Read any article on the modern workplace and you’ll find plenty of references to culture – the all-important glue that helps to unite people and build a positive, productive and supportive place to work, assuming it’s done well.
Workplace culture is an organisation’s personality and it’s made up of language, decision-making, stories and daily working practices. Company culture can be hard to pinpoint as it’s largely about the intangibles such as how employees feel about their work, each other and their employer and as a result it’s hard to fake.
Businesses wanting to invest in their company culture, and ensure it has the attributes that will help to get the best from their employees, would do well to consider the importance of one of its biggest components – that of shared goals.
There are five principle ways to create a workplace culture where shared goals are at its heart. These are:
- Company mission
Shared goals are about ensuring that a company’s mission and values are clearly communicated and understood. Does everyone, regardless of job function or seniority, understand their role in the business and how it supports the company’s goal? Employees with a clear sense of purpose have a far greater sense of direction, company contribution and therefore engagement. Taking the time to identify, communicate and instill shared values is a hugely important part of nurturing workplace culture and can be achieved through staff meetings, quarterly reviews, appraisals and team meetings.
- Beyond your four walls
The second aspect of shared goals looks at the contribution the business makes outside of its four walls. Increasingly employees are choosing to work for employers with strong social capital and with whom they share wider values and ethics. CSR programmes that give colleagues a shared goal outside of their work – perhaps fundraising for a local school project or volunteering with a little hospice – can help to satisfy employees’ needs to give back, while building valuable work friendships, a sense of belonging and a strong, unified workforce.
- Friendships matter
Creating an opportunity for employees to form friendships and find shared interests has real commercial value. 50% of employees who say they have a best friend at work reported they felt a closer connection with the company, and there is plenty of evidence to show that more engaged employees are more productive and loyal. There are health benefits too, with workplace friendships helping to lower stress and improve emotional and mental wellbeing.
Encouraging social activity doesn’t have to be as contrived as scheduled work nights out (although it could be) but rather facilitating opportunities for employees to form their own personal bonds. This might be lunchtime book clubs, an after-work running club or on-site lunchtime cooking lessons which form part of a wider employee engagement plan.
- Plenty of support
The companies with the most inclusive, productive and positive workplace cultures are actively nurturing and curating them – they have not happened by chance. Therefore, it’s important to provide plenty of support, training and guidance to ensure that a company’s values are widely known and encouraged. Writing a cultural guide or including a ‘what makes us tick’ module in employee inductions can help to set out the values and behaviours that are encouraged and will have real value as teams grow and flex.
- Environmental cues
The fifth and final consideration is that of environmental encouragement. It would be hard for employees to believe a business’s values are centred on team work, problem solving and putting the customer first if they work in an office where communication and collaboration is poor, and everyone works in departmental silos.
By considering how the workplace environment can support a company’s vision, it’s possible to provide cultural cues as to the behaviours, values and habits you’d like to become the norm. So, more collaboration spaces make it clear that team work is not only encouraged but supported, artwork that shows a company’s charity work makes it clear it is community-minded, and activity-based work settings help to show that employees are both trusted and empowered. Interestingly, 25% of employees in the Friends in the Workplace survey reported an increase in morale from simple initiatives that encouraged collaboration, such as larger lunch tables.
So much is written about workplace culture because it is so very important to modern business and the new relationship that employees want with their employers. Shared goals are the foundation stone of a positive culture and are integral to unifying a team, improving productivity and driving staff loyalty. Thankfully, the days of dictatorial management styles and draconian working have gone; we now have liberated, empowered and vocal workforces that need more than a wage slip at the end of the month. They want to know that their contribution matters and to have a clear sense of purpose. It’s perhaps time to ask your management team – can we say the same about our employees?
To find out more about the importance of workplace culture, and how to take your people with you on any workplace change project, download our whitepaper “Workspace transformation: The importance of taking your people with you.”: