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How to Improve the Culture at Work

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There’s a lot of talk about culture in workplaces, culture referring to the atmosphere created by the people who spend time there and the norms that everyone in that particular environment adapts to. Cultures vary widely. You’ll find a different culture at Google than you will on Wall Street. Part of that relates to the type of industry, the need (or not) for formality, etc.

There are several tangible elements to consider as you develop a sense of culture and teamwork unique to your organization.  Consider the following as you seek to improve your unique culture:

Purpose. Do your employees have a real purpose for working for you other than getting a paycheck? Do you get them excited about the mission of your organization?

Meetings. The type of meetings you have, when you have them, who attends…all those things contribute to a sense of teamwork, or lack thereof. I remember years ago when a new pastor came on board for the church I worked for. I was office manager and had not been included in staff meetings. He changed that and allowed me to start attending. That type of decision can bridge gaps between departments.  (At the same time, if you are making employees attend meetings for which they play no useful role, they may be grateful for you to release them from that obligation.)

Fun. Some workplaces have more fun than others. Within reason, can you allow for a bit of play time? Use bright visual aids? Bring in lunch occasionally or a special breakfast treat?

Gifts. At one workplace, within the first eight weeks I had already found a great tote bag on my desk one day and a Starbucks card on another. These items came from other business opportunities the bosses had been to and they decided to pass the treat along to me. At another, several branded items were waiting at my desk for my first day. It was great to feel appreciated with these little gestures. Are there product samples you can randomly give out? Treats you can stick in mailboxes?

Compensation. While a sense of purpose is important, most employees work to earn a living too. Review guidelines for average pay in your area for certain types of jobs and make sure you are not being a cheapskate. Consider additional compensation such as profit sharing or benefit perks that help the bottom line be bigger for that employee. This is especially nice when it comes as a surprise. For example, if you have a profit sharing or bonus plan, it can be great fun for employees to see what “extra” will be in their check this week. Talk about motivating!

Personal Workstation. Whether it’s an office with a window, a cubicle, or a desk in an open area, employees like to feel comfortable and have some sense of ownership in their work space. After all, they spend several hours a week there. Allow employees to decorate their space within reason and show their creativity. Try to provide privacy for those having to share a larger room, either through staggered schedules or room dividers. Make sure their workstation is ergonomically correct. Give them a reasonable budget to get supplies or equipment they need in order to do their job more comfortably and efficiently.

Common workspace. Take pride in the common areas in the workplace. Keep the break room and bathrooms clean. Provide beverages and snacks. Have meeting spaces that are uncluttered. If possible, have some view of the outside, keeping windows clean. Have some agreed upon standards for how the overall office/workplace is kept (i.e. reasonable standards of neatness.) Sometimes, you can assign an employee to maintain a particular common area. One place I worked gave this job to the receptionist and daily, she was sure to keep the workroom straightened up. In another, the staff rotated kitchen duty.

Make some effort to improve the culture and you’ll see productivity and loyalty improve, too! (For a handbook of lots of ideas, check out my book, Boost Your Workplace Morale: A Practical Guide for Employees (and their Managers.)
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