Successful company culture can make the difference between a workplace people dread and one they brag about. You don’t have to have a Google-sized budget to offer great culture. Many culture-changing initiatives have no direct costs to the company. In fact, when properly executed, culture-improving initiatives can lower company costs in both the short and long term.
I’ve spent the past 10 years learning about and implementing solutions to make work better for employers and managers alike. I’ve touched hundreds of companies large and small and have seen many distinct cultures. Based on this experience I offer these simple initiatives to encourage a peaceful, productive workplace that people love.
Make Rules for the 95%, Not the 5%
Most of your employees are hard working, motivated, and professional. Workplace rules should be designed to give maximum autonomy to the vast majority of your workers. Don’t burden people with rules designed to control the 5% of employees who are constitutionally unmotivated or undisciplined. From dress code to work hours to meeting attendance, fewer rules in the workplace are better.
For one, fewer rules can start saving you money right away. Get rid of expensive firewalls blocking Facebook and YouTube. At the same time, access to these tools can help your employees research and network faster.
Celebrate Going Home Early
It’s not true that the longer you work, the more work you will get done. According to a 2010 study, flexible work hours can lead to increased retention and productivity. You can quickly improve culture by focusing on work output instead of hours of input. If you’re going to leave the office early, go ahead and announce to your coworkers that you just closed a mega account, sent out that TPS report, and are now heading for the golf course. There’s no shame in going home after hitting a home run.
Not all rules are bad. Implement a "no swearing" rule today: no swearing about or at your coworkers or customers. By cutting out swearing, you will elevate discourse to expression of thoughtful ideas instead of base emotions. An environment where people swear at one another can quickly turn toxic. The no swearing rule can save you millions by avoiding costly lawsuits where disgruntled employees—with good reason—strike back.
Imagine if every one of your employees was an expert in what they did; if, no matter how mundane their subject, they could teach it with passion. The benefits to you, your company, and your employees would be profound. Encourage people to become experts by having them research best practices in their field and share those with their colleagues on a regular basis. At my companies, we encourage book clubs for every level of employee. We incur cost here by buying every book club member an e-book. The $79 e-book, however, pays for itself twice: once when employees brag about their incredible work environment with their coworkers, and again when employees learn to do their jobs better through ongoing learning.
Talk About the Future
Start taking people out for coffee, one at a time, to ask them where they want to be in five and 10 years. Armed with this information, help them achieve those goals, even if the goals aren’t related to your company. If an employee tells you he or she wants to be an actor, support them when they want to take acting classes. This way, in the time that they are with you, they’ll be loyal, committed, and thankful for the support.
Let Employees Manage Their Own Energy
Our metabolism is guided by our bodies’ circadian rhythms. We all experience peaks and troughs of energy throughout the day, and the highs and lows differ for each person. One-third of your employees experience a dip in energy so steep that between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. each day they need to nap. So let them nap. According to a NASA study, a nap of just 26 minutes can boost productivity by 34%.
Recognize Your Team Every Day
People don’t work for just money. They work for recognition, too, so don’t deprive your employees of this vital form of compensation. They are working to build your company every day. As such, give them specific words of thank-you the moment the occasion calls for it. You should be thanking each person you directly work with at least two times a week. As my mentor Chester Elton (coauthor of The Carrot Principle) says, reward behavior you want to see repeated.
[Image: Flickr user beast love]