Culture isn’t just a buzzword. It’s the key to changing your workplace into a place people want to be and not a place people hate. What would it be like to have a job where team members celebrated the workplace, rather than just tolerating it?
It can happen, and it’s not as hard as you might think.
Even though 2 out of 3 Americans hate their job, as I pointed out in my last column, there are thriving workplaces and clear signs that a job has a great culture. We have been studying great company cultures (and even wrote a book on it). As we are learning, here’s what we are implementing that we think makes a workplace great. Surprisingly, none of these solutions cost a lot of money or require a ton of work.
1. Collaboration happens every day.
Research has shown that meetings can be counterproductive at times, but that is usually because those meetings have a lack of clarity and goals. At Vanderbloemen, we regularly collaborate to brainstorm and help each other with things that might need a fresh perspective. These times of collaboration are usually very focused on a certain action point with a set time window.
2. Staff is encouraged to use their vacation time.
Plenty of offices won’t stop you from taking a vacation, but they might frown upon it behind closed doors. Employees at a great workplace are encouraged to actually use their time off to spend time with family, recharge, rest, and relax. If you ever hear grumbles about not being able to take a vacation in an office, that is usually a sign of a toxic office culture.
3. Scheduling is flexible.
Our staff does not telecommute or work remotely (other than our consultants who are on the road meeting with clients during the week), and having an in-house team fosters our collaboration, effectiveness, efficiency, and team culture. We do, however, have a flexible window of when we can arrive at and leave work, allowing the early birds to arrive at 7 am when they desire and the others to arrive at 8 or 9 am so they can work when they are most productive. We also have the freedom to use our allotted Paid Time Off as we need. Having this spirit of flexibility helps strengthen a great staff culture.
4. The leaders trust their staff members.
There is nothing I dislike more than being micromanaged, and it’s something we fight hard against here at Vanderbloemen. Outside of a handful of set meetings, people on our staff schedule their day in a way that works for them. I like to do my phone meetings in the afternoons and work on more task-oriented duties in the mornings. When leaders trust their staff members and permit them to lead, great staff culture is fostered.
5. There are healthy snacks and drinks available.
Having a stocked fridge and snacks isn’t uncommon in many offices, and is a nice, practical way to care for the staff. We don’t have fancy snacks, but we always have fresh fruit, nuts, and drinks other than sodas as opposed to just chips and candy. You'd be amazed how much free food adds to a positive staff culture. And when the snacks are healthy, work output increases. Many studies show that people need regular snacks and that when they are not sugary on junk, people work harder.
6. There are regular celebrations.
Outside of the typical birthday/holiday celebrations, we like to get together on a monthly basis as a whole staff for a fun event. One of our departments even gets together on a team level once a month for a lunch that celebrates the highest achiever on their team. We even award the person who went to the gym the most each month to celebrate our staff value of Stewardship of Life. When is the last time your team had a celebration that wasn’t tied to a set holiday?
7. Staff members have written affirmation from leaders.
One rule I’ve learned over the years: criticism is best-received voice to voice, and affirmation is best received in written form. Why? People save written notes (even emails) and read them over and over again. I believe a handwritten note isn’t just a lost art, it’s low hanging fruit for morale and office culture. Positive affirmation is a real motivator, and putting it in writing goes a long way. It doesn’t take much. A note card with three or four intentional sentences will help your staff culture more than you know.
8. Negative comments go up, and positive comments go down.
There’s an old saying about how NFL quarterbacks are to handle themselves: “Give away all of the credit and take on all the blame.” This is how comments should flow in a positive office culture. It’s an easy fix that is rare in today’s world. If a staff member has a concern or is questioning something, they should be directing it to their supervisor and not complain to people who don’t have the ability to make a change. On the opposite side, if you are a leader, you should recognize the excellent work of the people underneath you.
A version of this article first appeared on forbes.com, posted on May 2, 2018
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
William Vanderbloemen is the founder of Vanderbloemen Search Group, a search firm that helps organizations build great teams, and author of Culture Wins: The Roadmap to an Irresistible Workplace.
EXPERD, Human Resources Consultant, Jakarta - Indonesia