Transform Your Company Culture Now

Author: Katie Truesdell Date: June 03, 2014

Because doing so boosts employees’ enthusiasm and improves your office environment.

Long, crazy hours spent in close quarters. It’s a situation that can provoke stress in employees instantly. But it’s also the nature of event planning.

When Will Curran launched his event production company, Endless Entertainment, in 2007 in Tempe, Ariz., he knew he needed a company culture that could ease tension in an unavoidably stressful situation. Curran stresses his company’s core values—such as energy, fun and creativity—to his employees at staff meetings before every event.

If morale boosts are needed, he directs employees to these values on his website. For those who follow it, Curran rewards his 21 employees generously—the last incentive sent the top six performers to Disneyland for two days in March.

If the story of your company culture isn’t as cheery, don’t panic. Here are three common problems that small business owners experience with company culture and how to fix them.

The problem: Your employees don’t understand your company vision.

The solution: Be more transparent.

Seattle-based TINYpulse measures employee engagement for companies around the world. Joyce Zhou, the company’s communications manager, says a company study shows transparency trumps all other factors in determining employee engagement, which in turn affects employees’ understanding of company vision.

Therefore, small business owners should incorporate information about budget, customer feedback, strategic plans and more into regular staff meetings.

Blake Zalcberg, CEO of OFM, a mid-size office- and school-furniture manufacturer, distributor and wholesaler in Holly Springs, N.C., found a different way to be transparent.  

After an internal suggestion box showed nearly 70 percent of employees wanted to know more about the company, he launched an internal “university program.” The classes—which focus on subjects such as shipping, sales and core values—are typically held monthly. They have helped departments understand the company, from new products to corporate philosophy, outside of their own departments, Zalcberg says.

The problem: Your company’s values have gotten lost as it has grown bigger.

The solution: Keep your mission top of mind.

Write and record what employee traits, office environment and work protocols support the culture you desire. Share this information with staff, and screen job candidates accordingly.

Karen Clark Cole, co-founder and CEO of Blink UX, a Seattle research and design firm, faced this challenge when her company grew 287 percent in the past three years. “What used to be tribal knowledge and an assumed way of doing things went out the window at about 10 people,” Cole says. “We had to develop processes and systems for keeping our work quality extremely high, which is one of the foundations of our culture.”

The problem: Your employees feel their opinions and ideas aren’t valued.

The solution: Rethink your company’s structure.

Restructuring can create a more vibrant, energetic organization where everyone is engaged. California-based consultants Stewart Liff and Paul Gustavson, authors of A Team of Leaders: Empowering Every Member to Take Ownership, Demonstrate Initiative, and Deliver Results, say you can create a team of leaders by giving employees more responsibility and involving them integrally in the way the company operates.

That means letting them weigh in on goals, planning, scheduling and performance management. This process takes commitment and patience—but the payback can be substantial, Liff and Gustavson say. You’ll have more time and energy to focus on higher-level work, and your staff will be happier, more productive and committed to the company.

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