The 6 x Building Blocks You Need to Know for Workplace Culture
Building culture is less about resources and more about relationships. Culture is how team performs beyond the policies and protocols. This is by no means the ‘Holy Grail’ of all the elements that create culture. These elements will create a solid framework for you to build culture within your team. * Look for the Team Tips and Leader Tips at the end of each section
1. Belonging – Create a Sense of Belonging
At school we are all taught that all a person needs to survive is water, food and shelter… if that were true, why do people congregate together, finding common ground and building communities? Everyone wants a sense of belonging, a sense of connection – create this to build culture.
We all have our social tribes, the people we hang out with. Why should work be any different, we should be building a sense of tribe amongst our people. Recently my work tribe were at an industry event running a booth. They were loud, they were having fun, they were interacting within the team and with the people attending the event (granted most there were extroverts, but as a tribe we thought that was a thing). People started gathering around our booth, they wanted to be part of our tribe. They wanted to be part of the fun, they wanted to belong.
What are some of the things we can do right now to generate a sense of belonging? Trust me, a pool table or table tennis are not going to create a sense of belonging. It is going to take a small investment of time, take a team member out for a coffee, talk around the water cooler, but most of all, ask them questions about them and listen to their responses. People’s favourite topic is themselves and showing an interest in them makes them feel a sense of value, they are welcome and they are joining the tribe. If you do have a pool table, head there at lunch and throw down a challenge. The banter itself will create the sense of tribe.
If you are the new team member, do your best to remember names. Listen to the banter of your teammates, soon enough you will find some common ground. If you are welcoming a new team member, you have the added advantage of only having to remember 1 name, so remember it. Be inclusive with conversations and any lunchtime activities.
Having a solid onboarding experience is crucial. However, your onboarding should be more than just documents, policies and a tour of the office. Take your new team member for a coffee and get to know them, simply ask relevant questions and take the time to listen.
2. Be Heard – Give Your People a Real Voice
The marketplace is competitive enough, yet there are still “bosses” out there who gag their greatest asset, their people. In doing so, the people go from being team to just being staff. They go from contributors to mere employees (minions). And they go from committed to the cause to just on benchmark (job).
In fact, when team members do not feel they can speak up (for whatever reason), problems, accidents and even disasters occur. These situations could have easily been avoided or resolved if the workplace culture had permitted it. However, where people do not feel safe, feel intimidated or feel their input will be shut down/discredited – they will not speak up. This is to the detriment of any organisation.
After adopting Continuous Feedback, one of clients went from 64% to 94% in the “Great Places to Work Survey” resulting in a healthy culture
Our goal is to provide an environment where our teams feel valued, speak up and contribute because this helps build culture. Where they feel confident to share their ideas knowing that they will be heard. Continuous Feedback is a great way to achieve this, most of our clients start with a simple happiness survey on a weekly or monthly basis. After adopting Continuous Feedback, one of the clients went from 64% to 94% in the ‘great places to work survey’, with the improvement mainly being driven by higher levels of trust and transparency which are key building blocks to a healthy culture.
Continuous Feedback supports managers, the feedback instantly gives them a great track to run on and engage their teams in conversations that respond to their needs and is relevant to each team member. By taking the time to respond to the team members’ feedback our experience is that managers build up trust, which also encourages more feedback creating a virtuous cycle moving forward.
When engaging with a new team, be is quick to advise them that you want to know what they are thinking, because they are thinking about it anyway. As a leader, you know that nothing is gained by not knowing what the different team members are thinking. However, you also know that great insight, problem-solving and innovation comes from hearing from your team. In a sense it is not about having the best idea in the room, it is about having a voice, contributing and being heard.
The role of a leader is not to come up with all the great ideas. The role of a leader is to create an environment in which great ideas can happen.
– Simon Sinek
Find a communication channel that you are happy to engage through, for some it is easier to write things down, others might be extroverts and like to speak up and be heard literally. Find what works for you and Be Heard!
Create an environment where people know and FEEL they are free to contribute. Create a couple of channels to encourage your team to share what they are thinking with you. Encourage them to contribute – you will be surprised at the creativity, problem-solving and innovation that comes to light.
3. Be Recognised, Be Rewarded – Build the Team Up
People respond positively to being appreciated, encouraged and recognised. It makes them feel valued, endorsed and appreciated. Employees who do not receive this will often find somewhere that does provide this.
Yes, team members may move on if they feel undervalued or unappreciated in their roles. It is about more than money. Your team will turn up to work because of the money, however, they contribute at a higher level if they know you notice their contribution to your organisation’s success. It’s a team sport and team members appreciate being recognized for what they did on the field. This drives high levels of employee engagement.
It has been stated that an organisation benefits when team members are praised three times as much as criticised. Always criticise and reprimand in private, and ALWAYS praise in public. However, it is important to note that the power of positive reinforcement is directly linked to the authenticity of the person giving it.
To really benefit the workplace and build culture, encourage the team to look for genuine opportunities to recognise and appreciate peers. intelliHR uses the Bonusly system, where a team is encouraged to highlight a peer’s efforts and reward them. When recognising someone’s efforts, give some details around what they achieved or how they helped. If they have been outstanding, make sure their direct upline hears about it.
Another great approach here is to capture moments regularly and record them. intellIHR recommends our clients start tracking their teams achievements month to month, this is a quick addition to their monthly check-in, it keeps their manager alerted to achievements they should be recognising, and it builds up a record of achievements over-time that allows the team member and manager to avoid recency bias when they do catch up. This also removes the “dread” the team members and leaders can sometimes bring into performance meetings. After all, great performance by your team is built over time, it does not just suddenly happen.
Recognition can also include rewarding, give them a gift card for the local coffee shop, better still take them for a coffee, give them a paid day off, find something that adds value. This goes a long way in developing team and team dynamics.
“People work for money but go the extra mile for recognition, praise and rewards.”
You will not jeopardise your success by acknowledging someone else’s success. If you want to assist in creating a fantastic team environment and work culture – make it a place you want to go to work!
Encourage your team. Encourage them to play to their strengths. Be vigilant in looking to see the opportunities to recognise and reward. It will amaze you to see the impact on the ambiance and culture within the workplace.
4. Be Safe – Safety Nurtures Trust, Trust Gives Opportunity
The truth of the matter is, to achieve any of the above, people need to feel that they are safe. Yes, we need to think about their workplace health and safety. In real terms though, this refers to providing a safe space for team to feel free to speak openly and honestly. It is about giving them the space to contribute without fear of ridicule or put down. One of intelliHR’s clients has a dashboard section titled “I Have A Great Idea”, which their team members can click to contribute. In their business, it has lead to more innovation, the idea is captured and shared with their manager and the CEO, and then somebody gets back to the team member with some feedback.
“I Have A Great Idea” button on the HR Software dashboard leads to greater engagement and innovation.
The culture of the workplace should give set the tone of safety and trust. Remember, it takes courage to speak up, especially when someone is new to the team. However, as they start to test the waters, their confidence will grow, and their rate of contribution will increase.
intelliHR clients often find this is where continuous feedback helps by identifying times where a team member may be struggling with alignment, by making sure they understand how their role contributes to where the organisation is going, they have the permission to come with some amazing creativity and innovation. Not all ideas are going to be game changers, in fact, some ideas are going to fail.
If the team is given the safety and trust to pursue these new ideas, and they know that occasionally they will fail and that is part of the process. In this environment, your team will flourish and produce great results. A team member who feels safe, and is encouraged to contribute and to test ideas will always exceed expectations.
When you are in a culture that provides you this opportunity, do not waste it. Investigate your ideas, get some support or evidence to help back them. Show your team you have given your idea due process – and they will look for the value in it.
It is your responsibility to create this environment for your team. If you
want to get the best out of them, provide the right setting for them. Read “Integrity: How Six Essential Qualities Determine Your Success in Business” by Dr Henry Cloud.
5. Be Developing – Add Value to Your Team Members
We have all heard the old cliché, ‘What if you train someone up and they leave?’ and the reply being, ‘What if you don’t?’. Getting each team member to play to their strengths is the best way forward. Enhancing that skillset adds value to the individual and their performance, in turn adding value to the organisation and its success.
Companies that invest in employee training enjoy 24% higher profit margins
intelliHR clients find performance is maximised when they are developing their team. This is an investment in your greatest asset. This is creating an edge for the organisation. This is valuing your people, showing them that they are not only valued but valuable to the point of investing in. Is this a line in your budget? intelliHR clients also track their training investment and share this with their team members, showing your team this information reminds them how much you value them and reminds them of the personal development you are investing into. Investing in professional development has a direct correlation with employee engagement, retention and profitability. All of which helps build culture.
Here are the facts about not investing into learning and development;
- 40% of employees who receive poor job training leave their roles in the first year (go2HR article, ‘Employee Training is Worth the Investment’)
- Ineffective training can cost businesses up to $13.5 million, per 1000 employees per year (Sh!ft article, ‘10 Statistics on Corporate Training and What They Mean for Your Company’s Future’)
Here are the facts about investing into learning and development;
- 7 in 10 employees say professional development opportunities would affect their decision to stay at a company (BetterBuys article, ‘Professional Development & Your Bottom Line: 9 Stats that Prove Its Value’)
- Companies that invest in employee training enjoy 24% higher profit margins than those who don’t (Huffington Post article, ‘Not Investing in Employee Training is Risky Business)
- Companies that offer professional development opportunities have 34% higher retention rates (BetterBuys article, ‘Professional Development & Your Bottom Line: 9 Stats that Prove Its Value’)
The return on investment here is more than just profitability, productivity and performance – it is about culture, employee engagement and retention, all of which impact the above three.
Reach out to your managers/leaders when you see a great opportunity for training and development – it will not always be a ‘Yes’, but it shows you are keen to grow and increase your skill set.
Understand that investing in the training and development of your team does have an ROI. Not only that, but increasing their capabilities and skill set works to serve the organisation’s objectives better.
6. Be Authentic – People Do Not Follow ‘Fake’
Like him or hate him, Gary Vee is authentic – he is who he is. He is passionate, he can be polarising, but you know what to expect when you watch or read one of his posts. Being genuine is the hub of all the above points, it is the centerpiece. The culture you want to develop and cultivate as to come from a place of authenticity. If it is built on anything else, it is nothing more than a house of cards.
An intelliHR client recently started using eNPS to measure their organisational citizenship, in effect how much the team had bought into their company values and direction. While overall the results looked good as they started to drill down into individual teams and groups they identified some worrying signs in certain groups within the organisation that appeared to be being left behind. By focusing upon the feedback from this group, they have developed an improved direction for their roles and focused upon supporting their managers with more personalised information that their feedback indicated they would value.
Being a fake team player or a fake leader is like fake news – it will deceive some people in the short term, but ultimately the truth comes out. Being genuine, empathetic and strategic is vital moving forward. It is looking for the win-win opportunities in each situation and being honest when you find them and just as important when you don’t.
Honesty and genuineness are vital for all involved in the team.
If you are only feeding your leaders what you think they want to hear, you are not helping the future of the organisation, or any career prospects you may have. You were hired because of your skills and what you could bring in terms of creative ideas, innovation and culture, so step up. Just do it in an appropriate fashion, and in the right forum, or you will end up shooting yourself in the foot.
Be honest with your team, outline your expectations and be the last person in the meeting to speak. Encourage your team to contribute, because they may raise a perspective that has been overlooked.
Be AUTHENTIC, and be CONSISTENT