This post was contributed by Fred Mouawad to Wired on 06/03/2014.
Company culture is often assumed to be positive, but company culture can be as harmful as it is helpful. If you want to design a culture, company and environment that will entice top industry talent to stick around and truly care about the organization they work for, you need to create a great place to work. That means a place where people feel safe, a place where it is okay to take a chance and risk failure and a place where information is shared, talent is grown and co-workers are supportive.
Here are a few ways entrepreneurs, managers and CEOs can facilitate the creation of a nurturing culture at their organizations:
1.) Flat Communications
This management style allows information and ideas to flow up from entry-level ranks to the top brass of the company, but information from upper management is also shared more readily with the entire company. This style of open information sharing makes everyone feel more secure and more willing to share new ideas when they feel they are on a level playing field with their colleagues and seniors. It also assures alignment across the organization with clarity in regards to how efforts should be coordinated to achieve company goals.
2.) Sense of Team
Create a feeling that colleagues are truly united as a team working to achieve common goals. It is a part of human nature that people want to help those with whom they have good relationships with and warm feelings for. You will know you have created a nurturing atmosphere when you see colleagues looking to help each other, not only because it is their job, but because they have relationships with the others on their team and crave partnership through motivated collaboration and continued sense of achievement.
3.) Surfacing Opportunities
Try to create and facilitate opportunities for team members to speak openly about what they see as company shortcomings or opportunities for improvement. Allow anyone who would like to speak an opportunity to voice non-threatening opinions about red flags in the organization, your industry or issues with individuals or processes. You’ll get some of your best, most insightful and most useful information from your team members, since they are closest to many company processes. They are also the first line of defense the early detection of could-be pain points. Once pain points have been noticed, they will also be your catalyst in facilitating change.
4.) Focus on Solutions
Instead of instituting quick fixes for problems or creating a culture that allows colleagues to “cover for each other” out of fear of repercussions; try to root out causes for problems, not just symptoms of poor practices and poor culture. Deep problem solving may require time and resources to investigate, in the end, you will keep the organization from repeating mistakes that stem from the same organizational root issues.
Create processes that encourage knowledge-sharing, teaching and mentoring. This cements the idea that everyone is important to the organization and will be nurtured and fostered to be their personal best as well as the best team member for the company. Great organizations are not run through information-mongering or by employees scrambling and wondering if they could be tossed out at a moment’s notice. Encourage the idea that in order to improve the organization, team members need to first improve themselves and the people around them.
6.) Applaud Initiative
Companies with great culture place the highest value on those individuals who want to initiate positive change without being told to. Employees that take a proactive “where can I help?” approach toward identifying opportunities to create and add value are true gems and should be publicly appreciated as such.
To create the best company culture, foster an atmosphere of teamwork, respect and dignity. You’ll be amazed what you can accomplish when everyone has their cards on the table and their head in the game.