Follow the Leader
A culture is defined by its leadership, and if the leadership isn’t dedicated to building a great place to work, a strong, positive culture won’t develop. Culture can’t be forced but must be cultivated by leadership at all levels.
Solution: Culture should be a critical goal of your business, so pursue it as one. Seek employee feedback to get an understanding of what motivates your team. Start with small rewards (such as bringing in bagels on Fridays, for example, or rewarding employees with a half-day off) to challenge your team to think about what culture means to them.
When standard 3% raises are expected across the board, companies see decreased production and higher turnover among their most talented employees.
Solution: Use bonuses as real incentives and make it clear that you’ll reward top performers. Establish bonus structures that tie directly to both company success and individual results. Make clear what is expected of employees and stress that those who meet or exceed goals will be rewarded. Push your employees: you hired them because they can be great, so reward them when they are.
Walk and Talk
A company that fosters an environment in which all communication takes place through e-mail and online chat ultimately crushes the soul of its culture. Chat and e-mail work well for quick notes, but if you want to convey a clear and concise message that won’t be misinterpreted, you need to communicate face to face.
Solution: Encourage face-to-face office interaction and collaboration. When conversation takes place in person, ideas and thoughts get vetted and ultimately improved upon.
Stop Working in a Box
People can take only so much time in cubicles, working under harsh lights day in and day out. If your office has an exclusively beige color scheme and fluorescent lights provide all the illumination, you need to change things up.
Solution: Inject some color into the office. Create alternative work areas with couches and comfy chairs. If possible, provide an outside work area where employees can plug in and enjoy a beautiful day while getting their jobs done. Simply put: get your employees away from their desks and into creative and collaborative spaces as much as possible.
Subtract to Add
Too often companies allow poor and negative employees to continue to be a drain on their culture. Here’s a news flash: talented people often leave because companies fail to address those employees who simply do not perform.
Solution: Stop the spread of destructive attitudes and poor work ethics. Clearly define what is expected of each employee, then regularly update staff on their performance and challenge them to meet new goals. If someone is constantly underperforming and—worse yet—doing so with a negative attitude, give that employee his or her walking papers.
Look for the Next Big Thing
A very famous recruiting adage states, “A people hire A+ people, but B people hire C people.” It means that the truly talented are secure enough—and smart enough—to recognize and hire someone better than them. When talent walks in the door, A people take advantage of the opportunity to improve the organization. At the same time, however, mediocrity breeds mediocrity (or worse), because the so-so don’t want to (and can’t) find top-level talent.
Solution: Be the person who brings in the Next Big Thing. Challenge yourself to hire only A+ talent, whether or not it means they can end up being the stars of your organization. Injecting top talent into a company will drive not only culture but performance as well.