How To Improve Your Company Culture

Company culture is a bit of a buzzword these days. It’s seen as the key to hiring good employees and (more importantly) keeping them. Without your people, you won’t achieve your goals. You know it matters.

But what do you do when you’ve got a business filled with red flags and no end in sight? This is how to improve your company culture, step by step. As always, I’m keeping it practical!

Red flags of bad company culture

So how do you know your company culture needs your attention? It’s one of those things you’ve got to look for and check in with on a regular basis. It’s rare that someone’s going to come and tell you “you need to improve your company culture”.

Instead, you need to know the red flags to look out for and be prepared to join the dots yourself:

  • A high employee turnover – if you’re finding yourself in a constant cycle of hiring, accepting resignations and starting the search all over again… something isn’t quite right
  • High numbers of unhappy employees – is company morale low? There might be a deeper reason for that, don’t be afraid to ask questions to uncover what’s causing your employees to feel this way
  • Lack of communication – if your employees feel like they’re not getting the whole story from their superiors, that’s going to create an environment where trust is lacking
  • Poor teamwork – do your teams enjoy working together? Do they do it well? If teamwork is a challenge, it might be time to find out why
  • High frequency of employee burnout – when your employees are always late to work, taking sick days or struggling with their energy levels, it’s rarely because they’re being lazy. Instead, this might be a sign of a lack of life-work balance
  • Office gossip – many people feel that office gossip is harmless but it can often breed a culture of negativity. And that comes from somewhere!

What do you want instead? Busting the myth of a “good” company culture

You need to know what a good company culture is before you can start to build it. When you look in the media, you’ll often see the company culture aesthetic. But you’ll rarely see what lies behind that.

A good company culture doesn’t mean free baristas or ping pong in the office. That’s the surface-level stuff.

Good company culture is about depth. Imagine your company as a person – it’s not just about the clothes they wear, it’s about who they are inside. That’s what makes you want to stick around.

Here are some key ingredients to get you started:

  • Leaders who walk the talk
  • Open and clear communication (both from leaders and your employees)
  • Employee empowerment efforts
  • Recognition and rewards for good performance and teamwork
  • Clear company values that are aligned with your mission and vision

How to improve your company culture

I need to be totally honest here: building a new company culture is no easy task. But it’s an essential one. Businesses fail because their company cultures become stuck, they don’t grow and evolve with the needs of their people. And your business deserves better than that.

Step 1: Identify the need for change

The first step sounds simple but it’s easy to fall at this first hurdle. You must acknowledge that your company culture needs to be improved.

Part of this means getting honest about what makes a good company culture. Remember, it’s about more than just surface-level benefits!

Step 2: Define what you want the company culture to be

If your company culture’s going to be truly inclusive of the people that make up your business, you need to include those people when you’re building it.

Rather than designing your company culture in a boardroom with a team of executives, get out there amongst your employees and ask them what they need to see.

Conduct surveys, hold focus groups, gather anonymised data from reviews and exit interviews. And listen carefully to what people are saying (whilst keeping your ego and expectations out of the picture!).

Step 3: Get buy-in at all levels

If you allow your company culture to be led by the data you’re collecting from your employees, it’s going to be so much easier to get them to buy-in to the new company culture. When they see their wants and needs reflected in it, they’ll be far more likely to commit to the change themselves.

That being said, don’t be afraid to experiment a little too. Look inside your company but listen to what’s going on outside it too. Are there any working trends or shifts you need to take into account, like flexible working? Leave space to test something new.

Step 4: Walk the talk of your company culture

When I polled my LinkedIn audience on the most important aspect of company culture, “leaders walk the talk” came back as the winner with 41% of the votes. And I couldn’t agree more.

Whilst you need to get buy-in at all levels, the change must come from the top. And it must be visible.

If your company culture leans heavily towards life-work balance yet your leaders regularly schedule meetings after work hours and never leave the office early? You’re showing your employees that those are the behaviours they need to model if they want to move up the promotion ladder.

In effect, you might as well not have a company culture if your leaders don’t walk the talk.

Step 5 – Implement your new and improved company culture

Now you’ve got your new company culture ready to go, it’s time to weave it into the daily activities of your business.

Make it part of your processes. Bring it into reviews, where key markers must be met. Mention it in meetings. Write about it in your reports.

Along the way, constantly review and improve. Don’t be afraid to say when you got it wrong, this needs to be an open process. Good luck!

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About the author

Lisa is a mother, a business owner, a founder, and an executive leader. She's been through it all and has come out the other side to thrive. Now she's helping you to do the same! Learn how you can find clarity and support through her services for individuals and organisations.