Culture is what you create every time you make a decision, communicate to your team, run a meeting, give someone feedback, design your office space, manage a project, hire, or fire. It’s the total impact of how you make other people feel, how you act, what you reward, and what you say.
Culture is as Culture Does
It’s a pretty basic equation: Everything you do to and for your staff – good or bad, intentional or not, one time or repeatedly – it all adds up. Employees crave clarity, consistency, and fairness. If you earn a reputation for repeatedly berating your team or taking credit for their ideas, that is your real culture, no matter how many cool parties you throw or how much money you spend on your new designer office space. If you make promises you don’t keep, conduct business in a shady way, or set rules you don’t follow, all the Beer Fridays and stand up desks in the world aren’t going to fix that.
Now, you might be wondering why culture matters in the first place. Why do you need to care about people, or understand and encourage them, if you’re already paying them to come in every day to do their job?
Engaged Employees Work Harder
Employees who care about your business and their work do a better job. They come up with new ideas, they care more about your customers and clients, and they put skin in the game. They save you money by being productive, excited, and honest. They aren’t away sick as often and they are more excited to put in the time to do things right. They tell their friends (as well as their social media “friends”) how great it is to work at your company, so you don’t have to spend as much energy or money on recruiting. They don’t get upset and quit, then seek legal advice and post a bad review.
Aside from this, engaged employees who thrive in your office culture feel like they belong, and they are generally happier. They go home happier, and they go out into the world happier - isn’t that a great result too?
Every Company’s Culture can be Different – It Just Has to be Honest and Healthy
If you do what you say, care about your staff’s results, and share your vision for your company, you are certainly on the right path. If you support a culture of trust, your employees will trust you back. They’ll tell you where things can improve, and they will help you build something amazing. You’ll know your culture is a healthy one when your employees are your best idea generators, your loudest cheering section, and your most valuable recruiting and marketing ambassadors. When they forgive you for mistakes and they have your back. When they want to learn and grow with you. When they are able to ride the waves of success and failure that are part of any growing business. There are as many company cultures as there are leaders – just be honest with yourself and your team about what you want to create, and keep an eye on your employees and clients to gauge your success.
How can an HR professional support you in your quest for engagement? The right HR partner can help you create an effective, positive, sustainable, and productive experience for your employees. They can work with you to define the culture you want to build, and design programs to help you achieve it. A successful HR partner needs to be agile, trustworthy, business-minded, fiscally responsible, and aware of the legal and process-driven aspects of the profession. They need to be able to articulate business needs to employees, and link employee needs back to the business. They need to move easily between strategy and action, and bring the right balance of communication, engagement, best practices, culture, kindness, legal requirements, business, and heart. For example, employees value feedback, and many companies struggle to provide it. Your team wants to know what’s expected, how they’re being measured, and where they stand. They want to understand how to get ahead, and they want you to explain what that path looks like. An effective HR partner can help you define your culture and decide which skills and behaviours you will reward in support of that culture and your business goals. They can craft programs to identify your employees’ strengths and skills, and design training, mentoring, feedback, and opportunities to grow skills and experience in order to meet those goals and close any gaps. They can coach your leaders to be comfortable providing feedback and having difficult conversations, and ensure that your employees receive meaningful and consistent support while they’re with your company.
Want to build an engaging workplace culture? Here are some tips to get started:
1. Define What Matters To You
How do you want customers or clients to think of your business? How do you want employees to behave and feel at work? How do you want to be seen as a leader?
2. Ask How You’re Doing
Check in with customers, clients, and employees to see how you stack up against your goals from Tip 1.
3. Find Systems That Work For You
Create ways to continuously check in, communicate, and measure your culture, goals, and progress across your business.
4. Ask For Help
Are there people in your business who are skilled at creating great employee experience and building sustainable systems? Task them with helping you define, set, and manage your culture. Need outside help? Reach out to trusted consultants, companies, and experts who can help you pave the way.
Heidi is a Principal at Project House Business Solutions, a Vancouver strategy and consulting company that helps leaders treat people better, grow their businesses better, and align their brand and culture. A senior Human Resources professional and people manager with over 20 years in tech and across a variety of industries, Heidi is passionate about guiding leaders to management + employee experience best practices. She is skilled at fostering rewarding + productive environments and creating opportunities for employee engagement. We consider Project House our sister-from-another-mister, with a raison d’être that matches ours. We like them so much we let Heidi write her own biography.