Company culture is one of those things that can incredibly hard to define, let alone cultivate and nurture in a way that adds value to your business. Everyone knows what a poor company culture looks like, but that doesn't make it any easier for businesses to get it right.
For small-business owners, understanding how organisational culture affects their performance is something that warrants very serious consideration. Beyond simply leading the enterprise and maintaining its financial standing, business owners and senior leaders are the custodians of a company's culture.
If you think your organisation has room to improve, we've assembled four unique approaches that can help you build a great team environment.
1) Define what your company's values are
Every organisation holds values that will impact the way they perform, interact with clients and achieve future growth. The challenge for a leadership team is to understand these values and ensure they are communicating and embedding them into every level of the company.
Take teamwork for example. Many businesses will say that teamwork is a cornerstone of their company culture but this doesn't always translate into the way they operate. If your remuneration structure is rewarding individual high performers rather than teams, then it's hard to argue that the office culture is one that values solidarity.
It falls on senior leaders to be sure they have a clear picture of where the company's culture stands and how this is being embedded into every part of the enterprise's operations.
2) Have metrics in place to measure any improvement
Like we said, culture can be hard to define and even harder to measure. However, there are a number of concrete metrics where culture can translate into an improvement in business performance.
If excellent customer service is something you plan on making a part of the culture, make sure to measure the number of compliments and complaints you receive about staff. This information can give you the benchmark you need to determine how effective your efforts to improve company culture have been.
3) Get your hiring and human resources processes right
Culture evolves over time, as new people enter your organisation and established employees leave. Having a consistent culture requires you to hire staff members who have the right attitude and outlook to contribute to the team environment, as well as having the appropriate skills and background.
This also means being willing to let go of staff who conflict with company values. One of the hardest decisions a business owner needs to make is letting go employees who might be harming the company. No matter how good an individual is at their job, if they can't fit the team culture and start to alienate other employees then it falls on a business leader to make a difficult call on their performance.
4) Lead by example
For every business leader, one of the biggest parts of their role is setting the culture of the office and embodying it throughout their own work. While individual staff members might come and go, as a business leader, you will remain as a constant presence in the organisation.
To go back to the customer service example - consider taking the time to get to know your customer-facing staff, understand their issues and ensure they have the support they need. If one part of your business is central to your culture, consider changing the organisational structure so they are reporting straight to you - that way you can be sure you have your finger on the pulse of important departments.
Building a strong internal culture requires a considerable investment from a small-business owner. However, companies that can get this right are likely to see improved business outcomes and employees who are engaged and passionate about their work.