Hiring and retaining skilled, dependable employees is a goal shared by virtually all businesses, from fast-food restaurants to huge multinational corporations. But attracting top talent—however that term is defined by a particular company—is always much easier said than done.
One common strategy is to offer a salary that significantly exceeds those of industry competitors. Money, however, isn’t everything. People are not machines that can simply be programmed to perform certain tasks by rote—they tend to value a healthy, supportive workplace environment that, among other things, minimizes unneeded stress and promotes the well being of personnel.
Creating these intangible but quite effective benefits can go a long way toward ensuring that your employees stay with your organization. This is particularly true for highly capable, in-demand employees who can be easily lured away if their current workplace conditions are problematic. So how does an organization provide a suitable workplace environment? By forging a rich, effective, welcoming company culture.
What do we mean when we talk about company culture? It isn’t just one easily defined element; instead, it’s a web of policies, amenities, and procedures. Dress codes, lunch break policies, vacation allowances, official channels for filing complaints, group meeting protocols—all these and more count toward the formation of an attractive workplace environment. “Company culture” runs much deeper than memorable slogans and break-room décor; it affects nearly every aspect of the workplace. Having said that, let’s explore the varied benefits that can be gained by a fulfilling company culture.
Giving Employees a Sense of Purpose
Few people enjoy working for a company that does nothing for them but provide a paycheck. What employees tend to look for, apart from a decent salary, is a mission. The desire to “make a difference” is more widespread than you might think, and it’s a desire secretly shared by many people who may seem to be content just drifting through their job duties.
Some businesses succeed by pushing “purpose” to the point of grandiosity—think of Steve Jobs, who styled himself a high-tech revolutionary, whose intense drive colored every aspect of his companies. It’s not necessary to take things that far, but by connecting vital activities of your business to the needs and processes of the greater community, employees will feel that they’re accomplishing more than just growing their bank accounts. One common way that companies achieve this result is by organizing fundraisers or charity drives.
Where is the company going? How does it plan to get there? What are the short- and long-term goals? Every employee should have the answer to these questions.
Enhanced Internal Communications
Another common complaint among workers is feeling that their superiors just don’t listen to them. Questions about procedures go unanswered; suggestions are casually tossed aside; grievances are dismissed without a proper hearing. When rank-and-file personnel can’t communicate properly with those of a higher status, a huge number of productivity-killing issues can easily develop. This can be a particularly serious problem in large companies. But make no mistake: Workers down “in the trenches” have a perspective that should not be ignored. By fostering a culture of openness—or at least by providing workers with an easily accessible forum for reaching superiors—companies can enhance output and bolster employee well being.
Increased Morale and Unity
Teamwork is fundamental—it’s a truism commonly repeated in corporate offices, yet achieving this goal is trickier than it seems. Far too many companies divide themselves into antagonistic camps, with different departments ceaselessly at odds with one another. Obviously, this isn’t an ideal state of affairs. To fulfill its potential, a company must get its employees to think in terms of “we,” as opposed to “us and them.” A strong company culture can help encourage teamwork and internal unity. There are a number of ways to do this—organizing group activities is one popular tactic.
A good company culture also promotes organizational transparency. Employees don’t like being in the dark, so to speak; it tends to cultivate gossip and resentment among personnel. One way to fight this tendency is consensus-based decision-making, which brings all employees together to help guide company policies—but not every business is comfortable with this approach. An alternative approach is to ensure that workers are made aware of the decision-making process—orders aren’t simply handed down from above; their rationale is communicated to personnel. This helps maintain employee morale at a healthy level.
Reduced Employee Turnover
Every company naturally wants to keep its high-performing employees on board for as long as possible. As we’ve said, money isn’t the only incentive—workers want to feel cherished. The best way to do this is by achieving the goals listed earlier: inculcating a sense of purpose, improving communication, etc. Lowering turnover reduces the costs associated with training new workers, as well as minimizes lost productivity that results from transitional periods.
Improved Safety Procedures
The process of creating a vibrant company culture naturally leads managers to consider the subject of employee safety. It’s an especially pressing issue at warehouses and similar types of facilities where heavy rolling equipment and electrical hazards are present. From organizing security training exercises, to encouraging ailing workers to stay home, a comprehensive safety policy helps keep personnel free from a wide range of workplace hazards. This, too, is an important aspect of company culture.
Heightened Personnel Skills
Another part of a strong company culture is the promotion of learning activities that help workers develop relevant skills and knowledge. We’re not talking about a trip to the library—these days, there is a tremendous range of learning opportunities on the Internet, from video tutorials to web-form quizzes that test knowledge. Directing employees to these opportunities will boost their skills—which, in turn, can boost the company’s bottom line.
Enhanced Ability to Attract Talent
Highly skilled employees tend to have plenty of options, as a lot of companies want to hire them. While some people simply go for the position with the biggest paycheck, many others will also consider whether a given company provides an agreeable work environment. One advantage of a well-thought-out company culture is that its reputation tends to spread. For instance, even people who don’t work in the tech industry have heard about the various amenities that Google provides its employees. If your company can provide an attractive, high-functioning environment for workers, word will likely get out to prospective employees.