We all know someone who raves about their workplace, their “cool boss,” and so on. How does a workplace get to be that way? If we were to backtrack over an organization’s growth story, we would see something like this:
- The founders had a vision of their ideal company culture and set the tone from day one.
- They showed a personal interest in who the first few (or several) hires were; possibly conducted in-person interviews themselves up to a few levels.
- They demonstrated a strong work ethic for others to emulate.
- They led by example and showed up for the team.
- They certainly prioritized work but also team bonding and fun.
Not only is it a must for a founding team to lay the cornerstone for the ideal company culture, but it is also that much more imperative to maintain it over the long term. Different challenges crop up at various stages of the journey as the company grows from a small to a mid-sized one and from mid-sized to a large corporation.
What should be the key parameters to focus on when building an organizational culture?
1. Set an exemplary work ethic
It should be clear from day one that the organization means business! The founding team must set the pace and expect great things out of their hires. They should be the ones working the hardest and the smartest so that others continually look up to them- not an easy position to be in, but well worth the returns in the long run.
2. Emphasize clarity and transparency in communication
These should be present in everything from company policy and processes to everyday communication. Also, the management must encourage open conversations and regular informal one-on-ones and check-ins by managers with their team members, rather than wait until standard, timed reviews. This makes the employees feel seen, heard, and valued.
3. Loop employees into culture-building endeavors
Giving employees cultural stewardship is a great step towards creating an excellent social climate and building a warm and inclusive workspace. Giving them creative liberty to plan dress-up days, contests, and events is great, too. This goes beyond injecting the fun factor into the everyday routine as it fosters teamwork and bonding.
4. Foster an environment of continuous learning
It is easy for employees to become disengaged or bored if nothing excites or challenges them at work. Keep it interesting. Follow upcoming trends in your field and get them the training to ride the wave. Encourage them to ask questions and seek answers. Make continuous education on the job a part of the growth trajectory.
5. Let everyone have their moment in the sun
A growing organization gathers all types of personalities. A team may be made up of more outgoing, vocal individuals as well as shy individuals who don’t lack ideas but are in danger of being drowned out in discussions or conversations. A savvy manager pays attention and encourages every person to chip in and do what they can to create a level playing field.
6. Encourage cross-departmental collaboration
Silos can sometimes spell death to a budding culture, as people rarely interact with others outside their department. Every employee should have at least a basic working knowledge of every aspect of the business, the issues other departments may face, and how they can work together in a manner that aligns with company goals. Some of this can happen formally during orientation or briefings, but it can also be accomplished informally through inter-departmental socializing opportunities or mixers that add the human element.
7. Take a genuine interest in your employees
Get to know your employees as individuals, with families, dreams, ambitions, talents, hobbies, and yes, problems. Be sensitive to health or other pressing issues that hamper productivity and try to find solutions that work for everyone. Be a good listener. This is easier while the organization is still small and gets more challenging to pull off as it grows. But the seeds for an empathetic work environment would have been sown from the outset.
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