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Work gets a bad rap. Can you think of a single movie or TV show that’s set in an office where people absolutely love what they’re doing? If you can, keep it to yourself. We’re trying to make a point here. One persistent problem is that a lot of organizations out there aren’t doing the work to make their offices more than just a place to… work.
If you’ve gotten the sense that everybody in your office dreads Monday mornings and lives for Friday afternoons, you may have what we call bad company culture. And the truth is, it’s bad for business.
Aside from the fact that bad corporate culture often leads to high turnover and lowered performance, good company culture is the tide that helps every ship rise. It empowers employees to perform at their best.
In fact, as Irlana Ho points out, one Harvard professor’s study shows us that “companies with ‘remarkable’ cultures performed 20% to 30% better” than other organizations.
If you don’t feel that your corporate culture is exactly “remarkable,” here’s the good news: you can fix bad company culture. In our experience implementing employee engagement software across all sorts of different industries, here’s what we’ve found makes that possible:
Believe it or not, the blame for bad company culture doesn’t fall on all employees equally. When you look at toxic organizations or institutions—and similarly at great, inspiring ones—what you’ll always find is that behavior is learned from the top down.
Writing for Forbes, Nadidah Coveney has some invaluable questions to be asking of your leadership team: “Do your senior leaders lead by example? Do they expect employees to do things they, themselves, would not do? Are they leading with heart? Do they have the ability to plan, persuade and solve problems? Do they motivate or demotivate their teams?”
To start to fix bad company culture, hold your leadership accountable before anyone else. You’ll be amazed what a good example can do for everyone’s behavior.
Let’s get real for a second: who among us is willing to volunteer the idea that our company or team is “toxic?” More likely than not, if your employees are underperforming, or just aren’t engaged with their work, you’ve got at least one or two blind-spots.
Are you really doing the most that you can to promote a healthy culture? Do you even concretely understand what a healthy, strong corporate culture looks like?
It’s OK to not be able to answer those questions. Where the real breakthrough starts is when you simply ask what good looks like:
Leadership expert Christine Comaford presents us with the idea that a healthy culture revolves around four key indicators: growth, appreciation, measurement, and engagement—what she calls a “GAME plan.” Do you think your team can say they’re getting each of those things?
Comaford explains that “A GAME plan is essential to provide the most fulfilling work experience, which will yield the happiest and most committed, productive, loyal, long-term, constantly evolving team members.” Sounds like a no-brainer then, right?
But let’s beat out what each aspect of the GAME plan really looks like: We all understand growth on some level—are you better today than the day you walked in? But in the world of business, “growth” can feel somewhat nebulous. Often times, growth happens without us really knowing it. But that’s passive growth. What we’re talking about here is the opportunity to expand knowledge, skill and ultimately performance.
A culture of growth happens when you present your employees with the opportunity to actively learn and grow: do you offer classes? Are you providing opportunities for mentorship? Seminars on different subjects? Hey, even sending out weekly sales-related blog posts can’t hurt.
Appreciation is a lot more immediately tangible. The more cynical among us might as, “Isn’t a paycheck enough thanks for a job well done?” The short, gracious answer to that is simply: no. It’s not.
All of us, as humans, want more from life than simple idling. We want to feel like we have purpose, and that we have relationships. Given that we spend most of our lives at our jobs, appreciation—otherwise known as recognition—is a really easy way to make your employees feel like they have purpose, and that they’re seen and known. Take some time to call out employees for performing well this week. Encourage everyone—not just the top performers—and you’ll be amazed at the kind of positive energy that will reverberate.
And while measurement may sound cold and not-very-culture-y, measurement is a great way to help your employees wrap their minds around their own work, and recognize their own potential. Here on the blog we talk a lot about how measurement can take the form of KPIs—key performance indicators.
Are you giving your employees concrete ways to measure their performance against key metrics? Are they able to see week-in and week-out how they’re performing against your expectations? Or are they simply sitting in fear for six-month stretches, waiting for a performance review where you decide how they’re doing on a whim?
The distinction should be pretty clear. Finally, there’s engagement. Most simply put, engaged employees care about their job and the organization they work for. Do you have a clear mission statement? Is the work that your employees are doing reflective of those values? Are your employees actively working to lift up those values? Or are they just punching a timeclock.
For engaged employees, work is much more than salary or a timecard. If your employees aren’t doing more than the minimum, you probably have an engagement problem.
And at the end of the day, that’s what all of this is about. If you and your team are all just barely scraping by, then you’re missing out on so many of the joys that a great office can bring.
There’s a deeper sense of purpose, of belonging, and of success that’s waiting around the corner for any organization that’s willing to do the work of creating healthy office culture. The question is: how bad do you want it?
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