How Do You Turn a Culture of Avoidance Into a Culture of Achievement?
Is there harmony between teams, healthy competition, steady staff, good communication, plenty of fun, and a willingness to take on new ideas in your organisation?
Or is there regular conflict, lack of communication, high employee turnover, poor transparency, lack of accountability, envy and resentment, cliques, and resistance to change?
That’s the difference between a workplace culture that is based on achievement and recognition rather than threat and avoidance; I think we can all agree that the latter breeds poor performance and the former can lead to great successes.
But how do you get there?
No matter how bad the culture is presently, it didn’t happen by accident and it is within your powers to turn it around. While these ‘human’ and cultural problems can be a challenge, failure to address them is likely to become even more expensive, frustrating, and detrimental to the success of your organisation.
So how can you turn it around? That’s what I look at below…
Is leadership part of the problem?
Leadership may be part of the problem, unwittingly driving a damaging culture.
Firstly, leadership hierarchies often create unnecessary divisions within organisations; if leadership is seconded away making decisions that departments, teams, and individuals need to blindly follow, this can damage motivation levels. There may be a feeling that changes are simply imposed from outside. A ‘no door’ policy is often best at breaking down the ‘us and them’ mentality that can lead to a sense of threat and avoidance, silos, and cliques.
Another problem is leaders without the people skills to really lead people; they may have the skills, qualifications, and experience to be the best in the business at what they do – but does that mean they have the personality to be a leader? Nine times out of ten it doesn’t. The modern leader needs to be an emotionally intelligent individual capable of connecting and engaging employees – more about that below.
Are you listening and empathising?
Do you know why your employees come to work? That simple question can be troubling. CLUE: it’s probably NOT just for the money.
Understanding the answer can be one of the keys to improving culture; because unless your employees are having their basic human needs met at work, they may be looking to move on.
Lack of opportunities for career development and a bad relationship with the boss, for instance, are often cited as the most common reasons for leaving; both strike at the heart of human needs – we crave strong, positive relationships and look to improve ourselves to offer a better future.
Without the emotional intelligence to listen carefully, understand, and empathise with employees, you will never connect with them and have this important information to work with.
This means that your ability to LEAD is handicapped from the start; people will not open up and they are highly likely to move on elsewhere when better opportunities are provided. How damaging to workplace culture is it when your best people leave?
Are you providing (and receiving) regular, ongoing feedback?
A great first step to listening, connecting with, and engaging team members is to abandon the tired, old, annual review process. Instead, make it a priority to provide regular, ongoing feedback that aims to support and nurture talented individuals, and meet their needs better.
If you are confident that you are hiring the right people, then it should be incumbent on leadership to provide the necessary tools and guidance to develop them. By meeting regularly with your team members and not only reviewing what they have done right or wrong, but looking to the future about where they want to go and how to get there, you should start to see more positive (and productive) people coming to work every day.
Similarly, are you receiving feedback from employees about your performance and what they think of the organization? Your employees are on the frontline with customers, suppliers, and other team members, and can be a valuable source of ideas: encourage honest, open feedback and empower them.
Are you recognising and rewarding achievement?
Part of the system of regular feedback needs to be setting regular, achievable goals. As your people achieve these goals, they must be recognised and rewarded…not necessarily monetarily, but with praise amongst peers. This can be in meetings, newsletters, and by using tools like YouEarnedIt to find and recognise employees that stand out from their peers
Millennials increasingly expect more immediate and more personalised recognition – social media has caused a sea-change in attitudes; people are less likely to tolerate waiting around.
Employees, in general, value recognition highly and, if it is widely practiced across all departments, it starts to create healthy competition and a more positive environment, slowly replacing conflict, resentment, and cliques that exist in a negative culture.
Is the workplace fun and creative?
Employees spend a huge amount of time at work – it needs to be at least a little enjoyable! This simple fact is often missed.
Good relationships, a positive atmosphere, job security, opportunities for creativity and expression, hope for the future, and other factors contribute to this sense of enjoyment in coming to work. This becomes infectious and more people start feeling it… or the reverse is also true with negativity, boredom, poor relationships, etc.
Some businesses are going even further to make life fun at work – such as offering gaming and relaxation rooms.
Are you hiring people with the right personal values?
Employees are heavily influenced by colleagues; unless you are hiring the right people with the right values then it’s easy for undesirable values to spread quickly through the organisation. So it’s important to hire people based partly on values and attitude – not just skills, qualification, and experience.
This will help to create a more supportive community that is looking out for one another rather than competing too fiercely and stabbing each other in the back.
Workplace culture may seem a little ‘abstract’ for business leaders or owners to focus time and effort on. But culture is built from all the most important aspects of your organisation – those that underpin everything your business becomes: the people factors.
A survey of hundreds of businesses owners recently conducted by The Alternative Board found that 93 percent of entrepreneurs agreed that promoting company culture boosts productivity and creativity.
But a toxic culture can spread fast and it it’s difficult to turn that around quickly. It’s like building a community – it takes time and you need to foster it with deliberate, well-considered action.
If you don’t make it a priority to attract and retain top talent by building an enviable workplace culture, how do you hope to achieve better results in the future?
If you’d like to discuss ways to start improving workplace culture, let’s begin! Email me at: email@example.com.