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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

16 ideas to lead a healthier homegrown company culture

Taking a creative approach to maintaining personable business relationships is just as important.

16 ideas to lead a healthier homegrown company culture
Members of Fast Company Executive Board share their expert insights. [Image: Courtesy of the individual members.]

If you want to instill an inviting corporate culture for everyone at your company, then it’s necessary to not only model the ideal behavior but to get employees involved so they have a higher stake in the changes they want to see taking place.

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Enabling your staff members to help make real business decisions that impact the company’s bottom line and the way people view themselves as individual and collaborative contributors will elevate morale and set a positive example for future employees to come.

Below, experts from Fast Company Executive Board share 16 practical ideas that continue to foster inclusiveness and team building at work.

1. RECOGNIZE AND REWARD ACTIONABLE VALUES.

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Culture is, simply put, activated values. How people act and behave should be recognized and rewarded if what they are signaling represents these values in action! It’s when values live on a page and not at a human level, that companies run into problems. Why would people not own their own behaviors and therefore drive company culture? It is the most natural outcome of clear communication. – Michelle Hayward, Bluedog

2. SHARE YOUR OUTSIDE INTERESTS AT WORK.

I find the best way for employees to foster company culture is to find ways to bring their outside interests inside the workplace. When you share what you do outside of work, your hobbies, interests, and who you are, you can get others to do the same, and this creates a bridge. Your employees need to see that they don’t have to check their personality at the door and create a different identity. – Tony Martignetti, Inspired Purpose Coaching

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3. DESIGN KPIS THAT CONVEY SENIOR LEADERSHIP EXPECTATIONS.

Over and over again, leadership speaks to culture yet delegates the responsibility for bringing culture alive to HR. Want a great culture? Then design KPIs for senior leadership that conveys the expectation they actively shape for the culture rather than stunting it with same-as-it-ever-was behaviors. Most of us sleepwalk through our impact on others. Instead, ensure that you begin to attach outcomes to your leaders who are doing better. – Tevis Trower, Balance Integration Corporation

4. PAIR UNLIKELY TEAMS TOGETHER FOR GROUP COLLABORATIONS.

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Try to pair up different sets of employees to collaborate on projects. Aim to put people from at least two different departments together on a project so that everyone can get to know each other. Switch up who takes the lead on projects if possible. The other benefit of doing this is that you’re likely to see more creative problem-solving from your team. – Reuben Yonatan, GetVoIP

5. GIVE EMPLOYEES AUTHORITY TO MAKE IMPACTFUL DECISIONS.

I have always found that when I give employees the authority to make real decisions that impact them directly, they naturally create a culture that’s inclusive and efficient. I worry less about non-essential rules, and more about the quality of the services or work being produced. If an employee can help with or make a decision, I ensure they are a part of that process. – Hannah Fryer, Brambling & Co., LLC

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6. ENCOURAGE NEW IDEAS TO PLAN GROUP OUTINGS.

Put them in charge of monthly team-building events. If you regularly have gatherings with your team outside of the office, task different members of your team with coming up with a fun group event. Whether it be an escape room or bowling, it is a great way to foster a connected culture.  – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency

7. ENABLE EMPLOYEES TO INSTILL THE CHANGE THEY WANT TO SEE.

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One way to encourage employees to foster their own company culture is to enable them to improve the work environment. They could come up with new team-building exercises or new ways to make the office more fun and inviting. More importantly, implement the ideas that your team shares. Giving employees some ownership over their company culture can go a long way in terms of engagement and buy-in. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

8. MODEL YOUR BEHAVIOR AND VALUES WITH THE COMPANY.

Drive the company’s principles in everything you do—from goal setting to everyday execution. Model your behavior with the overall company values and strive to bring out the best in others, as well as yourself. A winning culture is lived daily in every aspect of the business and should serve as the north star in all of your activities. – Tom Futch, Freshly

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9. EMPOWER INDIVIDUALIZED BRILLIANCE.

Empowering individual brilliance and putting emphasis on personal passions can do magic when it comes to a healthy company culture that is not only fun and “cool” but highly productive. Not everyone is suitable for every job. So, meeting people’s individual interests and giving them the tools and means to meet those stakes creates a culture that is based on genuine values that personal growth brings. – Goran Paun, ArtVersion

10. LOWER THE BARRIERS BETWEEN EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP AND DIRECT REPORTS.

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Culture must be co-created with all employees, not something handed down by an elite few. To champion this, lower the barriers between the executive leadership and rank and file team members. Encourage some community-led initiatives. For example, we’ve incorporated everything from a work-from-home stipend, a peer recognition program, and better employee onboarding that is based on team-wide feedback. – Glo Gordon, MATRIXX Software

11. BUILD EACH OTHER UP.

Create opportunities for your employees to build each other up. One way to do this is by leaving out a comment box where employees can give one another a shout-out or thank you. Hold a monthly meeting to share all these positive thoughts. – Kelley Higney, Bug Bite Thing

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12. TIE CULTURE-BUILDING INTO DEI EFFORTS.

Create a campaign for inclusion that features employees bringing their own unique approach, style, history, and culture to the organization. Make it safe by starting with an executive or two. Ensure it is connected to the purpose and mission of your organization. – Steve Dion, Dion Leadership

13. PROMOTE THE ENTREPRENEURIAL MINDSET.

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I encourage everyone to act and operate like an owner. Ask your employees if you were running your own business what would you put in place to exemplify your values and encourage your coworkers to feel engaged and connected.  Culture is about enabling people to be their best selves. Supporting and enabling that mindset creates long-term loyalty and results for your customers. – Matt Domo, FifthVantage

14. BEGIN WITH THE END AND WORK BACKWARDS.

Company culture is partly fueled by nature and partly fueled by deliberate planning and execution. When it comes to establishing a top-down or internally-built company culture, always begin with the end in mind. Then, work backward to establish the company’s incremental goals and tasks to align with the overall vision of where you would like to be and what you would like to become. – Tyrone Foster, InvestNet, LLC

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15. HOLD EACH OTHER ACCOUNTABLE.

Empower team members to bring their own ideas and ambitions to the table. Even if you own or lead a business, you don’t own the culture. Culture is always a shared enterprise. In my own business, I also empower team members to hold me accountable. This has helped us build a culture where reciprocity is a core value and that, in turn, has proven to be a powerful engine of growth. – Camille Preston, AIM Leadership, LLC

16. START A COMMITTEE.

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Culture is a set of values, beliefs, and behaviors that can help organizations maintain their identities and attract the right people. It is important for companies to develop their own culture to keep employees engaged. Some companies have created committees where employees work together to create the company’s brand and values. This helps establish a sense of ownership and community. – Kristin Marquet, Marquet Media, LLC

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