By Matthew Clyde
Headlines, articles and research each continue to prove that carefully-cultivated, positive work environments improve businesses. Happy team members produce better content and service—resulting in happy customers and happy (healthy) bottom lines.
In my view, environment and the work produced are connected. As such, a great work environment has always been our most important factor since the creation of our marketing agency in Scottsdale. There is no magical formula to create something like this, though we have been fortunate (and recognized a few times around) for what we have created. We’ve found that the key to creating a better culture in your organization (whether it is a small, medium or large company, department, team, group, etc.) is knowing that the company culture is dynamic and constantly changing. Start changing your culture for the better by putting these 7 principles into action:
Great cultures don’t come from the top down—though it’s recommended to start with executive leadership—and instead must be accepted and implemented by all levels of the organization. Start with simple dialogue offered by your team or key leaders. Don’t hesitate to ask questions about how to change the culture, to analyze what works and what doesn’t. Most importantly, take action. Include all levels in the company to discuss ideas and find solutions together. Increase engagement by encouraging everyone to contribute ideas and put them in motion, allowing everyone to be a part of the process. For this to work, participation cannot feel forced. It must come from individuals who want the chance to make a difference and to contribute in their unique way.
Think of the best companies, who are known for their customer service. As you do so, you will find that a key component between each company is their culture of autonomy between its employees and customers. Disney, Nordstrom, Ritz Carlton, etc. are a few of the best examples. Positive customer experiences often come from interactions with employees who are empowered to make informed decisions in the moment. The phrase “I can’t do anything without my manager’s approval” often creates a negative gap between the brand and the customer (regardless of the industry or product).
Clearly, there are instances when additional point of views and approval is needed, but cultivating a great environment requires trusting individuals to perform and operate with independence. In creative workplaces, the lack of autonomy can drain creative approaches and the delivery of a great product. At Ideas Collide, we continue to evolve while making autonomy a priority. It’s a delicate balance of needing the right eyes and input on a given project while still making the designer (or programmer, project manager, copywriter, etc.) keep their sense of pride in the work by feeling trusted and empowered in the project.
I’ve always said (and my team is tired of hearing it) you can’t have a great culture if you don’t make each individual accountable for their work and actions. Holding everyone accountable to the company’s mission, vision and values keeps the organization working hard as a collective. Some companies choose to change their culture by hosting fun events, providing company perks and flexible policies, but without accountability at the core, the culture erodes and employees become frustrated.
4. Reward & Recognition
Make sure your team feels appreciated through rewards and recognition. It’s easy to get stuck in the daily minutiae of the work cycle, thus forgetting an individual or team’s hard work and success. To prevent this, ingrain a system of recognition into your culture by allowing team members to give “shout-outs” and rewards to one another. At Ideas Collide, we hold “brag sessions” during our weekly morning meetings and reward workers with the most team recognitions with a gift card and premium parking. Whether you choose to do something big or small, implement a rewards and recognition system to make your employees feel valued.
5. Focus on Strengths
A great culture becomes more unified when management focuses on individual strengths to overcome weaknesses in a team’s performance. Depending on the situation, the weakness may need to be addressed directly. In others, management can use it as a team building exercise. Start by asking each team member what their strengths are, what they enjoy doing at work and for leisure. The answers will surprise you. Try implementing each person’s strengths into their work and the company itself. Other’s work will make up for another’s weakness and the culture of your company will grow stronger.
As noted at the beginning of this article, every culture is dynamic and ever changing. Along with the culture, teams, customers, client demands and more will be changing just as rapidly. The reality of a fast-paced, fluid marketplace means that companies, teams and their cultures alike must have flexibility at their core. At Ideas Collide, we don’t have set hours or require workers to be in the office. Individuals can work remote, pets are often found in the office, we encourage volunteer time and—as long as client deadlines are being met—we encourage our team to get a head start on the weekend by leaving early on Friday.
7. Dream Big
Encourage your team to dream big. It’s important for each individual to have a vision, to create goals and work towards accomplishing that vision. Our company has a dream list of activities we want to achieve as we “grow up” and we frequently send it out as a reminder. It’s reviewed monthly as we prepare for future possibilities and analyze where investments need to be made to accomplish these dreams. While some dreams are long shots, these dreams bring passion and contribution, bringing inspiration and motivation. This motivation then translates into hard work and a better quality in the content produced.
These 7 ideas are only a few that make up the core of a great culture, but we consider them to be the key elements of our own current culture. These ideas have been carefully cultivated over the years and we still work hard to implement them today. We’ve found that these ideas form a solid, positive foundation and recommend implementing them into your own culture as you improve your business from the inside-out.
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