How to Build an Infectious Company Culture

by Elizabeth Dukes on November 11, 2015

Twenty-five years ago, most offices were a sea of cubicles, suits and bland, institutional furniture. The CEO resided in a locked corner office, well removed from his or her employees—and most of their concerns. The break room was the only “common area,” and more innovative ideas were born around watercoolers than board rooms. Employees worked 9-to-5, and telecommuting was a right generally only granted to traveling salespeople.

Oh, how times have changed.

 Company CultureWhen today’s candidates scope out potential workplaces, one of the most common elements they consider is culture. More specifically, job seekers pursue businesses that offer core values closely aligned with their own set of mores and beliefs, and a workstyle that ensures an optimal work-life balance. (If you don’t believe me, take a moment to skim the comments left by current and former employees on any large company’s Glassdoor page.)

Today we’re looking at how you can build a company culture that will win over talented professionals and enhance the satisfaction and productivity of your current workforce. But first, let’s talk about why you should care about culture in the first place.

Why Culture Matters

According to a 2015 study by Jobvite, more than 20 percent of professionals cited company culture as the reason they left for another job. As a leader, that statistic is hard to stomach. Do you really want to lose your most valued employees over something as easy to fix as company culture?

To snag top talent and retain your most powerful players, you have to make your business a place your team is proud to call their second home. Every employee should be a brand ambassador who willingly extols the virtues of your company even while off the clock. In short, culture drives innovation, growth and profits.

But, as it turns out, culture isn’t just about casual attire, beer fridges and free lunch. To build a deep-rooted and lasting company culture, you have to start with your philosophy. As a leader, you have to be the catalyst for change. Let’s take a look at a few ways this can be accomplished.

Designate a Chief Culture Officer

Modern WorkplaceIn the last couple of decades, technology giants like Apple, Google and, of course, Facebook, ushered in a new era of business style. These casual and youthful environments became the standard by which young professionals judged career opportunities, and businesses with a more traditional culture frantically began searching for ways to compete. How could a company create a lovable, modern workplace environment without raising policy concerns?

“One way to do this is to bring someone into the C-suite whose job it is to keep an eye on culture,” says Business Reporter Shelley DuBois in a Fortune Magazine article. In other words, create a leadership position dedicated entirely to ensuring your culture is not only communicated through your company’s brand, but trickles down into every department and every role without risking compliance infractions.

Prune Out Negativity

One of the greatest threats to a positive company culture are the Negative Nancys—the team members who maintain a bad attitude and seem to pull everyone down with them. Often, these are employees who always have something to complain about, spread gossip, talk behind their co-workers’ backs and undermine authority. Because negativity is contagious, it’s important to end this behavior before it creates in-office conflicts.

Handling toxic attitudes is essential, but it’s important to seek solutions before resorting to termination. Sometimes all it takes to nip negativity in the bud is a direct conversation.

Whatever action you take, be sure it’s well-documented with HR.

Communicate Like Your Business Depends On It (Because it Does)

Almost every major issue a business faces can be traced back to poor communication, and this is especially true when it comes to company culture. Whether it directly affects their position or not, no one likes feeling out of the loop. While this doesn’t mean you need to consult your product engineer before you decide which brand of copier to buy for the accounting office, cultivating transparency is crucial to employee happiness.

For example, if you are considering new CRM software, loop in your sales and marketing team. Allow them to sit through demos, discuss the various merits and drawbacks of each product and vote on the winning solution. By bringing your employees into the decision-making process, they’ll feel more essential to the company and more empowered to bring their ideas to the table.

You can also facilitate cross-departmental and inter-office communication by offering the right tools. For example, imagine your top salesperson brings a potential client in for a key meeting only to discover your marketing team has already snagged the conference room for an impromptu lunch meeting. This is where space management software would come in handy.

Ask Employees What They Want

This sounds simple enough, but take a moment to consider—when was the last time you asked someone outside the leadership team for input on improving employee satisfaction? As a leader, it’s up to you to make time to chat with personnel ranging all the way down the chain-of-command, from your part-time intern and front-desk receptionist to the C-suite and board of trustees. More often than not, you may discover the best ideas come from those on the “front lines.”

Remember: Happiness Begets Productivity

Employee HappinessIf you’re still unsure how culture can impact profit, consider this: Happiness can increase employee productivity by as much as 10 to 12 percent, according to a study completed by the University of Warwick, UK.

In addition to being less productive, unhappy employees are more likely to call in sick. In his book The Happiness Advantage, author Shawn Achor says, “Unhappy employees take more sick days, staying home an average of 1.25 more days per month, or 15 extra sick days a year.”

Are all those extra sick days and productivity slumps really worth clinging to an outdated notion of company culture?

At the end of the day, your company, your people and your vision are unique. By ensuring your culture is properly managed, eliminating negative influencers, making open communication a priority and giving everyone a chance to make an impact, both your employees and your bottom line will benefit.

Looking to quickly make a lasting impact on the way your company operates? We’ve got the answers. Check out our free eBook, Wide Open Workspace: Trailblazing Solutions for Tomorrow’s Workforce.


Elizabeth Dukes

Elizabeth Dukes' pieces highlight the valuable role of the real estate and facility managers play in their organizations. Prior to iOFFICE, Elizabeth was in sales for large facility and office service outsourcing firm.

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