Culture has long made headlines as the “it” factor for increasing engagement in the office and helping to attract and retain the brightest young minds and hottest talent in the field. But nailing down exactly what engagement and culture should look like—and whether you’re talking about emotional or cognitive culture—is another issue altogether.
According to Deloitte University Press, 87% of organizations cite culture and engagement as a top challenge, with 50% saying the problem is “very important.” They also share that “upwards of half the workforce would not recommend their employer to their peers,” and that only 13% of the global workforce is “highly engaged.” (via Gallup.)
What’s driving this epidemic of disconnect and lack of fulfillment in the workplace? And what can companies do to turn the tide?
For more than a year, turnstone has been studying startup culture. Marked by passion, agility, personality and authenticity, startup culture is typically seen in gritty, emerging businesses ready to bootstrap their way to the top. But our observations reveal that the size or age of the company don’t really matter. Anyone looking for a more welcoming, energetic, engaging culture can take steps to move in the right direction:
1. Be clear about your “why”
People want to find meaning in their work. They want to share in a common vision and experience passion around their mission as a team. Make sure to clearly communicate your “why” to your team without dodging tough questions or speaking with ambiguity. Practice authenticity so your workers will feel your heart and relate to you on a human level, not just a corporate one.
2. Listen to your people
Be available to really listen to your people—not just to the words coming out of their mouths, but to the sentiment behind what they’re sharing. Do they feel they’re working in an environment of fear (which might lead to resentment)? Do they feel valued beyond what they bring to their roles, but also as human beings? Is your current culture unintentionally conveying values you never intended? While you’re certainly not equipped to act as a therapist to your people, taking time to listen can provide a unique window into your culture, helping to pinpoint areas for growth or change.
3. Recognize achievements together
Build a culture of celebration and empowerment by recognizing the contributions of your team. Whether it’s a big win, new product in development, positive customer feedback or somebody whose smile makes your office a better place to be, take time to acknowledge it together. You’ll underscore what’s important to you, shine a light on your “why” (see above) and foster an environment that encourages everyone to succeed. Remember: a rising tide lifts all boats.
4. Be human
Nobody makes friends with a job title or a talking head. So be yourself. After all, friendships in the office are shown to increase productivity and engagement significantly. Positive relationships build trust and allow creativity to flourish, improving the odds that you’ll retain talent and keep projects moving ahead.
5. Make time for fun
Fun doesn’t have to mean shirking duties or playing all day. What it does mean, however, is that you’re making happy memories with your coworkers—the same people with whom you spend most of your waking hours! So take the time to help relationships grow by scheduling happy hours, lunchtime potlucks and team outings. Get to know people personally: their families, their hobbies, their favorite dipping sauce. An investment in relationships always pays a dividend of improved culture and engaged people.