What Exactly Is Company Culture?

The Balance Careers recently posted an article tackling this question. In it, career expert Alison Doyle gives us the keys to Understanding Company Culture.

“Company culture is the personality of a company. It defines the environment in which employees work. Company culture includes a variety of elements, including work environment, company mission, value, ethics, expectations, and goals.”

Think about your workplace. How do you feel when you walk in? What kind of “energy” is in the air? Is it positive or negative? Energetic? Lackluster? Are employees satisfied and empowered in their roles or are they simply working for the weekend? All of these aspects, and more, feed your company culture.

Why should you care?

You should care because, whether they want it or not, every company and organization has a culture. According to Forbes contributor William Craig, company culture isn’t created, it’s ingrained.

“…company culture is something that is pre-existing in your company’s genetic code; it’s not something that employees bring with them. In fact, a company with just one employee – a company with no employees, if we’re being honest – still has a culture.”

What we used to call job satisfaction has morphed into employee satisfaction. In an era of low unemployment, employee satisfaction is key to finding—and keeping—the right candidates for your company’s success.

Job satisfaction is boiled down to tangible benefits such as salary, time off, and health care.

Employee satisfaction rests on less tangible factors: environment, experience, engagement, etc. In the current job market, competitive wages, generous paid time off, and significant health care coverage are merely the baseline.

Today’s workforce expects more than a job well done, they expect a life well lived. Since a majority of that life is spent working, it only makes sense that people want that time to be satisfying. You want your business to succeed and success requires the right candidates. The right candidates look for employee satisfaction, which, in large part, depends on company culture.

What should you do?

Company culture is set through both nature and nurture. The choices you make and environment you create molds the way people inside, and outside, of the company view and relate to it.

The goal is to make the work experience a positive one. Think beyond job satisfaction. Think employee satisfaction. How do you improve employee satisfaction? According to research, “Employees who are highly satisfied with the places they work are also the most highly engaged.”

What Is Employee Engagement?

Gallup defines engaged employees as those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.” Engaged employees attend company events and efforts not because they have to, but because they want to. In short, engaged employees are invested and take pride in where they are and what they do. They not only enjoy a positive company culture, they breed it.

Why should you care about employee engagement?

We all have an innate need to be known and valued by ourselves and others. We crave interaction and validation. Done correctly, employee engagement has the power to turn your company into a community. Getting people involved fosters a sense of ownership and pride in their work and yours. It cultivates positive company culture, thus improving employee satisfaction. Time and effort invested in employee engagement is time and effort invested in your company’s success.

What should you do to improve employee engagement?

Schedule Regular Check-Ins – Positive company culture starts on an individual and team level. Regularly scheduled check-ins both one on one and as a team are very important for employee satisfaction. Understanding expectations, tracking progress and setting goals encourages both managers and employees to succeed. Meeting regularly also helps to diffuse minor issues before they become major issues while promoting team camaraderie and morale.  You might even consider building check-ins into your project management system. That way, they become an expected part of your business’s everyday cadence.

Form a Culture Club – It’s always good to have a plan before starting any sort of project. Instead of relying on Human Resource to head up engagement efforts, gather a small group of people from different areas of the company. Design it as a sort of club rather than committee. Take this opportunity to unite various roles and departments, engage employees and give them ownership in helping to integrate your workforce, break down silos, and foster community across your company.

Take Pulse Surveys – Short, but frequently used, pulse surveys engage employees and monitor the health of the workplace environment. Pulse surveys generally ask fewer than ten questions, using Likert scales for responses. Their brevity and ease decreases completion time and increases completion rates. As a bonus, insights gleaned from survey responses contribute to future success for the company.

Give ‘Em a Break – Let’s face it, work can be stressful and stress creates tension, which wreaks havoc on company culture. American society places heavy expectations on drive and success. The old way of thinking went “If breaks disrupt drive and hamper success, in order to succeed, eliminate breaks.” Thanks to this, Americans are working themselves raw. People need breaks and they need to know their job won’t be at stake if they take them. Organize optional relaxation breaks during the work day: meditation, stretching, yoga, walks, massages, or anything your club believes will help people relieve stress.

Promote Colleague Recognition – Workplace recognition doesn’t have to come from the top down. Create outlets for employees to appreciate and recognize each other. Give people reasons to applaud each other for reasons outside of their everyday work responsibilities.  Both the giver and receiver benefit from the positive interaction.

Unite Birds of a Feather – People with similar interests already have a sort of built-in bond. Strengthen that bond with company-sponsored intramural teams, book clubs, or other interest-focused groups. Extending the invitation across the company will introduce like-minded employees who may have never crossed paths.

Arrange Friendly Competitions – Try introducing an element of friendly competition. The key word here is friendly. You’re looking to spur engagement, not animosity. Gamification engages employees exceptionally well. Games and incentives provide excellent motivation. Team-based competitions deepen relationships by causing teammates to push and rely on each other. Counter unhealthy rivalry by allowing the employees, themselves, to vote on a winner.

The Bottom Line:

Upping your employee engagement game doesn’t have to put a major dent in your budget. All of the examples outlined here can be achieved at low or no cost to your company. Awards and prizes don’t have to be extravagant or even tangible. Company swag may not seem sexy, but you never know who could use something you already have available. In-kind gifts from vendors can be given away at no additional cost to you. And despite the American hesitation to take breaks, paid time off is always a popular incentive.

If your yearly budget is already set, review your goals and make an effort to allocate funds for engagement into the next budget.

The real bottom line is that engaged employees who are invested in, enthusiastic about, and, of course, satisfied with their—your—company culture are among the most important resources you could ever hope to have.

Melissa Reinke is a writer for TechnologyAdvice.comShe is a storyteller, editor, writer, and all-around word nerd extraordinaire. She spends her days managing web content and her nights unwinding in myriad creative ways.

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