Company Culture

Building a positive workplace culture that sticks

Most people, from CEOs to jobseekers, recognize the importance of building a positive workplace culture. But actually doing it is more easily said than done. 

It’s one thing to understand the statistics about how 86% of job seekers avoid companies with a bad culture, or how engaged employees’ performance is 202% higher than their disengaged counterparts, or that attracting higher-quality employees leads to a 33% increase in revenue.

But what does actually building a positive workplace culture look like? Here are some tips.

Encourage open and honest communication — at all levels

Effective communication starts at the top, by managers practicing what they preach. If you want employees to be open and honest with you, you have to be open and honest with them first.

This can come in the form of responding well to both positive and negative feedback. It could involve sharing your personal struggles and triumphs.

Leading by example is a big part of building a positive workplace culture. Many people will come from other jobs, families, or communities that don’t communicate openly. As a result, they may understand the theory but struggle to implement it in practice.

Open communication will look different for every company. For some, it means sharing the highs and lows of running a business with all employees. For others, it may extend to sharing those stories with the outside world, too.

You need to know where your line is—what’s off-limits and what’s okay to talk about—and focus on the things that are within those bounds.

Prioritize mental health

Despite what many businesses claim, mental health still carries a lot of stigma in the workplace.

I’ve seen people all over the world take leaves of absence due to stress. Meanwhile, their colleagues roll their eyes believing they’re full of excuses, rather than sending them messages of support.

Or worse—their boss still asks them work-related questions, forgetting that they shouldn’t be on call, since work is likely the cause of their stress.

On average, one in six people will experience a mental health issue each week.

Mental health is also one of the primary causes of disease and disability worldwide.

Which means now is the time to not just say that mental health is important, but to show it.

You could do this by having mental health professionals available for employees to talk to. This is someone they can visit if they’re struggling mentally, much in the same way they’d visit a physical health practitioner for a muscle strain.

You could also make sure that any health insurance you offer covers mental health conditions, regardless of whether it’s a new or pre-existing condition.

And, tying back to the first point, when leaders are more open and honest about their mental health conditions, everyone else is likely to be, too. 

This openness shows that they really do understand how employees might feel. It also makes them more relatable. Which means employees are more likely to share their stories, too.

Sometimes, all it takes for someone to feel better is for them to share how they’re feeling with a person they trust. Why can’t that person be someone they work with?

The more people there are within the business who share their stories, the more comfortable quieter team members will feel being honest about theirs. Ultimately, more people will feel relieved just from being in this supportive working environment.

Get your company’s leaders on LinkedIn

Or any other social media platform your employees are engaged on.

Many senior leaders are reluctant to be active on social media, either because they don’t understand its benefits or don’t believe they have time.

The bigger the company gets, the harder it is for employees to connect with the higher-ups. Doors between each level can feel closed to employees who are newer or on a lower pay grade.

Employee newsletters may feel like a solution, but they can often be long, full of fancy formatting and imagery, and take hours to put together. They also feel more one-sided, like employees are being told what’s going on but they don’t need to get involved. So why would they read it if they don’t get a say?

Social media posts, meanwhile, are quicker to put together and allow employees to be a part of the conversation, regardless of their role.

If employees have an opinion, they can voice it knowing that someone is actually going to read what they think.

The more accessible senior leaders are, the more employees will feel like they’re a part of something and not just another cog in the wheel.

Be patient and consistent

Earning enough trust for employees to mirror your behavior takes time.

Some employees will be more willing to be open and honest than others. Some may resist the change.

But you should lead as you’d want to be led. Others will soon follow suit if you’re patient and consistent with your leadership style.

And that will contribute to building a positive workplace culture that attracts better candidates, retains employees for longer, and makes employees happier in their roles.

It starts at the top

There’s no way around it: building a positive workplace culture starts at the top. You have to set an example of the culture you want to build.

If you’re telling employees they need to be open and honest, but you’re hiding in your ivory tower, nobody is going to want to do what you say. You’re not practicing what you preach. That will lead people to think you’re disingenuous and only care about yourself and your goals.

You need to come across as human. As relatable and honest. Like someone any employee, from your second in command to the person who cleans the toilets, can approach to ask a question, or even just say hello.

Building a positive workplace culture is about breaking down silos from every angle. And, just like attracting customers, that takes time.

But if you do it right, you’re going to experience the rewards for years to come.

If you’re looking for ways to open up communication, encourage connections between employees and their peers and leaders, and drive measurable progress towards building a more positive workplace culture, check out Workrowd. Our comprehensive tool suite can help you streamline communication, increase engagement, and track and analyze culture change over time.

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