that is the perfect opportunity to re-evaluate and consider what actions are necessary for improving workplace culture, re-engaging your employees and getting things back on track.

Successful organizations are constantly evaluating the workplace environment. By remaining proactive, they seek ways to improve workplace culture at every turn. They are constantly seeking new opportunities to motivate people. In turn, employees who are satisfied, feel appreciated and are motivated to show up, contribute more and work harder. The success of the company becomes important to them. They are totally engaged.

It’s too expensive! The more we give the more they want!

It is easy to experience that feeling. Have you ever considered that what you are giving is what YOU want them to have and not really what THEY want? Have you ever asked them what they REALLY want?

  • What measures do you have in place that contribute to a healthy workplace culture?
  • Do you have a reward system in place? Is it applied equitably?
  • What perks or benefits do you have besides insurance, 401k etc?

If you have you ever worked for an organization where “your pay check was your reward”  prevailed, you understand how unappreciated and insignificant it makes one feel.     A paycheck is not a reward – A paycheck is compensation for services performed. You pay the dentist when he fixes your tooth, don’t you? Same principle applies here.

A company has a contractual obligation to pay its employee for having performed the work requested of them. This old-school mentality will eventually break down communication, and trust; it also breeds a loss of appreciation, responsibility, and obligation, leading to the loss of good employees.

With a reward system in place, you will have happier, more engaged and more productive employees who feel valued and appreciated, making their job and your company more attractive. When feeling appreciated, employees are enthused and contribute more and stay longer. Whereas the average employee may stay 2-3 years, with a GREAT workplace culture, they may stay 5,6 or 10 years!

The reward system does not have to be grand or difficult to implement.  A $5 giftcard to Starbucks for beating a deadline, a $10 gift card to Subway for each team member involved in meeting  monthly quota, etc., is all it may take to turn things around and will greatly contribute to improving workplace culture. Teams will work even harder next time! Be ready to up the ante. “Going the extra mile” should be rewarded!

What kinds of incentives and rewards should I offer?

Keeping your employees engaged is critical.  Competitive wages are essential for attracting and retaining the best people.  However, today’s workforce demands more – they want the “whole package”. To keep employees engaged, your organization needs to offer  employee incentives and rewards as part of the package. Keep in mind that compensation and benefits are only a part of what today’s workforce is seeking. Recognition and rewards are high on their list of “must-haves”.

Sales managers are well-informed on motivating a workforce – a motivated sales force  is a successful workforce. A successful workforce translates into a successful business. Through a variety of programs such as contests, commissions, bonuses and promotions, employees remain engaged in succeeding. If they remain engaged, they will invariably push themselves harder, creating the ultimate win-win situation.

There are several approaches to improving workplace culture. Through reward and recognition programs, your staff feels appreciated and are incentivized to contribute.

  • Reward innovation—encouraged employees to suggest ways to improve customer satisfaction, operations, the customer service experience, or profitability.
  • Share the financial benefits of any idea that proves to be successful. For a very small financial investment, your employees may come up with excellent ideas to improve market share, revenues, and profits.

Employee recognition programs are known to offer some of the biggest benefits for the lowest investment, and will jumpstart your efforts to improve workplace culture. Everyone likes to be rewarded and compensated for a job well done. Recognition is very high on the list for today’s workforce.

  • Celebrate “Salesperson of the Month”
  • Require managers and supervisors to personally interact with each of their direct reports on a regular basis, whether daily or weekly
  • Get creative and recognize such things as “Most Improved Salesperson”,  “Manager for a Day”, etc.
  • Get your team to do a  performance evaluation on you – the most entertaining, the most bizarre, the most whatever, wins $50!

By improving morale and motivating the workforce, you will automatically be improving workplace culture. Show them that you appreciate their contributions and that you care.

Off-site Team-building

Improving morale and encouraging loyalty bonds can be accomplished in a variety of ways.

  • Off-site team building is highly effective, building camaraderie as well as allowing the team to blow off a little steam, all of which help improve workplace culture.
  • It can be anything from soccer games, to go-cart racing, sponsoring Friday after-work pizza parties, etc., anything that helps re-energized the staff.

Efforts such as these make a great impact on improving workplace culture and creates a more committed staff, contributing to the overall success of the business.

Motivate Through Competition

Competition -it’s in the human genome!  Motivating people through friendly competition is highly effective.  In a competitive situation, people will naturally work harder, knowing there is a reward at stake! Create realistic, attainable benchmarks – then reward the team!

Tuition reimbursement

Tuition reimbursement is a BIG incentive and morale booster that helps improve the workplace culture.  Today’s workforce strives to continually “grow”, through education and workplace challenges. Tuition reimbursement is an effective way to demonstrate your investment in their personal development.

Another form of investing in your workforce is to bring in experts and have mini-seminars on relative topics. You can also provide these via interactive webcasts.  Your employees will feel appreciated and more engaged when you offer fair compensation AND knowledge.

Pre-shift meetings

Sam’s does it. Costco does it. Walmart does it. Lowes does it. Surely these mega-businesses must know what they’re doing! Other than seasonal personnel, the turnover rate is very low amongst full time employees.

By holding a brief “stand up meeting”, usually done pep-rally style, prior to the real workday beginning,  not only sets the tone, but allows the dissemination of  important information keeping your team members connected and “in the loop”. Setting the tone in this manner is a very effective way to improve the workplace culture, stirring enthusiasm and promoting engagement. Employees will rally other employees when enthused.

Assessment time

All businesses have a lot to do, rushing from one project to the next, without taking time out to assess the last one. Holding a meeting after a project has been completed allows everyone to gain perspective on what transpired. This is the only road to continual improvement. If mistakes were made, and without a time out to evaluate, the mistakes will continue. By the same token, if the project was a success, take time out to evaluate the positive aspects and celebrate. This provides the much-needed feedback to help improve workplace culture as well as future performance, providing some “breathing room” before the next project.

Implementing some or all of these techniques will undoubtedly help in improving your workplace culture tremendously. Your teams becomes motivated, you create a better environment for your employees and, at the end of the day,  it all trickles down to the bottom line .

How to know you’ve succeeded

If an employee’s  job is sucking the life out of them, great pay and great benefits don’t mean anything.  You need a great culture in order to have a great company . If the culture is dragging everyone down, it doesn’t really matter how commendable your the company’s mission.

It’s easy to spot fantastic culture, even from a distance. . The integrity of your workplace culture will speak for itself–you will be inundated with resumes.

Here are 6 GREAT benchmarks that let you know you have succeeded in creating or improving workplace culture:

1. Minimal Turnover
Satisfied employees have no reason to leave- that’s a positive sign that you are on the right track! Minimal turnover means your workplace culture is admirable!

2. When you have a job opening, people are lining up
When people are clamoring to be a part of your organization, you can rest on your laurels-your workplace culture is first rate!

3.  Employees as a Close-Knit Group
Successful off-site events demonstrate that your employees value their peer relationships and that they have forged powerful bonds. Companies with superb workplace cultures nurture these types of relationships.

4. Feeling like they are making a difference
Employees understand that they matter in environments with strong workplace cultures.Their personal success, the team’s success and the organization’s success are equally important.

5. Constant Contact
People  cannot work together if they don’t share the same knowledge–Communication and dialogues should be ongoing.

6. Transparency, Trust, Honest
These are important aspects about great workplace cultures.There is never any  fear of  retaliation for raising legitimate concerns. Open communication fosters growth and change, grow, allowing the company to evolve.

Once achieved, by maintaining high standards, the dynamics shift and relationships improve radically–teams succeed, the company succeeds.