Developing a strong company requires a healthy environment to thrive. As any farmer will tell you, it takes more than just sunlight and water to produce a crop—the soil provides the foundation and nutrients for it to prosper. Marketing, cash-flow, and product development are all important, but keeping your employees content is the soil that will ultimately make your business bloom.
Corporate culture takes more than a free food and a dog-friendly office policy. According to a survey conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota, a positive and supportive environment is proven to be the prime indicator when determining a company’s innovative potential. Researchers found that "corporate culture is, above all, the most important factor in driving innovation.” Below are a few tips for business owners to help unlock the potential of their employees (and retain them for years to come).
Nobody ever wants to work for an “evil” company. With movie clichés casting corporations as soulless profiteers, it’s important to establish that your business stands for something. Profits are important, but profits at any cost will prove to be unsustainable. This mindset can be fostered from the very peak of the management structure. When the leaders of a company seek to actively place their employees about the value they create, the soullessness of corporate America disappears. Workplace safety, community outreach and team building activities all fall into this category. From a conveyor belt manufacturer to a fishing boat on the Atlantic, employees must recognize that their talents are not disposable.
You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile:
Laughter is contagious and so is a positive attitude. Keeping morale up and your employees’ spirits high starts with an upbeat tone, words of encouragement and – most importantly – a smile. Working is always preferable when your colleagues are in a good mood—so foster it! Tell a joke or share a story; unveiling the personal side of company management is the best way to tear down boundaries and allow employees to see they are not alone in the trenches.
Authority, Order and Tradition:
The “caring” side of the culture spectrum may be appealing, but it can also be dangerous. Human nature seeks order and abhors chaos. Effective organizations need chains of command, boundaries and structure. As a manager, your objective is to keep the trains moving on time, but also to make sure they on the right track. Objective and reasonable deadlines, clear expectations, foreseeable outcomes and respectful communications are key to developing an internal culture that allows employees feel secure. Overall, rules give employees the structure and stability to act confidently through even the most trying of workdays.
Carrots & Sticks:
Constant and appropriate feedback is essential to keeping employees out of the dark and knowing where they stand within the company. Individuals are more likely to repeat an action after a positive reaction than a negative one. However, showering an employee with praise for menial tasks can be just as meaningless or detrimental as overly scolding for minor mishaps. As Thomas Aquinas said, in medio stat virtus; all good things are in the middle. A passing “good job” can go much further than an “employee of the month” sign.
Although your business may appear to be a “well-oiled machine,” your employees are not simply cogs in a wheel. Corporate culture is the recognition of each of your employees’ talents, preferences and weaknesses within the larger vision of the company. Malaise, fear and resentment will ensue when individuals begin to question if their employers value their individualism. A thriving culture can vary vastly, but there is always one constant: employees must feel you have their best interests at heart.