Editor’s Question: What steps should be taken to build a positive company culture?

Editor’s Question: What steps should be taken to build a positive company culture?

You want your employees to enjoy coming to work. And to ensure this, having a positive company culture is a must-have. Nobody wants to work at a place which brings everyone down and for employers, this can lead to a high employee turnover. So how can the C-suite make sure that their workplace is a positive place to be? Four experts gave their views, starting below with Rob Russell, COO/CFO from Virtualstock.

Company culture isn’t a buzzword or a ‘nice to have’, it is integral to running a successful business. This is because no matter how big or small the organisation, you’re nothing without your people.

The first step is to create statements outlining a Purpose (your reason why), a Vision (what you hope to achieve) and a Mission (how you’ll get there). Get these down on paper and stick to them. Some business leaders mistakenly think that this is a jargon exercise, but they couldn’t be more wrong.

This is going to create a comradery within your team and give everyone something to refer back to. It is especially important for start-ups and scale-ups during intense periods of growth when it can be hard to see the wood for the trees. It is also about creating a framework of guiding principles to empower team members to make good decisions without having to ask for permission. If aligned to the Purpose, Vision and Mission, everyone is working towards a common goal, can focus and won’t make the wrong decisions.

That said, you need a world class team to fulfil this. To build one, prioritise recruiting people who share your passion for the company or industry, not just people who you think can do the job. What’s more, identify and bridge skills gaps with comprehensive training plans and opportunities for personal development. Give people the chance to growth with the business.

You should also create core values – for example, four to five keywords or phrases that act as a charter and anchor the business. Where possible, for example if you’re an early-stage start-up or undergoing a rebrand, you should open up the floor to your employees and bring in your people to help form these. Naturally, values will be different for every organisation and should be carefully tailored, but to give you an idea, ours are Collaboration & Alignment – working closely together, listening and supporting each other; Respect – valuing the uniqueness of individuals; Trust – trust each other to do what we say we will; Fun – take fun seriously and enjoy each other’s company; and Entrepreneurial Spirit – be innovative and work with urgency. You should recognise and reward individuals and the business as a whole when these values are adhered to.

David Bennett, CEO, Object First:

A company is nothing without its people. There’s no substitute for a happy and motivated team.

To encourage positive engagement from everyone, we ask employees to adopt a founder’s perspective. What that means simply is showing a commitment to the company vision, mission and taking accountability at the front line of the business for making it happen. After all, we are all founders in our own right around our own careers, and even our own families and friend groups. Having that ‘owner’s mindset’ requires some revolutionary thinking and a comfort level around challenging the status quo to deliver business results.

Having a flat, non-hierarchical structure with constant communication is essential to support an owner’s mindset.  You need to be comfortable focusing on the mission, and not necessarily the politics or internal hierarchies that can get in the way. Everyone has and should use their voice to push the team forward. One of Object First’s core pillars is valuing contributions and opinions from people no matter what their title might be. We understand that diversity and collective insights boost our team’s morale and, ultimately, its success.

This founder’s perspective has a dual benefit: it facilitates open source thinking and knowledge sharing while allowing every individual to be committed and invested in where we’re going. When everyone has a sense of camaraderie, pride and ownership over their work, great things happen.

It’s equally important to instil customer and partner focus throughout the company. This begins with a genuine belief in the value of our products and services, aligning with our mission. It’s supported by being present at the front line of the business and understanding what real customer interactions are like, and what’s important to them in terms of product function, sales experience and ongoing support. Authenticity is key.  A company that is trying to deceive its customers or cut corners will never have a truly committed team. Finally, a cornerstone of our growth has been mutual trust – I don’t feel I’ve done my job if a single member of my team can’t bring their authentic self to work. Having only launched as a company in 2021 and released our Ootbi (Out-of-the-Box Immutability) solution last year, our growth so far is a testament to the value of the service we deliver and the ambitious culture this team has built and continued to evolve.

Kathleen Pai, Chief People Officer, N-able:

At N-able, when it comes to putting our strategies into action to create a positive workplace culture, everything is anchored by our values centred around our people. We infuse positivity by implementing best practices that prioritise the wellness, growth and engagement of our N-ablites. Our executive leadership team establishes the foundation for a strong company culture by leading the way and we empower our N-ablites to help create the culture they want to be a part of.

This is achieved through a number of initiatives such as our N-ablite-driven, company-supported Communities of Interest, which each promote inclusivity across the globe. We also prioritise learning and development through initiatives such as N-able’s Women’s Leadership Summit, an enhanced Career Pathing site, and continue to offer targeted development programmes and opportunities to support N-ablites on their learning journeys.

Additionally, we provide resources and programmes that support holistic wellness, including physical, mental, financial and social wellbeing. Whether it’s virtual or in-person meditation sessions, healthy meal education or financial wellness workshops, we want our N-ablites to have support for their personal wellness goals.

Community engagement is also an integral piece to creating our positive workplace culture, and we’re committed to enhancing and serving the communities in which we live and work. Our people drive the core of our N-ablite Giving programme by actively serving and volunteering throughout the year in their local communities and sharing their giving spirit. This helps foster a sense of purpose and connection beyond the workplace.

We make it a priority to provide ways for N-ablites to share feedback. Sometimes that’s through formal channels such as our ‘Ask Me Anything’ sessions with our leadership team or through informal channels like our N-ablite News mailbox where employees can submit ideas for consideration. Twice a year we run our N-ablite Engagement Survey to collect N-ablite feedback that helps shape the company’s culture and experience. We leverage this feedback to develop key action plans at all levels of the organisation to ‘Deliver an Extraordinary N-ablite Journey’.

Another way we support our N-ablites at the start of their journeys is through our ‘New Hire N-tegration’ programme. New hires join this programme within three to six weeks of being at the company and learn more about how they can contribute to the N-able culture as well as about our people, products and partners.

We’ve been honoured to receive Comparably’s designation for Best Workplace: Happiness two years in a row. We receive this recognition based on N-ablite feedback, meaning they are truly feeling the result of the positivity and uplifting energy that we are driving within our culture! Overall, implementing best practices that prioritise inclusivity, development, wellness, feedback and community engagement contributes to creating a positive working environment where our N-ablites feel valued, supported and empowered to thrive.

Feras Al Majed, Vice President HR & Communications, Gulf Business Machines:

In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, the significance of cultivating a positive company culture has never been more pronounced. It serves as the bedrock upon which organisations build their success, fostering an environment where employees thrive, innovation flourishes and organisational goals are achieved. But establishing such a culture is more than just a task – it’s an exciting and multi-faceted journey that demands an examination of various organisational aspects.

In my capacity as Head of HR for a leading digital solutions provider, I’ve found that one of the most important aspects to building a positive culture centres around authentic and regular communication and creating people related interventions which offer empathetic and genuine support to the workforce. To give you a life example of this ethos, during the pandemic, which was a global crisis, the HR intervention we implemented in GBM revolved around regular communication. The support we gave during that time emphasised the need to cater to the wellbeing of our colleagues and their families which then yielded results in terms of Business Continuity and positivity in the face of adversity. We have continued this same methodology post the pandemic where all our interventions focus on clear and concise messaging and a clear purpose to elevate the employee experience whether with regards to employee wellbeing, learning and development or HR service delivery.

To add to this, clearly communicating the values of the organisation is also crucial. This not only aligns employees with the company’s mission but also establishes a strong foundation for their connection to the organisation. When values permeate every aspect of the organisation, they become a driving force behind employee actions, fostering a cohesive and productive workplace.

I’ve also seen that prioritising human development and giving employees the tools to continually improve is key. One effective strategy is investing in internal talent development with strong upskilling and ongoing learning initiatives. This ensures that employees remain adaptable and well-equipped for evolving business landscapes. Additionally, companies should consider regularly redefining roles to match evolving business needs, enabling employees to contribute meaningfully across various departments and branches. Acknowledging and celebrating accomplishments and milestones are also vital components that create the environment for employees to bring their best selves to work.

Furthermore, workforce diversity emerges as a cornerstone of positive company culture. It stimulates broad thinking, creativity and inclusive problem-solving, thereby driving overall success and satisfaction within the organisation.

It is worth noting as well that in today’s digital age, it is essential for organisations to understand the importance of human development alongside global Digital Transformation. This means shifting focus from purely business-driven strategies to ones centered around people, leveraging technology to improve the overall employee experience.

In summary, crafting a positive company culture requires a well-rounded approach that combines diversity, establishing authentic and regular communication, aligning core values, nurturing human growth and embracing technological advancements. Prioritising these pillars creates an environment where collaboration, innovation and success thrive, enhancing both employee satisfaction and organisational growth in today’s dynamic business landscape.

Nathan Ollier, CEO, Open ECX:

In recent years, undoubtedly catalysed by COVID, employees have become increasingly discerning about their workplace, with many re-evaluating what they want from their jobs and the environments in which they work. Couple that with a major skills and talent shortage, and it really is an employees’ market.

With company culture often cited as a major factor in successful talent attraction and retention strategies, it’s vital for organisations to implement a game plan to build a more positive company culture. These steps are a useful way to begin the process:

  1. Define company culture Set out what a positive company culture should look like for the organisation by asking employees what really matters to them. By listening to employees, and encouraging them to speak up in a ‘safe’ space that welcomes challenge and new ideas, that leaders can properly gauge what matters to their own workforce. Most importantly, observe what appears to be working well. Spend time with your teams and get a first hand feel for the magic in the dynamics.  
  2. Consider the belief systems and attitudes of the leadership team and support them to be more compassionate, flexible and facilitate employees’ ambitions and goals. Recognise the responsibilities which the employee has outside of the workplace, and where possible, afford them the flexibility to take care of those things. Leaders and managers need to embody the values of the organisation in the way they interact with all employees as well as customers, suppliers and other stakeholders.
  3. Consider the value of an individual within the organisation. Communicate the overall purpose and objectives of the organisation, ensuring each and every member of the team understands their individual contribution and the importance of that, to the overall plan. This will drive a natural sense of purpose and accountability, while ensuring a level of understanding and respect between colleagues. It is also likely to drive more open and focussed collaboration in driving towards the wider strategic objectives.
  4. Gen Z may have different ideas Leaders seeking to attract younger talent may need to gain more useful insights into what this generation want and need from their employer. ‘Tune into’ the younger generation. Engage with them in a meaningful way, and where necessary, consider the use of resources such as podcasts and other (social) media which offer insight to the language, motivations and aspirations of Gen Z.  
  5. Be purposeful Many millennials want a job that matters on a wider social scale. Younger employees have a desire to ‘do good’ via the work that they do, so be sure of your business’ purpose, and be sure to make your people feel connected to that.
  6. Introduce modern communication processes. Millennials are much more at home using chatbots, live chat apps and AI-powered tools to help them achieve the results they seek. Making communication channels and technologies available which can in part, deliver the workplace experience sought by younger talent, is key. Particularly in a hybrid or remote working setting.  
  7. Consider increasing diversity and consequently, diversity of thought. This is critical to developing a more innovative, creative and productive workforce. It must start with the management team who should make space for, and seek to encourage the contribution and ideas from everyone in ‘the room’. Get this right, and all employees will appreciate the benefits of working in a more inclusive culture where they can each be their authentic selves in a workplace where no idea, is a bad idea.
  8. Diversifying jobs and collaboration within the business to ensure everyone is updated on the performance and results across each department. Communicate, share good news stories, successes and key milestones with your teams as a collective. This promotes an all-inclusive culture which will bring real alignment in purpose, breaking down departmental boundaries and removing silos.

Establishing a positive company culture benefits everyone in the organisation, making it a more enjoyable, rewarding place to work. A positive culture will elevate a business to be ‘employer of choice’ for candidates who now have more choice than ever before. It will also go a long way to improving the employment experience for existing team members, naturally reducing staff turnover. Remember; having your employees talk to their friends and family about why they should want to work in ‘their company’, is more powerful than anything.  

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