The last few years have been a rollercoaster ride for organizations. We’ve faced a global pandemic, a nationwide workforce disruption, and an increasing pressure to deliver a modern employee experience. Our relationship with work is evolving. And a strong company culture can be a lifeline during challenges and a driving force behind success. Corporate culture can be hugely influential on business outcomes. According to PwC’s Global Culture Survey, “67% of executives say culture has become as important as strategy and operations to success.”
Workplace culture is the common thread that ties all people at your organization together and unites them through shared values and in pursuit of common goals. Ultimately, culture is a reflection of your organization’s “why”. Everyone plays an important role in reinforcing work culture, regardless of the level, role, or length of employment.
Research shows time and time again that organizations that pay attention to and develop a strong culture position themselves to attract and retain employees, increase profits, stand out from competitors, endure challenges, and support high-productivity employees.
“There are too many rockstar brands that will swear the only reason they’re number one in their competitive set, regardless of whatever they sell, is their culture. And I would go a step further and say it’s because of their people who are perpetuating the culture, exuding the culture,” says Jim Knight, keynote speaker, author, and training and development expert.
That’s to say, a strong culture depends on your people. Culture will not benefit your organization if it’s not part of your conversations, your behaviors, your decisions, and your employee experience.
A strong culture is not only built by employees, it also benefits them in the long run. When they find that ideal match, employee well-being and engagement increase. Employees that feel their best and are highly engaged are more likely to stay at your organization—and sing your praises to people they know. The better question is, how do you improve your company culture to capture all of those benefits?
Like any other initiative, improving culture is a process that will take time. It doesn’t stop with defining your corporate culture. You then need to implement strategies that showcase it and win employee buy-in.
Let’s explore eight strategies for building and improving company culture.
One of the best ways to build company culture is to connect employees to purpose. PwC’s study on purpose in the workplace uncovered that finding meaning in day-to-day work is vital for 83% of employees. And Millennials, in particular, are over five times more likely to stay at organizations where they feel strongly connected to the organization’s purpose. But don’t overlook other generations; they’re also more likely to stay when connected to purpose.
Be Intentional about communicating organizational successes and setbacks. Get your team together after major milestones to discuss what went well, what they’d like to change next time, and any stand-out moments. Taking time to explore your work can help employees connect with purpose—theirs and the organization’s. Leadership-led company-wide meetings can help articulate and reinforce the organization’s purpose. Leverage a centralized communication platform (like Paylocity’s Community) to share company updates in an easy-to-use and engaging feed.
Celebrate individual and company-wide wins. Rewards (more on that below) for achievements related to the organization’s purpose can encourage employee engagement. So can frequent check-ins and goal setting. Share wins publicly and in real-time through a recognition platform to consistently showcase how individuals are connected to your organization’s purpose.
Of working Americans who describe their work culture as “good” or “very” good, 75% say organizational values guided them through the pandemic. So, refer to values often. It’s not enough to have a poster on the wall or to grant access to a list of values in your employee portal. Values need to be lived by every person at every level and role in the organization.
Develop media that showcases your values. Create a video to explain your values and put together bite-sized training modules to show employees what those values look like in day-to-day scenarios they’re likely to encounter. Establish what individual behaviors contribute to everybody rowing in the same direction. Ultimately, a values-driven company culture becomes like a system, where every part is connected, and the behaviors that are most likely to contribute to success are embodied company wide.
Only one in six employees say they feel highly connected to their organization and its people, according to an Accenture report on organizational culture.
A strong corporate culture depends on how connected employees are across your organization. Siloes are roadblocks to successful culture building, and it’s important to look at connection as a multidimensional effort. Employees need to connect across roles and departments. They also need to connect on both a personal and professional level.
Start weaving connection into the employee experience from day one. Connection starts with the onboarding process and continues throughout the employee lifecycle. Instead of reviewing and signing piles of paperwork, have new hires watch welcome videos from senior leadership and teammates. Take new hires out for lunch on their first day to get to know them better. Provide ample opportunity for new hires to connect with peers in digital team groups. Make it clear from Day One that connection is part of your culture.
Provide a place for employees to connect on multiple levels. A culture-friendly communication platform allows you to set up groups based on interests (pet owners), departments (sales), or initiatives (new product launches). Paylocity's Community has an Ask the Expert feature that enables employees to field questions and learn from each other. What’s important is that HR and leadership show employees the ropes by using features like impressions, chat, and starting discussions.
There are strong ties between employee recognition and positive company culture. What’s more, affirmation, feedback, and rewards are effective motivators that encourage employees to perform their best. Infusing this into your culture allows employees to feel consistently valued, and all parties benefit.
Publicly share individual successes. If you have a social collaboration tool (like Paylocity's Community), utilize it to broadcast successes, connect them to an organizational goal, and acknowledge individual contributors. When leaders and people managers set the tone for connecting outcomes to purpose, it makes it more likely employees will engage with peer-to-peer recognition.
Prioritize goal setting and career growth. One reason employees left positions during The Great Resignation is because there were fewer opportunities for advancement. Sit down with your employee and create a roadmap for achieving their professional goals. Investing in performance management software can make it easy to log achievements, set goals, and track professional development over time. The time spent investing in employee ambitions can be a rewarding experience and should be an important part of your retention strategy.
Learn More: 16 Employee Appreciation Ideas to Show Gratitude
In a 2021 survey of American workers, half of the respondents indicated that a lack of communication contributed to deteriorating work culture during the pandemic. And only one in four employees say leaders communicate regularly. Regardless of whether or not your workforce is in the office, in the field, or fully remote, maintaining strong communication is critical to building and maintaining company culture.
Actively solicit employee feedback. The easiest way to improve communication is to survey your employees about communication preferences. You can design a survey to ask employees how much communication they want, when, and what tools they prefer. Many employees want mobile options because it’s the technology they use daily and are most comfortable with. Offering communication on multiple devices gives employees the flexibility and freedom they want.
Schedule regular check-ins between employees and managers. Provide employees with structured time to touch base, voice concerns, ask questions, and problem-solve. One technique is to schedule stay interviews at least annually with employees to find out why they stay and what else they need to succeed.
Employee satisfaction can plummet when employees are under the thumb of micromanagement. The research shows that employees who have time autonomy—the ability to choose when and where they work—report positive impacts on employee experience elements like belonging, motivation, trust in leadership, trust in the team, and mental well-being. What do all of these factors have in common? They represent employee engagement.
When employees perceive the fruits of their labor as self-directed, they’re more likely to be engaged, satisfied, and productive. So how can you embed autonomy in your work culture?
Show your employees you trust them. Let them make decisions. Have an employee that played a key role in a project lead the client presentation. Ask for their input on strategy and direction. Train managers and leaders to step back and let employees contribute.
Invest in self-service technology. You can also give your employees autonomy in other ways, such as opting for HRIS software with self-service options. That way, employees can clock in and out, check paystubs, request time off, and update personal data without needing HR to hold their hands. In turn, HR can eliminate administrative burdens and focus on high-level work. You can also empower employees to take advantage of professional development opportunities through self-guided courses or peer-driven training sessions hosted in a Learning Management System.
McKinsey’s American Opportunity Survey indicates that when employees have flexible work options, 87% embrace them. Controlling how your employees work can cause them to disconnect and divest from corporate culture, so it’s important to listen to your employees needs when it comes to scheduling and work environments. But flexibility doesn’t just mean offering remote or hybrid workspaces. Industries and roles that can’t support a telecommuting option can still provide levels of flexibility for their workforce.
Try these strategies for incorporating flexibility, whether your organization is hybrid, remote, or on-site:
Get to know your employees’ preferences for work environments. Some employees may need in-person touchpoints to succeed in their roles. Others still may not have the setup necessary to succeed remotely. For employees needing quiet, uninterrupted time to do their best work, your open-office layout may not be the best environment for their productivity. The best way to build a flexible work culture is to tap into the needs of your employees. Leverage surveys or one-on-one meetings to understand what flexibility means to your unique workforce.
Offer flexibility on the shift level. If your industry makes embracing hybrid or remote options challenging, consider shift swapping. Not only does this give employees control over their schedule, but it’s also a strategy for ensuring shifts are covered.
According to SHRM, half of employees believe they need to learn new skills in the next year. Yet, one-third feel less-than-optimistic about opportunities to learn those skills. A majority—80%—don’t believe their employer offers growth opportunities. And organizations that fall short with professional development offerings may see employee retention drop.
Employers can make a strong commitment to professional development by embracing a culture of learning. Embed learning into your culture by making employee development opportunities easily accessible and a part of regular-work life.
Go digital to meet your employees’ learning and development needs. A robust learning management system (LMS) should offer flexible learning options like webinars, eCourses, and bite-sized video learning. Better yet, an LMS with mobile capabilities means employees can learn and grow wherever and whenever they want.
Create individual development plans. To show employees that L&D is top of mind, establish a growth plan with new hires immediately, track progress over time in your talent management software, and celebrate when they achieve their goals. Connect learning and development to other parts of the employee experience, such as promotions, raises, and as part of your recognition programs.
As many organizations have remote or hybrid work environments, it’s vital to know how to improve culture virtually. Hybrid and remote teams can still foster a strong company culture by embracing a flexible, connected, and consistent employee experience. Consider the following tactics:
Check out our article on building a hybrid work culture for more tips on connecting with your employees in an increasingly remote world.
Only 21% of employees are engaged at work, and only 33% are genuinely thriving. Thankfully, there are a variety of strategies HR teams can use to address this engagement gap and strengthen company culture.
Many of the aforementioned strategies can be executed with the right HR technology. To truly maximize the potential of your organization, you need a sophisticated HR and payroll solution that goes beyond just automation. Learn more about how HR tech can be a valuable asset when building connection and culture in the workplace.