Company culture is one of those terms that sounds like fluff, but means everything to businesses focused on growth.
When it’s healthy, you feel it: your employees seem jazzed about the company and its mission, take a collaborative approach to solving problems, proudly sport your company-branded swag, and treat each other like family (in a good way). When the culture is lacking, you feel it too: your employees seem low on energy and prone to fingerpointing. More often than not, you’ll hear consistent complaints about communication — “meetings here are too long” or “I didn’t know that was expected of me.” The best companies keep a pulse on their culture through employee sentiment; sites like Comparably, which offer a wealth of information on individual companies and their cultures, can help.
If you’re looking to give your company culture a boost, here are six ways you can make a difference right now.
1. Go one-on-one
Set up one-on-one meetings with your staff on a quarterly basis. You don’t need to prepare a formal review for these sessions — you just want to create a dedicated space and time where employees can voice any concerns and offer new ideas. Employees will feel better knowing you are invested in their continued growth and satisfaction.
2. Break down the barriers.
When people feel siloed at work, company culture declines. The best antidote is to schedule regular company-wide meetings over a meal. Why a meal? Sharing a meal is a bonding experience. It creates a sense of togetherness that’s essential to company culture, and gives employees some quality facetime with one another. That last part is particularly important: 85% of people say they look forward to interacting with their co-workers, according to data compiled by Comparably.
3. Ditch the bad seeds.
One toxic employee can have massive repercussions for an office. If there’s someone on the team who has a nasty attitude or horrible work ethic and hasn’t improved despite performance discussions, it’s time to let that person go. In cases like these, firing someone will help — not hurt — morale.
Related: What to Do If You Hate Your Boss
4. Shake things up with fun team challenges.
If you want people to work more collaboratively during the work day, your best bet is to structure team-building events that are mission-based. Big corporations have been doing this forever, calling in five-star generals or improv troupes to engage employees in new activities, but the opportunities for startups and other fast-growing companies are just as plentiful: you might send your team out to do a rope course or scavenger hunt, or have them do something simple like a mental puzzle. When you take people out of their typical day-to-day, and ask them to solve puzzles together in a non-work environment, it’s not only refreshing, but creates a real bonding effect. Aim to do this two to three times a year.
5. Spread gratitude.
Encourage your team to be kinder to one another by encouraging gratitude. One system is to give out gifts to your team members that they then have to share with their coworkers when for a job well done. When someone gives a gift, he has to verbalize why — “You really helped me out with that project last week and I appreciate it.” Collaboration and gratitude are keys for a healthy culture.
6. Keep your criticisms out of the spotlight.
When someone is doing an awesome job, praise them in front of the team. Not only will that person find it nice to be recognized, but your public statement will send a message that the company values good work. That sort of message is contagious: in hearing someone praised out loud, other team members will ask themselves what they need to do to win the same acknowledgement.
On the flipside, be careful about criticizing team members in public. Group settings are magnifiers, so any negative feedback should be shared privately.