Step by Step Guide to a Happy and Healthy Company Culture

What really makes a happy and healthy company culture? We all know about those companies that are supposed to be amazing places to work. You know, the ones with colourful offices, unlimited annual leave, beanbags, table football, rooftop gardens blah blah blah…

But is a brightly painted office really equal to a great culture? If you scratch the PR sheen off, will you actually find more engaged, productive and happy employees?

Step by Step Guide to a Happy and Healthy Company Culture
Step by Step Guide to a Happy and Healthy Company Culture

The chances are no, but there’s only one way to find out…

In this article, we’ll explore what it really means to have a truly positive workplace culture, what that can do for your organisation and the tools that can be used to develop or maintain the one you already have.

A workplace culture that recognises and rewards employees to improve performance, retention and engagement, rather than one that looks good on the surface, but fails employees on a day-to-day basis.

Here are a few of the topics we’ll cover in the guide:

  • What is a workplace culture?
  • Getting your recruitment process right.
  • Supporting a healthy work/life balance.
  • Recognising hard work.

If you want to make a true impact to your employees’ sense of worth and make your company values something that every member of your organisation can feel a part of, then make sure you’re following the essential steps.

Content Summary

Introduction
What is a workplace culture
What company culture fits your organisation?
Define your company’s mission, vision and core values
Communicate the mission and vision of your company to every employee
Understand what will make your employees happy
Get your recruitment process right
Promote teamwork
Support a healthy work/life balance
Support employee wellbeing
Provide workplace benefits
Lead by example
Encourage open communication across the business
Communicate expectations and processes
Recognise hard work
Treat employees as individuals
What a great culture can do for a business

Introduction

We all know about the companies that are supposedly amazing places to work. You know, the colourful offices, the unlimited annual leave, beanbags, table football, rooftop gardens… we could go on.

But is a brightly painted office equal to a great culture? In fact, if you scratch off the PR sheen off some of the more glamorous workplaces, will you find engaged, productive and happy employees? Because that’s what a good workplace culture should really be about – making people happy, engaged and part of something bigger.

In this article, we’ll explore what it means to have a truly positive workplace culture, what that can do for an organisation, and the tools that can be used to develop or maintain one – one that recognises and rewards employees to improve performance, retention and engagement, rather than one that looks good on the surface, but fails employees on a day-to-day basis.

We’ve also gathered the expertise of some of our incentive and recognition specialists, and surveyed 1,000 of the UK’s workers to really get to the bottom of what a good culture means, and how it works.

Let’s get started then, shall we?

What is a workplace culture

Workplace culture has already emerged in your organisation, but it may not necessarily align with your vision.

What is a workplace culture
What is a workplace culture

The term refers to the values, behaviours, and shared vision of the business that contribute to the environment of your organisation. A healthy and well-managed workplace culture allows businesses to attract and retain top talent. Having a motivated workforce that is invested in your brand also works to improve profitability.

However, having your culture goals outlined in a document that’s never referred to after your hiring process is not enough of a commitment. It’s crucial to incorporate your business values across every organisational level so that team members feel inspired to maintain these goals. And we don’t mean by just printing it in big letters up on the office wall, either…

A healthy and well managed workplace culture allows businesses to attract anf retain top talent.

What company culture fits your organisation?

Understanding what motivates your particular workforce will help you to design organisational culture that cooperatively aligns your core values with those of your employees.

What company culture fits your organisation?
What company culture fits your organisation?

We’ve gathered together some of the most common types of cultures; in fact, you may find that your company already fits into one of these styles organically. Is this the culture you want to grow and nourish or is a change needed?

Team-First Corporate Culture

This is a culture in which team bonding and cross-department collaboration is the top priority. This type of organisation will have both formal and informal events planned to encourage strong employee relations, such as after-work drinks and team-building activities.

Team-first corporate culture allows for flexibility and a level of independence to encourage employee happiness. This may mean providing unlimited annual leave or flexible working hours that allow individuals to control their schedules to improve their work/life balance.

This particular culture also encourages independent decision-making and open communication across the business, emphasising the importance of collaboration and information sharing to ensure that the company can hit targets while protecting the needs of each employee.

Elite Corporate Culture

This is how the likes of Google and Facebook are run; innovation and forward-thinking is not only encouraged, but expected of each employee. This business will only hire the best and value fast growth. Proactive, creative thinkers are encouraged here as a means of driving the company forward.

Hierarchy Corporate Culture

The most traditional culture, where the bottom line is always the top priority.

This style will be risk-averse and will only make data-driven decisions. There will, in most instances, also be a dress code and a clearly defined hierarchy. Expect to find well-established processes that focus on high-quality output; however, the introduction of new technology or innovation can be tricky in this environment.

Horizontal Corporate Culture

This is mainly seen in small start-ups where collaboration and a can-do attitude are crucial. This culture makes for quite flexible working, where employees are encouraged to use market research to refine their strategy.

Clan Culture

The clan culture is for those businesses that have a “family-like” atmosphere — usually seen in smaller organisations and start-ups where teamwork is vital for the success of the company. Employees are encouraged to collaborate regularly, and high employee engagement is critical.

In this style of culture, management levels are kept to a minimum so that communication remains informal and candid.

Define your company’s mission, vision and core values

This is one of the most critical steps in creating your company culture. Your core values will provide your employees with clarity on what is expected of them to help drive your company’s success.

Define your company’s mission, vision and core values
Define your company’s mission, vision and core values

Regardless of size, your company’s mission and vision will go hand in hand with your values. These attributes should be mirrored by all prospective and existing employees, serving as the guideline for hiring and firing.

When defining your core values, start with the why of your business. Why do you trade and how does your current team reflect this purpose?

Take some time to work through the following questions:

  • Why does your company exist?
  • What does the company believe in?
  • What is the vision for your company?
  • What makes your company the place they want to work in?
  • Are there any areas of the business that they aren’t particularly happy with?

Check if you have any reviews on Glassdoor and see if this provides any insights into the pros and cons of working for your organisation. If this research throws up any areas that you can address or improve on, devise a plan to tackle these challenges.

Once you’ve gathered your research, arrange a meeting with all stakeholders. Present your findings and discuss some of the alternative culture models that you believe your business should emulate.

Once there is consensus about your company’s core values, make sure that they stay at the forefront of all future business decisions. Place them at the heart of everything your company does to get the essential buy-in from your employees. Start by sharing them in company meetings, make them part of your recruitment process as well as part of new hire’s inductions.

When we work with a client we have to understand their market proposition and industry. Their goals, values and what success looks like for the company. Some companies have great brand values, but face challenges in living up to them day-to-day. This is a big part of what we do – looking at why companies want to create a positive culture. Developing that mission, vision and set of values, helping businesses to actually live and breathe them, and making them the building blocks of the workplace culture. – Iain Thomson, Director of Client Engagement

Communicate the mission and vision of your company to every employee

When employees are privy to the mission and vision of a business, they have more sense of ownership and understanding of how their role drives the business forward. If they do not see the value in their work, they will naturally become less motivated.

No matter the size of your business, transparency is vital. Keeping your employees up to date with what is going on within the organisation will allow them to understand how they can improve or solve any problems with more autonomy.

Understand what will make your employees happy

The 2016 IZA World of Labor report found that an increase in employee happiness directly relates to a rise in employee productivity. By making sure your staff are happy will mean less sick days and your employees will work harder and take more initiative with their role in the company.

When you do not focus on the happiness of your staff, you will have disengaged employees. Gallup reports that disengaged employees have 37% higher absenteeism, 49% more accidents, and 60% more errors and defects.

Taking the time to understand what gives your employees greater job satisfaction is starting to sound like a good investment, right?

Millennials value fun in their workplace, so much so that 79% of this demographic say that fun is an important workplace factor that makes them work harder. Providing a culture that allows for opportunities to socialise, laugh and celebrate is vital for this cohort.

A powerful way to enhance your employees’ happiness is through understanding how workspace affects their productivity. While some employees will like an open plan office and the opportunity to natter throughout the day, others may struggle to focus if there is too much going on around them and prefer to work undisturbed.

The actual physical environment of the workplace – just read any “top 10 companies to work for” article online and you’ll find that this is amongst the most important factors. Colour, decoration, and quirky breakout spaces are obviously part of making a work environment that feels a bit friendlier and more comfortable to work in.

Compared to the other factors we’ve discussed, however, it’s really just window dressing. A more pleasant working environment shouldn’t be neglected – but the most important aspect is how much control employees have over that environment.

Ask yourself: Are suggestions for new features heard? Is adding home comforts allowed? Is there an unspoken rule that the nicest breakout space is saved for management? Do people have enough space to work comfortably?

Understand what will make your employees happy
Understand what will make your employees happy

The best way to find out what will have the biggest impact on your staff will be to ask them directly. Put together a focus group and see what suggestions they have to improve their happiness at work or send a survey to see what is most important to the company as a whole.

Ask yourself: Are suggestions for new features heard? Is adding home comforts allowed? Is there an unspoken rule that the nicest breakout space is saved for management? Do people have enough space to work comfortably?

Get your recruitment process right

Qualifications, skills, and a candidate’s abilities to fulfil the vacant role largely dictated the recruitment process in the past. However, companies who consider the culture fit of any new employee tend to have a much more successful hire who will want to work harder and cooperate more.

Get your recruitment process right
Get your recruitment process right

By hiring with cultural fit in mind, you’ll be not only be looking for a balance of who would be best to fulfil the needs of the role, but also who will align with the core values of your business and whose personalities will gel well with the current team.

There is nothing inherently wrong or unethical with a traditional onboarding approach, but we believe it is sub-optimal because it keeps employees emotionally detached from their jobs and fails to generate the most productive, innovative work environment… In fact, this traditional approach ignores employees’ basic human need to express their authentic, best selves – to be recognized by others for performances that tap signature strengths. – Harvard Professor Dr. Francesca Gino

Questions you may want to consider here are:

Tell me something you have taught yourself in the last six months.
This allows you to measure the curiosity of your candidates; are they going to want to learn new things and improve themselves?

If you were to join the team, how will you judge your time here as a success after your first year?
This question lets you gauge how good a fit the candidate will be with the core values of your business. By removing any leading questions such as “are you responsible at work?” you’ll be able to see what soft skills they have and understand how much of a team player they are.

What has shaped you, regardless of your school or occupation?
By bypassing the credentials listed on their CV, you’ll force your candidates to shift their focus onto what has built their character through their experiences outside of education and the workplace.

Does that make sense?
If communication is a core value for your business, you’ll be able to test the soft skills of your candidate by asking them this simple question. If a candidate responds with a simple “yes” there’s a chance that they may not be a strong communicator. The ability to effectively summarise what you have said and echo an understanding of your needs is a more desired outcome for this role.

Promote teamwork

The healthiest company cultures always believe in teamwork and are willing to support their colleagues to get the job done. By promoting a strong team spirit, you’ll be building a culture that shows how collaboration tackles problems more effectively. Even when others have their own tasks and responsibilities, there’s nothing wrong will lending a helping hand to ensure the business succeeds.

Promote teamwork
Promote teamwork

This also means that employees are aware that they are part of a team and that if they need help, they can lean on their colleagues without feeling judged or criticised.

Support a healthy work/life balance

Many organisations can lose sight of the fact that employees have a life outside of work – and the things going on outside of the four walls of the office may occasionally be a bit more important to an employee for short periods of time.

Support a healthy work/life balance
Support a healthy work/life balance

Employers have a duty to make sure their staff are not breaking under the pressures of their role. By encouraging a healthy work/ life balance, you can become more aware of staff members who feel overwhelmed and enable employees to speak up before stress levels become a cause for concern. By helping employees to feel more comfortable in being able to speak to HR when they have a problem with their workload, the business will be able to address issues before they become a bigger problem.

Stress isn’t only bad for the employee, but it’s also bad for profits. A rise in stress levels contributes to voluntary turnover rates by as much as 50%, as well as health issues that can result in increased absenteeism.

From our own research, we found that 48% of people surveyed, a good work/life balance was the most important thing they look for in a workplace.

Employees are looking for companies that understand the need for a healthy work/life balance. This may be in the form of flexible working hours, unlimited annual leave, or just encouraging staff to step away from their desks throughout the day.

Support employee wellbeing

By promoting healthy living habits in your office, such as taking regular breaks away from your desk to do some levels of exercise, it will not only have a positive effect on their wellbeing. but help to increase energy levels and prevent mood swings. If you’re restricted by the space within your office, consider walking meetings to have small team catch-ups.

Support employee wellbeing
Support employee wellbeing

You can help to promote better eating habits by providing healthy snacks such as fresh fruit and vegetables rather than having crisps or chocolates. If your budget doesn’t stretch to doing this on a daily basis, make smaller changes; such as swapping biscuits in meetings for healthier alternatives.

Provide workplace benefits

When creating a successful workplace culture, benefits can help to solidify the core values of the business for employees and help them feel more tangible. For example, if you want to show how important employee wellness is to your staff, offering free gym memberships or standing desks, shows that you encourage your team to be more active and are committed to their overall health and wellbeing.

Lead by example

For any new company culture to take effect, the management team needs to lead by example. It is all very well and good to say your company encourages a healthy work/life balance, but if the management team are coming in early, putting in long hours or never stepping away from their desks, it can be hard for employees to feel they can leave on time or come to their managers if they are struggling with their workload.

Lead by example
Lead by example

To help get buy-in from your management team, have them involved during the culture-building process so that they are fully committed to the improvements or changes needed to make it a success.

Encourage open communication across the business

By making communication a core value, you will have a company that is run with trust and honesty.

A study by Google discovered how psychological safety is the most important factor in high performing teams. Encouraging open dialogue that enables individuals to express their concerns without fearing ridicule, rejection or punishment is essential.

Encourage open communication across the business
Encourage open communication across the business

This can be achieved by avoiding the blame game when something does go wrong. Where in the past repercussions and punishments were thought of as a necessity, modern research has found that punishment actually damages trust and loyalty, whereas curiosity and compassion build it. By training your management team to show empathy and compassion, you’ll have a more respected leadership team and improved employee retention.

Companies who are serious about building a strong culture will also be willing to share the company’s financial information. This can be a scary step for some businesses as you don’t want to cause panic due to a bad quarter. However, it can have the opposite effect. By sharing the highs and lows, employees feel more involved in the running of the organisation, and any feelings regarding fair pay can be resolved. This, in turn, will reduce turnover and improve employee commitment.

Daily communication that shares facts and verified information will significantly change the atmosphere of the business and increase productivity.

Communicate expectations and processes

Ask yourself: how are people expected to work in your organisation?

Overly authoritarian policies may seem like they’re for the greater good, but they don’t always make for a particularly positive workplace culture. Enforcing strict rules on dress code, having an inflexible attitude towards flexible working hours, or even cracking down on office chatter can create a rigid and hostile environment.

Communicate expectations and processes
Communicate expectations and processes

Bureaucratic practices can have a similar impact on an organisation’s culture. In the worst cases, there could be too many levels of management to go through before an employee feels like they’re talking to someone who can actually help them. In addition, poorly communicated changes in procedures, ineffective internal comms and other bottlenecks to progress can make people feel like they lack control over their work and hold back their ability to add value to the business to achieve their shared vision.

If you follow our tips to hire based on cultural fit as well as role suitability, you should be building a team that loves working for you and are naturally productive. However, it’s still essential to make sure everyone in the business understands what is expected by them and where processes need to be followed.

By setting out clear expectations and providing processes where needed, you can avoid micromanaging becoming part of your culture and allow employees to work on their own initiatives, without affecting the quality of the work produced.

Recognise hard work

When employees know what is expected of them, it makes it much easier to reward those who go the extra mile. This prevents any quiet animosity from building within the organisation from members who feel unseen or unappreciated.

Recognise hard work
Recognise hard work

When someone has done a great job, no matter how big or small, it’s important to show gratitude. These gestures can be as simple as a genuine thank you, or other tokens of appreciation, such as a reward or celebration. By ignoring the importance of recognising your staff, you’ll be opening your business up to the biggest cause of demotivation at work.

This goes further than just making employees feel valued. A Harvard study found that when people feel acknowledged, their emotions improve. A sense of acknowledgement also boosts resistance to disease and resilience to stress and burnout. Appreciated employees creatively solve problems and perform better under pressure. Employer-worker relationships also benefit from this consideration.

Peer-to-peer recognition can help every member of your business to understand the power of a thank you. You can achieve this through the implementation of an online platform that allows employees to send notes of gratitude. These expressions can also be shared with their line managers. Alternatively, you can make use of a nomination system that allows candidates to be entered into a prize draw for a monetary reward, such as a voucher or gift card.

A massive 79% of employees quit because they feel unappreciated, so even a simple thank you can go a long way! – Source: Forbes Magazine

Treat employees as individuals

Create a culture that allows people to get to know their colleagues as individuals. Good managers will familiarise themselves with both the career and personal goals of their employees and support them. This all goes back to having a culture that values communication and listening skills that show you care and are interested in the individuals that make up for your organisation.

When managers are aware of the good and bad things happening in their team’s lives, they will be able to have more compassion and understanding when someone is struggling as well as be in a position to offer more support before the employee reaches the breaking point. Celebrate birthdays and important life milestones within the team (or office, if you’re a smaller organisation) to help build a positive culture.

What a great culture can do for a business

People need to feel a sense of belonging at work. This means they need to feel appreciated, to know that they’re an essential part of the organisation they work for. They need to understand and be on board with, its mission, goals and objectives. These are the messages that a positive workplace culture instils in employees.

Creating a culture where people feel comfortable and respected – where they’re looking forward to coming to work because it’s a great place to be, where they have good relationships with their co-workers and, most importantly, their managers – will create a greater emotional connection between employees and the organisation they work for. And that connection means people will want to see the organisation succeed – causing further positive effects, including improving:

  • Productivity and performance
  • Employee retention
  • Recruitment of new talent

They need to understand and be on board with, its mission, goals and objectives.

Source: Sodexo Quality of Life Services

Published by Jeannette Scott

, a wellness coach specializing in stress management and quality of life. She’s covered topics from nutrition to psychology, from sexuality to autoimmune diseases and cancer.