The headlines, articles and research continue to prove that a great work environment and culture deliver better results to any business. Happy team members, delivers better product and service — resulting in happy customers and happy (healthy) bottom lines.
It is all connected in my view and has always been the most important factor in building our marketing agency in Scottsdale from the beginning. There is no magical formula to building a great culture, but we have been fortunate (and recognized a few times around) for what we have created. The key to putting any of these culture basics to work for your organization (small, medium, large company, department, team, group, etc.) is knowing a company culture is very dynamic and constantly shifting, changing, growing — putting these 7 culture principles into action amid that change is a great way to start.
1. Participation / Engagement
Great cultures can’t come from the top down, it may start with the executive leadership, butthere has to be buy in and engagement from all levels of the organization. If you feel your culture needs a boost, it can start with a simple dialogue on your team or amid key leaders in your organization. Don’t hesitate to ask: what can we do to change our culture, what is working, what isn’t — and then most importantly, take action – include all levels in the opportunity to discuss or find solutions. Engagement also comes from encouraging everyone to contribute ideas and putting those ideas into motion, making them part of the process and part of the team that will make it happen. Participation can’t feel forced, it has to come from those that want the chance to make a difference or contribute in a unique way.
Name some of the best brands for customer service and a key component is a culture of autonomy between the organization, its employees and its customers. Disney, Nordstrom, Ritz Carlton … the best brands and customer experiences often come from interactions with employees that are empowered to make informed decisions right in the moment with the customer. The words: “I can’t do anything without my managers approval …” can often create a negative gap between the brand and the customer (regardless of the industry or product) Clearly there are instances where there needs to be additional point of views, but great cultures require trusting individuals to perform and operate with autonomy. In a creative workplace, the lack of autonomy can drain any creative approach and delivery of a great creative product. Building autonomy within a team can be one of the greatest challenges for an organization. I know at Ideas Collide it is one we continue to evolve and try to make a priority. It’s a delicate balance of needing to get the right eyes and input on a project but still make a designer, programmer, project manager have that sense of pride in their work by feeling they are trusted and empowered to make the right decision to deliver an amazing result and a happier customer.
I’ve always maintained (and I’m sure the team in our office may get tired of hearing it) but you can’t have a great culture if you don’t make every individual accountable for their work/actions and hold them accountable to the mission, vision and values the organization and team is working collective together to attain. You can have fun events, great company perks, and great flexible policies — but without accountability at the core, it will erode the culture and frustrate individuals.
4. Reward & Recognition
Make sure your team is feeling the love – by that I mean, reward and recognize. It’s easy to get stuck in the daily/weekly/monthly minutiae of the work cycle and forgot to recognize an individual or team’s hard work and success. Ingrain a system of recognition in your culture by allowing team members to give rewards and “shout-outs” to one another – at ICMC we hold “brag sessions” during our weekly morning meeting and reward those with the most team recognitions a gift card and premium parking. Whether big or small, weekly rewards and recognitions can go a long way in making a team member feel valued.
5. Focus on Strengths
A great work culture can be even stronger and more unified when management teams work to focus on individual strengths over gaps in performances that are weaknesses. Sometimes those weaknesses may need to be addressed, but build a team by focusing on everyone’s strengths first. Ask on day one: what are you great at doing? What is your strength? Always be building from there first. The results will surprise you and the impact on culture can transform an entire organization.
As noted at the beginning of this list, cultures are dynamic and always changing. So are teams, customers, client demands and more. The reality of a fast paced, always changing marketplace means companies, teams and the cultures that are built around them must have flexibility at its core. At Ideas Collide – we don’t have set hours, individuals can work remote, pets are a welcome sight in the office, we allow for volunteer time and, as long as client deadlines are being met, we encourage our team to get an early start on the weekend by leaving early on Friday.
7. Dream Big
Encourage your team to dream big, have a vision and work towards the goals to achieve that. We have a dream list of things we want to do and achieve as we “grow up” – we send it out frequently to the team, we ask new team members to add to it, the executive team reviews it almost monthly to see what needs to be on radar for future possibilities and where investments may need to be made. Some of the dreams may be long shots, but dreams bring passion and contribution, they inspire a team to be motivated, to work harder and make a difference in the work being performed.
These 7 are only a few that are core to building a great culture, but we consider them key elements that led to the building of our current culture. What else would you add to the list and what has been most impactful at your organization in building a great company culture? Share with us in the comments below!