How to Create a Positive Company Culture?

by Mike O'Neill

Are you spending too much time putting out fires and settling disputes? Does it feel like your team spends more time arguing than they do working?

A toxic workplace culture can be devastating to your company. You’ll spend more money than you realize replacing employees because your turnover rate is so high that all the added stress hurts productivity and morale.

When you want to create a positive company culture, you’ll need to take some actionable steps to turn things around. Keep reading to learn how to create a culture code that establishes expectations for behavior and fosters a positive workplace culture.

Step #1: Assess Your Current Culture

Before implementing any changes within your organization, you’ll need to get a benchmark of your current culture.

To do that, you’ll need to conduct anonymous surveys or focus groups to find out how everyone feels about their roles, their coworkers, and the expectations the company has for them.

Getting feedback from your workforce by asking them specific questions helps you know what areas need the most improvement.

Some questions you can ask include:

  • Which activities bring you satisfaction regardless of rewards and recognition? What about your role inspires you the most?
  • Any personal habits you believe you need to start, stop, or continue to better align with the goals of the organization?
  • How does culture shape how your team manages goals and responsibilities?
  • Do any company values have unintended consequences on how employees work together?
  • What actions are needed to improve the current culture?
  • Is the company's purpose or mission memorable?
  • Are the values distinctive and memorable?
  • What does each value mean to you?
  • What are some formal practices leaders use to get work done?
  • What are some informal practices leaders use to get work done?
  • How is success rewarded?
  • How is failure handled?
  • Do leaders behave in a way that's consistent with the company values?
  • What motivates your leaders?
  • If we could do one thing to improve our culture, what would it be?

Step #2: Create a Culture Code

A culture code is a cooperatively created code of conduct that outlines specific expectations for every employee. It is how team members interact with each other; bosses interact with team members, and team members interact with their bosses. 

These specific expectations then allow everyone to make sound decisions based on those expectations. You want these expectations to be as transparent as possible. A clear and specific set of expectations enables team members to know exactly what is expected of them and makes it evident whenever those expectations are not met. 

Having a clear set of expectations within your culture code prevents possible ambiguity. There shouldn’t be any unclear intentions. 

Most companies already have some key stepping stones in place needed for the creation of a culture code. Some of the most obvious stepping stones are the company's values. 

Company values are not the same as a culture code, but you can take your values and fine-tune a culture code from those values. Kristen Mashburn used the value of open-mindedness as an example in our webinar

She explained that to make open-mindedness part of your culture code, you would implement a method in which every idea brought to the table is “loved” for 60 seconds. During that first 60 seconds, you only focus on the positives of the idea. 

This changes the behavior of spending time on each idea in a positive way rather than focusing on the negatives. It is a method that forces your team to think about the positive sides of an idea before the negatives. 

By thinking about the positive aspects of the idea, you are actively showing that you and your company really are open-minded, moving open-mindedness from a value to a practice. You can see how this is becoming part of the culture as it has enacted a change in how you approach new ideas. 

Step #3: Implement the New Culture Code & Re-Assess Your Culture 

Implementing your code involves communication in a nurturing way. Communication is a crucial aspect of forming a nurturing culture that makes employees feel valued and heard. 

During a webinar interview with Kristen Mashburn, she recommended her favorite method, which involves one-on-one meetings to talk with each team member. 

These do not have to be daily. They could be once a week or even every other week. You need to set aside dedicated time on the calendar to meet with your team members one-on-one so that they know they have your full attention. 

One-on-one meetings don’t have to be technical or formal. The point is to establish an open and regular line of communication between you and your employees. You want to allow your employees to give you feedback, but you also want them to feel like they are being heard. 

Not all of these meetings will result in feedback. Sometimes employees may need to get some stuff off their chest, or maybe they have a specific issue they want to touch base on. The point is they need to feel like you are listening. 

Feedback is still essential and can be given face to face in these one-on-one meetings that allow you to see whether positive changes are being made and provide you with insight on the negative effects of specific policies or methods within. 

However, you might find that some team members may prefer to leave anonymous feedback. Make sure you have a method that you can collect feedback anonymously as well.

Anonymous feedback can be given in the form of a suggestion box or surveys like I mentioned before, where you ask questions about specific methods or policies you use within the company. 

There was a study by Dr. S. Gokula Krisnan and Dr. J. Reeves Wesley on the impact of employee communication and engagement. In this study, they found that employees who feel valued are more productive and more likely to take initiative.  

They also found that most employees and employers said that the most significant area of improvement they needed within their business was communication. These one-on-one meetings advised by Kristen Mashburn are a key aspect to open communication with your employees. 

Culture code is also meant to be reassessed every year. It is normal for a culture code to change as the company progresses. When you reassess at the end of the year, it's imperative to get your employees' opinions on those finely tuned sections of your culture code you have implemented. 

If we go back to the idea of open-mindedness as part of the culture code, you might find that open-mindedness doesn't actually work well for your company. After a year of trying it as a culture code, you might find that your company isn't as open-minded as you thought. 

And that is okay. Part of building a culture code is to find out what kind of culture your business has and build on that. 

Keep in mind that communication is key because your culture code will change and mold with your employees. That means that you’ll need to get feedback from them and find out from your team what works and what doesn’t work. 

Your changes need to be measurable, so when doing your performance reviews, you want to be able to assess the changes made accurately. Some great tools in measuring these changes are surveys and focus groups. It’s hard to do these kinds of things in-house and is where we come in. 

Get Help From an Expert

As a business leader, you know how important it is to have a vision, have processes, and prioritize your time.

But knowing and doing are two different things. Father Time just isn’t your friend most days.

Creating a great company culture isn’t as easy as implementing some policies and doing some team-building activities. You need a plan. I’ve spent decades helping leaders move that needle in their company, and I know how to guide you through it.

Let me help you navigate the complex journey that is growing a company — Schedule a call now.

Download Your Free Guide

A Tactical Field Guide to Managing Humans

A straight-to-the-point resource for team leaders

Related Reading

  • This is *brilliant* insight. I especially love that it goes beyond the traditional model and creates a collaborative approach for improvement!

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}