When you think about building a team or company where employees are engaged, motivated, and excited to stick around for a while, there's likely one word you've heard again and again: culture. And for good reason—the vibe of your office and the people who come to work there every day has a huge impact on your happiness, and your overall success.
But, fostering a vibrant and cohesive culture doesn't happen overnight—and it certainly doesn't happen by accident. So, let's dive into everything you need to know about company culture—including how you can cultivate a positive one within your own organization.
Why Is Culture Such a Big Deal?
The best way to think about culture? It's the personality of your company. Culture culminates your organization's mission, values, and beliefs to form the overarching spirit of your workplace as a whole. And, much like with people, personality matters.
Culture has proven to directly correlate with a number of factors that are important to both employers and employees alike.
Take employee retention, for example. A Columbia University study discovered that the likelihood of turnover at companies with rich cultures is a mere 13.9 percent. At companies with poor company cultures? It's a whopping 48.4 percent.
Job satisfaction is another key component. Understandably, employees who believe their workplaces have a positive culture are much happier in their careers—which is beneficial for everyone when you consider that happy employees are 12 percent more productive than the average worker.
How to Foster a Winning Company Culture
And while the perks of a positive culture are numerous, that doesn't mean that you can close your eyes, click your heels together, and have it all magically fall into place.
Like anything else, cultivating a great culture requires conscious thought, planning, and effort. Here's what you can do to establish a winning work environment within your own company.
It all starts with outlining the exact culture you want to foster. Do you want a laid back and casual work environment? A fast-paced and high-energy office where there's a lot of drive to innovate and excel? An emphasis on professional development? Or, a focus on giving back to the community?
Figure out the values and elements that are important to your company. And, all employees should be invited to participate in this conversation so they can provide insights into the way your workplace is perceived. Plus, they deserve a say in how this takes shape, since they're the ones who work within your culture day in and day out.
But once you have the culture that you want defined, you don't get to sit back and watch as it takes effect. You need to make the necessary changes to actually live your culture, and lead by example.
For example, perhaps you've identified a supportive management style as a key pillar of your desired culture. From regularly scheduled one-on-ones to plenty of formal and informal feedback sessions, how will you instill that concept into daily life for your entire team?
Defining your culture is really only the first step—you need to be prepared to act on the values that you've outlined.
There's nothing like a pat on the back for a job well done—and that holds true for employees of all ranks and departments. Showing genuine appreciation for the hard work that team members put in makes them feel valued and respected, critical for employee satisfaction.
While formal rewards and recognition programs are great, this should be a value that's pervasive throughout your entire office, to create a culture of appreciation and encourage team work.
Even if it's a compliment passed from one employee to another or a piece of praise from a superior, remember that recognition doesn't need to be formal to be effective. The more these sorts of commendations become commonplace, the more positive and supportive your whole environment will be.
Everybody wants to be productive in the office. But, not too many people actively seek out a culture that's all work and absolutely no play.
When you spend so much time with your colleagues during any given week, it's natural (and even encouraged!) to want to get to know them on a personal level outside of the office.
This is why some of the liveliest and most vibrant cultures encourage plenty of social interaction amongst their employees—whether it's kickball leagues, holiday parties, game nights, or even a company-sponsored retreat or getaway.
If you aren't in a position to institute a company-wide event or tradition, get an impromptu happy hour on the calendar with some of your team members. Any sort of fun outing with your co-workers will strengthen your bonds and lead to a positive, close-knit culture.
Some of the most beloved company cultures have at least one thing in common: they all make sure that employees are able to take care of themselves—both inside the office and out.
In today's constantly-connected society, there's much less separation between our work and personal lives. And organizations with thriving cultures empower their employees to bring their whole, authentic selves to work, while doing their best to maintain their health and happiness.
Whether it's a reimbursed gym membership, flexible work schedules, or even the option to work remotely occasionally, companies who place their focus on results and encourage self-care tend to have happier employees who are motivated to stick around.
Nobody wants to feel like just another cog in a wheel. To establish a winning culture within your own company, you need to be able to help employees look beyond their immediate to-do list and understand the greater purpose they're serving.
Maybe your team members are motivated by knowing how their work contributes to the organization as a whole. Or, maybe your staff finds involvement in various charity and community efforts particularly inspiring.
The important thing is to encourage people to step outside themselves and see the forest—instead of just the trees.
One look at the numerous benefits and it becomes obvious that company culture is irrefutably important, but knowing how to establish and foster one within your own company can be daunting.
The important thing to remember is that culture isn't something that just happens. It takes work and active participation—from both employers and employees. When both band together in the interest of living your company's values, you're sure to end up with a winning work environment.
Photo of people working in office courtesy of vgajic/Getty Images.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, productivity, and the freelance life. In addition to The Muse, she's a contributor all over the web and dishes out research-backed advice for places like Atlassian, Trello, Toggl, Wrike, The Everygirl, FlexJobs, and more. She's also an Employment Advisor at a local college, and loves helping students prepare to thrive in careers (and lives!) they love. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her two rescue mutts or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author
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