Clever ways to improve your culture
Company culture is shaped through your daily work rituals. Habits that set the social and behavioural norms that go onto hone your company’s unique personality. Improving your company culture requires regular work. Just like exercising and eating well leads to good health, constantly investing in your people has the same effect on your company culture. It takes a little effort to get going, but after a while you won’t notice how natural improving your culture becomes.
Here are some actionable ideas to improve your company culture:
Introduce transparent salaries
Giving everyone access to each other’s salaries helps reduce Chinese whispers and the typical water cooler moaning you find in most political organisations. You could go a step further, like our friends at Buffer, and publish everyone’s salaries publicly along with their formula for working out how much to pay people.
“Feel good Fridays”
Every Friday each team member shares 3 things that went well, 1 thing they learned and 3 things they are looking forward to next week. As a result, people reflect on the positives, share success together, and actually get excited about coming to work next week. This is something I’ve implemented in different teams to great effect.
House teams — Harry Potter style
Cross-team collaboration is a really big problem in companies of more than 50 people. So to get different teams speaking and learning from each other then how about this idea? When a new team member joins they join a house with their own crest, colours, badges etc. Throughout the year houses can compete against each other at events for an annual trophy. Be it a company sports day, a simple pub quiz or an escape room experience.
Hire more women
Studies in 17 different countries in all different industries found that across the board, having a larger number of women on a team accounts for greater psychological safety, team confidence, group experimentation, and team efficiency. So having a healthy gender balance especially in senior level positions can help drive your culture forward.
Get some stand out perks
Perk wars are getting pretty silly; there are only so many ping-pong tables and game consoles a company needs. But having really stand out perks such as on-site gym, unlimited holidays, and family friendly parental leave policies are a great way to communicate to your employees that you care about them. Signing up to employee reward services like Perkbox or Reward Gateway can be super handy in organising these.
Have a culture workshop
Sometimes we’re so entrenched in an organisation we need an external perspective to understand what our culture really is. Doing a workshop with your employees, to talk about how to improve your, culture is a really good place to start. Try something like Culturevist, a network of culture activists who run regular bespoke workshops and events.
Practice meditation regularly
Stress and mental health are still one of the last work taboos. Meditation encourages you to observe your emotions, and hang out with them, instead of avoiding or suppressing them. Teaching this skill to your employees can lead to happier and more harmonious teams. If a weekly class is too much, then you could offer employees free memberships to Headspace, a neat little app that leads you through 10-minute daily meditation practices voiced by an ex-Buddhist monk called Andy.
Get fitness trackers for all employees
Offering employees fitness trackers like Fitbit is a fun way to encourage health and wellness, as well as increasing inter-office relationships. A recent study conducted by the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) found companies that ranked highly for workplace health programs enjoyed stock values that appreciated by 235 percent. This is compared to 159 percent for the overall S&P 500 during the six-year simulation period. To encourage company-wide adoption, innovative organisation Belron held a competition on who could walk the most steps in a week between one side of the office and the other.
Holidays are vital for your colleagues to re-charge their batteries. But surprise holidays are met with even more gratitude. Why not give people a couple of ‘duvet days’ a year where if they just feel like staying in bed they can?
“New job” celebrations
Employees leaving is part of life. Instead of feeling down and being a kind of buzz kill, we started celebrating people moving onto new jobs. A ‘congrats on your new job’ card instead of a ‘sorry you’re leaving’ card is a small shift but it creates a company culture of celebration, not mourning.
Embed the “right of first conversation” for employees thinking about leaving
A healthy employee relationship is an open one. Encourage all employees to speak to their manager if they are thinking of interviewing elsewhere. There may be something that could be fixed in the company. Or if not, they may be encouraged to leave. If a manager has their colleagues’ best interests at heart, they shouldn’t let keeping a team together be to the detriment of someone’s future. Zappos go a step further by offering money for new starters to quit at the end of their induction.
“Ideas and beers”
People have lots of awesome ideas that die in people’s minds. Often at TalentRocket we’re too busy with day-to-day to explore all the new ideas we have. Under the mantra that the best ideas are usually hatched in the pub, we have a regular dedicated time to discuss them over a few drinks.
Weekly office massages
Massages can be a great stress reliever. Offering them as a perk to your employees signals that you know that work can be stressful, but you’re here to make things better where you can. Check out Urban Massage to book a regular slot.
Link your work to purpose
The common misconception is that you need to be saving the world to feel like what you do is meaningful. If you can link everyone’s job to the value and happiness it creates in people’s lives, you’ll get people who want to come to work because they know they make a difference. My favourite story of this was during a visit to the NASA space center in 1962, President John F. Kennedy noticed a janitor carrying a broom. He interrupted his tour, walked over to the man and said:
“Hi, I’m Jack Kennedy. What are you doing?”
“Well, Mr. President,” the janitor responded, “I’m helping put a man on the moon.”
To most people, this janitor was just cleaning the building, but in his reality he was helping to make history.
Create a company culture manifesto
Most companies have values, and that’s great, but we think manifestos are better. Manifestos are action orientated documents that hold people to a certain way of working rather than one-word values which can be open to interpretation. Best of all, a manifesto is a living document that’s always up to date, editable by anyone on the team, and never crammed into the bottom drawer of anyone’s desk next to an old granola bar wrapper.
Measure employee engagement
Once-a-year feedback doesn’t come close to providing an employee with the tools they need to improve and grow. Using a pulse survey tool like CultureAmp to regularly measure employee engagement will reduce the feedback loop meaning more action can be taken to address team sentiment.
Have tennis balls by the door
Strange I know. But an idea we’ve been toying with is to have a stack of tennis balls by the office exit and each day ask all people to throw the ball into one of two buckets. One bucket is for “I’ve had a good day today”, the other is for “I’ve had a bad day today”. By forcing your employees to anonymously reflect daily helps them appreciate the good days and passively vent about the bad. Also by measuring the good/bad ratio you’ll get a good indicator of whether you need to take some drastic action to improve the culture.
Start “Innovation Mondays”
Mondays can kind of suck. So on the first Monday of every month, ask everyone to turns off their phones and shut down their email to devote their entire day to … innovation. Hopefully repeatedly great Mondays will shake off their bad reputation.
Create a “Dream Board”
Get a pinboard where everyone puts their dream objects, growth opportunities, and ways in which they want to contribute for the world on. All employees can see each others’ dreams and offer to help make them a reality.
Have a “Praise Leaderboard”
Encourage a weekly vote for top performers and get praised by everyone in front of the whole company.
Encourage a culture of sending a little thank you message to colleagues giving them thanks for doing something good. The person with the most 1Ups a month gets a prize.
Create the “Make My Day” team
Create a secret team that brings fun elements into work every 2 weeks. From weirdness in the workspace to random acts of kindness. Give them a small budget and see what they come up with. It can be anything from buying everyone a coffee or surprising everyone with something small.
Create and cast a company play
So I was a bit sceptical when I heard about this one, but I’ve been turned around. Creating a play acted out by your employees is a really fun way to get people to collaborate together and see their personalities shine.
Hold a minute silence for your competitors’ demise
Every hero’s journey involves conquering a massive fear or a big horrible ogre. Have regular moments of silence for the death of your competitors or the death of the industry you’re disrupting to pre-empt succeeding in your quest for greatness.
Do walk and talks
We are heavily influenced by the physical environment in which we are in. If you want to change someone’s mood, it’s easiest to change their physical state first. So instead of having one-to-ones in your office, go for a walk and talk instead. You’ll find the fresh air, movement and relaxed nature makes people open up more easily.
Get a talking stick for meetings
According to research by the clever folk at Google, the best teams are when people feel comfortable that they can express their opinion. Often it’s felt like the loudest people in the room get things their way more than the quiet types. The talking stick is a technique that allows people to speak equally. The talking stick is passed around from member to member allowing only the person holding the stick to speak. This enables all those present to be heard, especially those who may be shy; consensus can force the stick to move along to assure that the “long winded” don’t dominate the discussion; and the person holding the stick may allow others to interject. You’ll be amazed how many valuable insights come from people who don’t have the confidence or natural inclination to express their ideas in team environments.
Starter packs for new employees
We recently introduced these as a fun new way to onboard people. Each new starter has to create an survival pack for the next new starter to join the company. These can include helpful things like wifi passwords, company swag and emergency tea bags, but they’re often a lot more personal with handmade gifts and advice on how to deal with our deeply sarcastic CTO Mark.
Desks on wheels
Everyone likes to work in different places, but when it comes to the office we’re often tethered to our fixed desks. Putting wheels under sit-down and stand-up desks so they can be moved can help make your team happier and more productive. Just don’t forget the brakes!
Redesign your office
Office design has a huge effect on culture. Airbnb’s new London office is made up of 35% kitchen space to encourage office collaboration. Offices with different layouts create different behavioural norms, work with the team to establish where people work best and put them in the places they’ll be happiest.
Introduce an annual “workation”
A work vacation, also known in the UK as a woliday (just kidding)… Either way, take the company to somewhere new for a week where the whole company can work from a new location.
“Dress up” Fridays
Instead of the typical dress down Fridays, why not throw in dress up Fridays once a month and encourage people to wear suits and ties, their Sunday best. Kudos to Space Ape Games for this one. Or if you always wear suits, go the extra mile: ballgowns, white tie, top hat, and tails.
Lunch and learns
Invite speakers into the office to teach life skills, inspire people and educate. This doesn’t have to be done on a budget, why not ask your employees to talk about something they’re passionate about?
Introduce a ‘dare to try’ award
Creating a company culture where failure is acceptable is critical to letting people experiment and grow. Having an award to celebrate an idea that didn’t work out is a great way to let people know that new ideas are encouraged. Credit goes to Tata for this one who started this in 2007 to encourage the culture of ‘risk taking’, perseverance and sharing openly. Failure is never the goal of a company, but failing and learning is better than not trying in the first place. Just look at Nokia, talking about their business failing:
“we didn’t do anything wrong, but somehow, we lost”
Bring your pet to work day
If you don’t already have a pet-friendly office then encouraging people to bring their pets to work will open up new conversations and strike up new friendships. Getting your employees to know more about each other enables them to connect on a brand new level. The popularity of Bring Your Dog to Work Day on 24 June each year means a wider range of businesses across the country are waking up to the benefits of allowing dogs at work.
Oh and if anyone’s allergic to animals or just hates pets then give them the option to work from home or a co-working space with other pet haters.
Start an investment fund
Building a venture capital firm as part of the company can let employees grow their own ideas and back them rather than risk losing them. Companies like Unilever, Aviva, IBM, Google and Samsung all have thriving CVC (Corporate Venture Capital) arms to fund internal and external ideas that compliment their business streams.
Innovation time (for everyone)
Don’t just let the coders work on their own projects. Other people have ideas and dreams too. Hosting a hack day to get different departments into work on wacky ideas can be a great way to foster collaboration and generate ideas that take your business forward.
Create a company culture video
Creating an employer brand video to capture your company culture can be both fun and enlightening. Start by crowdsourcing ideas on how to define your culture from your employees.
Create an internal mentoring programme
Mentoring has huge benefits in employee retention and training and development. Not only will your team learn from the best, your high performer experts will get even better. Your company holds so much knowledge, you might as well to make the most of it.
Give new employees a “personalised workspace budget”
Giving each employee the space and freedom to customize their area to their personal work preferences is one of the best ways to create a better work environment. If you are asking someone to spend 8 hours of their day at a desk, at least let them make the desk their own.
Start an on-boarding bootcamp
Good on-boarding has a big impact on how quickly your new starters get up to speed and how well they go on to perform. To ensure people understand the whole company and feel connected to learning about the company you could do the following:
Give everyone at least a day working in each department as part of their bootcamp. Each department scores the new employee against how well they embody the company values.
When you graduate from bootcamp you get a t-shirt with your name and the year you started. This is when you officially become an employee. If you don’t pass bootcamp or you choose to leave then the t-shirt gets burned.
Buy an announcement gong
If someone has an idea on doing things better, or wants to share positive news, they sound the gong. When the gong sounds everyone has to stop and listen. This is particularly effective in red flag systems where an employee finds something that is not working or can be done better.
Implement a salary cap
Implement a 6:1 salary ratio meaning that the highest paid person can’t be paid more than 6x the lowest paid person. Why? It’s difficult to form friendships and relationships between people who are at massively different levels.
Get a “Dream Machine”
Props go to Propellernet on this one, we love it. Here’s how it works:
1- Ask everyone to consider and write down their dreams in life, the things that would really make life better for them.
2- Ask each employee to pick one big dream and 3 not-so big dreams. Everything from travelling Africa on a motorbike through to making a film script into a movie or taking a qualification
3- Put all your employees dreams in a giant 80s bubble gum dispenser.
4- When a company milestone is achieved then a make an employee’s dream come true by drawing a random dream ball from the dispenser, and voila, your very own “Dream Machine”.
That’s it folks! How many of these does your company have? I’d love to hear your comments and culture hacks in the comments box below.
If you’re interested in testing your team’s culture you can do so for free at ThriveMap (disclaimer I’m founder).
To all the people I robbed of their great culture ideas, I hope you’ll join me in smiling at the fact they’ll hopefully be inspiring others and making better companies.