Company culture is people. The culture of any company is defined by the values and intentions of its employees. Nothing is more important than hiring great people. But what can we do once the team is in place to make the culture as great as possible? And what practices can be implemented today to improve our culture?
1. Host more all-hands meetings -- and don't forget the food.
We can never over-communicate the big items enough. The company values, metrics, goals, successes, learning's, vision, mission... these should be talked about all the time. It's even more powerful to do so in a group setting. Plus, adding food innately makes it more congenial, and something that's a reward instead of a chore. The family that breaks bread together stays together. It's a tiny cost, compared the benefit of making sure your team is well aligned.
2. Implement more structured one-on-one feedback.
The quarterly or annual performance review is often the only formalized setting for managers and employees to exchange feedback. That's nowhere near enough. Begin setting up 15 min one-on-ones with your team weekly. Create a dedicated space and time where employees can tell you how they're doing, share what's bothering them, and offer feedback on you and the company. By having these brief interactions, you can defuse the little issues that typically spiral into larger issues later on.
3. Facilitate movement and laughter at the start of the day.
The first 30 minutes of work often sets the tone for the rest of the day. It's a common practice for teams to start their days in a standup. Instead of just making this meeting a list of tasks, use it as an opportunity to have some fun, move around, and make sure people are laughing. A silly 5 min group activity can provide the energy and endorphins to get people smiling and engaged for hours to come.
4. Get your team to solve non-work goals together.
Company happy hours are a nice start, but team events where teammates have to solve a non-work related challenge together are invaluable. We all get stuck in our typical work roles, putting people in these new contexts helps bring out different talents & personality traits. We can talk about collaboration, but experiential learning is often the most impactful. It's not only refreshing, but creates a real bonding effect. Aim to do this two to three times a year. (See how often people socialize outside of work).
5. Build a network of appreciation.
Give rewards to your team that they have to share with their co-workers for a job well done. When someone gives out a gift, they have to explain why -- for example, "You really helped me out by staying late last night." The gifts can be simple -- $5 Starbucks gift cards, for example -- but the whole system encourages people to be appreciative of their team, and re-enforces collaboration.
6. Save praise for public situations and criticism for private situations.
Group settings are magnifiers. Anything positive you say is magnified 5X, anything negative 10X. When someone is doing a great job, praise her or him in front of the team. Not only will that person appreciate being recognized, your public statement will positively reinforce to the company values everybody's contribution. On the flip-side, negative feedback should almost exclusively be saved for one-on-one settings. (See what people say about giving their boss feedback).
7. Be willing to let go of your worst culture offender.
If there's someone in your office who's constantly bringing down the team with a bad attitude or draining personality, and shows no improvement despite repeated performance discussions, get rid of them. One bad seed will poison an office. No one person can be more important than the team.