I normally use a lot of examples, metaphors, and random pop culture references when I talk about company culture. But sometimes you just have to realize that good rules to live by don’t necessarily need a picture or analogy. Here are the 10 things I always do, without fail, to make employees smile: 

  1. Give them a voice. Listen to them. Implement their ideas.  Give them all the credit.
  2. Pay them fairly. To build a great culture, you have to have the basics in place. That means reasonable compensation and benefits. You don’t have to be at the top of the market.  But if you try to create a culture of fun and miss the money part, it will appear disingenuous. 
  3. Recognize and reward. Don’t just give them more cash.  People just want to feel valued. Ask them how they want to be recognized; you’ll be surprised at some of the answers. 
  4. Offer opportunities for advancement. Most of your employees want to feel there is room to grow. Do they know the path? Have you written it down for them? Show them the way.
  5. Support out-of-the-box semantics. Stop with the fancy titles. All that does is build silos and internal competition.  Our receptionist’s official title is the “director of first impressions” and my assistant is the “director of executive wrangling.” 
  6. Infiltrate the workplace with fun. Decorate the place, put up photos, host dress-up days, plan fun events, and bring families to the party.
  7. Walk the talk. You are the leader, so act like it. Don’t expect others to execute on this one. You have to let your hair down, set the example, and join the party. Get out of your office.
  8. Send a handwritten note. And send it home. The way to make a real connection is not through email, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Put pen to paper, put card in envelope, add a real stamp, and put it in the mailbox.
  9. Create traditions. Buying a keg of beer this Friday night won’t change the culture. It takes commitment and long-term resolve. When you find something that works, keep doing it.
  10. Open your heart. Let everyone know that we are in this together. Be vulnerable. Share your successes and failures. In turn, they’ll fall on a sword for you. 

These don’t take long to read and aren’t hard to understand. Print them out, learn them, love them, live them, and your employees will be smiling in no time.