The workplace culture you set for your business can have a crucial impact on the business' performance. A workplace culture which enables and fosters the exchange of ideas can help you prevent many small issues from snowballing until they derail your business. The tone you set will also affect how high your employee turnover will be. Employees will be more loyal to your business if it has a workplace culture that fits them. Finally, a good workplace culture makes it easier to attract new talent.
But if workplace culture is that great, why don't more business owners make an effort to build it well? There are a couple of possible answers to that question, but the simplest one is — they don't know how. It's not that easy to figure out where to start, and what kinds of things to use to direct the development of the culture.
Starting From the Top
If you ever saw an interview with the CEO of Infor Charles Phillips, you probably noticed that he has strong opinions about the type of people he wants to work with. Infor won't hire people who are hard to be around. The company also uses an open space setup for the management, and it welcomes interruptions and five-minute meetings.
Some of those things might not appeal to you, and that's okay. Maybe you don't want to work only with nice people or share an office. But the point here is something different: workplace culture is always set from the top. As a business owner, you cannot allow your employees to dictate it. You can assign one of your closest partners or managers to be in charge of developing the workplace culture. But it has to be envisioned, planned, and enforced from the top. And you have to lead by example — you can't ask others something you're not willing to do yourself.
Develop Policies, Practices, and Values
Dress code, code of conduct, and attendance policies are among the most important elements of workplace culture. If you want to give your business a culture that's somewhat strict, the policies should reflect it. You can also decide to be more casual by allowing business casual attire, getting on a first name basis, and letting people work from home once in a while.
The practices you develop will address how your business treats its employees. How much time do you want to dedicate to onboarding? Do your employees have a clear advancement plan? How much do you plan to invest in training and skill development? You should also think about how you want the business to be structured.
The values your business has are important for more than just branding. If you adopt a strong stance on environmental issues, for example, you will attract people who feel the same. If you decide that your business support a charity, you'll give the employees something they can identify with. But if you decide that you're only in for the profit, you'll end up with employees who feel the same.
Plan the Layout
The type of floor plan you choose for your office will have an effect on your workplace culture. It will affect your businesses in more ways than that, though, but the effect on your workplace culture will be significant.
You don't have to believe the hype that open office plans are the best things since sliced bread. In fact, open office plans have a lot of bad mixed in with the good. For example, open offices facilitate communication, but they are also a source of distraction. There are other ways to keep communication flowing. Instant messaging can always be used to ensure that everyone can communicate instantaneously. But you should also consider having plenty of common spaces where people can meet, exchange information, or collaborate. It's a flexible plan where people can group quickly when needed.
Finally, you should understand that you're not an island. Yes, the culture is set from the top down. But there are other people who are expected to come to work every day and spend time in that culture. Once in a while, you should ask them how they think things are going at work. You can do this by organizing an offsite. Give the employees a chance to relax and express themselves. Then, you should reflect on what they're saying, and see if you need to make any adjustments. Workplace culture is developed to benefit your business. But it will not be able to do so unless the people who work there are able to find their place in it.