For employees to excel, be productive and passionate in the workplace, there needs to be an ongoing focus on fostering an environment where they feel valued and a part of the corporate culture. Trust me I know.
Working with organizations of all shapes and sizes -- from Fortune 100 companies to small startups – I have learned that placing an emphasis on developing a strong culture and an environment fueled by employee successes are two cornerstones of any high-performance organization.
When companies only utilize a top-down approach, it shows. Employees lack motivation, performance suffers and there is an aura of negativity. On the flip side, a successful corporate culture is defined by employees and carried through by their experiences and contributions. Companies that focus on cultivating unique cultures with input from within, use this as a key differentiator when it comes to recruiting and retaining top talent. But how do you employ that sort of work environment?
The Harvard Business Review notes six components of a great corporate culture: vision, values, practices, people, narrative and place. If implemented correctly, a company could see a boost between 20 and 30 percent in performance levels, compared to cultures deemed “unremarkable,” according to author Professor James L. Heskett, the author of The Culture Cycle .
As a corporate coach, I believe the first four have the most critical impact on individual and organizational success.
Here are a few pieces of insight, along with advice for implementation.
Vision. Effective leaders talk about the importance of having a vision, but it’s hard to focus on a vision when you’re in the trenches and trying to keep up with the daily grind.
I remind the business owners and execs I work with that focusing solely on the day-to-day details will not help grow their company to the next level. To get them moving in the right direction, we work on setting aside specific increments of time each month to devote to vision and integrating the vision into interactions with employees.
As an entrepreneur (or executive), consider including a vision topic at staff meetings to reinforce the behavior changes you want to see and to keep the vision alive. Ask employees questions about how they can support it, as well as one or two key things they will do differently that week to focus on their own goals and how those relate to achieving the company’s overall mission.
Values. Principles help shape every workplace and provide a set of rules for behavior, attitudes and culture. They let employees know where the stand, how they fit within the organization and how their efforts will be recognized. Most importantly, values build loyalty and trust -- two things that are especially important in smaller companies. When people share the same values around work ethic, integrity and general conduct, there tends to be a direct correlation to performance and job satisfaction. I encourage leaders to establish their corporate values by defining key behaviors annually and monitoring at quarterly check-ins.
Practices. We all know the old saying, “You are what you eat.” Translate that into organizations and it becomes, “You are what you practice.” If a company doesn’t have sound and consistent business practices, this will be revealed by employees in a less than positive light. Business practices show up everywhere -- from how internal meetings are run to customer protocol and the very essence of your brand.
Establishing solid practices from the get-go and constantly honing these practices with feedback and buy-in from your employees will ensure that the entire organization works more comfortably, effectively and efficiently.
People. Your employees are your most valuable asset, period. And in entrepreneurial environments with fewer employees, additions or replacements have a much larger effect on the overall team dynamics and the culture of the organization.
My number-one suggestion: Start with the right people and then get to know them over and over again. Do you know what motivates every individual on your team? Do they feel challenged? Are they happy in their current role? Understand each of your employees’ goals and aspirations and help them develop a plan to achieve those goals. Lastly, recognize your people for their achievements. A simple thank you or compensation lets them know that their contributions are appreciated and sets them up for future successes within your organization.
When leaders place value on growing people’s individual talents and developing a culture from within, we not only see personal success but success for the organization as a whole. Leveraging the power of your employees’ strengths will increase their productivity, reduce turnover, promote a stronger corporate culture and help propel your business to the next level.
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