by Laura Nortz, Senior Vice President and Culture Strategist at Ideal Outcomes, Inc.
The dangers of toxic workplace culture are well known, but what if your organization is simply a bit blah? You don’t have to have hit rock bottom to prompt a culture change. Perhaps your most recent employee pulse survey revealed a slight drop in engagement or you’ve picked up on a slight downturn in motivation.
Company culture comprises human beings and is defined by their norms and behaviors. Like people, cultures can easily slip into a downward spiral. By consciously nurturing a more dynamic culture, you can put the spark back into everyone’s eyes and get people excited about coming to work again.
What’s Dragging You Down?
If your employees seem less motivated lately, they’re not alone. Gallup recently reported that employee engagement in the US fell from 36% in 2020 to 34% in 2021 and 32% in 2022. Actively disengaged employees rose to 18%, up 4% in two years.
What makes employees feel disconnected from the companies they work for? While blaming external factors such as economic headwinds is easy, much of the damage can be due to lackluster culture. Common culprits include:
- A top-down hierarchy where all decisions are made at the top, leading to bottlenecks that slow everything down and drain your organization of energy.
- The development of silos that make teams feel like they’re competing with each other instead of working toward the same cause.
- A lack of communication and engagement resulting in employees not feeling seen or heard.
- Processes that don’t support the company’s desired culture. For example, when a commitment to well-being comes up against an established norm of back-to-back meetings.
Bringing Back the Mojo
The good news is that revitalizing your culture is entirely in your hands. By shifting your mindset towards a less hierarchical, more empowering way of working, you’ll be on the path to energizing your workforce:
Flatten Your Structure
You can’t drive culture change without diagnosing your current culture, and one of the key elements to look out for is the number of layers in your organization. How many layers are there between the lowest-level employees and your CEO? The lower the number, the easier you’ll find it to foster connections.
Streamline Sign Off
Nothing saps an employee’s energy more than waiting around for the green light, particularly when it’s a decision they’re more than capable of making. Does your CMO need to approve every comma in an email newsletter? Should purchase approvals that fall well within the budget go to the CEO? Empower your employees by establishing the lowest possible level of sign off. This will help speed up processes and make people feel they’re making a meaningful contribution.
A collaborative culture fosters innovation and creativity and gives an overall energy boost to an organization. Assign cross-functional teams to important projects to encourage skills sharing, help build relationships, and ensure a diverse range of perspectives. Give employees the tools to work together effectively, from communication platforms to file-sharing systems.
Create a Marketplace of Experts
Looking to smash down silos? Foster an environment where employees feel empowered to call on one another for help. Think about creating a directory of experts so employees know where to find the best person to solve a problem instead of simply deferring to their line manager every time.
Give Everyone a Voice
Employees want to feel seen. Look for ways to make people more visible and draw them into decision making and discussion. Consider your meeting formats, hold regular focus groups, and open your communication channels. Round table discussions allow everyone to contribute, while small-group problem solving encourages input from quieter voices.
Support Employee Resource Groups
Employee resource groups (ERGs) are voluntary workplace groups that unite people based on shared interests, life experiences, or identity. They’re an effective way to bring people together, promote diversity and inclusion, and support employees in their professional development. However, they do have to be consciously nurtured. Ensure that you provide the resources (for example, meeting rooms or collaboration platforms) that ERGs need to flourish and establish strong communication channels through executive sponsorship.
Recognize Great Performance
One sure-fire way to motivate employees is to make them feel valued. Recognizing and rewarding performance isn’t something that should only happen once a year or as part of a formal HR cycle. Call out exceptional performance weekly, monthly, or on an ad hoc basis, and surprise any teams who knock it out of the park with unexpected rewards—for example, a shorter workday on Fridays during the summer, gift cards for a restaurant or the cinema, or a day of paid time off.
Keep on Moving
Culture change isn’t a one-and-done exercise. By definition, a dynamic culture is constantly changing and evolving, just like the world outside. It’s not enough to conduct a focus group, outline a culture plan, and present it at an all-hands meeting. It’s important to review your culture regularly, seek employee input, respond to the changing competitor landscape, and look for emerging best practices to help keep the flame alive.
Your employees don’t want to stand still, either. A recent LinkedIn survey found that career growth and learning opportunities ranked #4 and #5 in prompting employees to seek a new job. To keep them engaged, invest in learning and development opportunities, and empower them to take ownership of their professional development plans.
Ready, Set, Revitalize
At Ideal Outcomes, we help companies get their spark back by zooming in on their corporate culture. Through consultation and training, we’ll guide you toward a more motivating and engaging work environment that fosters a competitive advantage by inspiring your employees to perform at their best day in and day out.
Download our free Culture Readiness Tool today, to see where you should start your culture journey. If you’re ready get started right now, book a 30-minute virtual culture consultation with Jason Richmond, our CEO and Chief Culture Officer.