Looking to optimize workplace culture? Make an impact with these 5 tips

By Eric Termuende
Apr 2, 2019
Photo credit: Anchiy/iStock/Getty Images

How incredible would it be for your organization to appear on a ‘best place to work’ or ‘best culture’ list? Amazing, right? And for those who are there, a huge congratulations. In addition to that list though, how amazing would it be if work didn’t have a negative connotation associated with it? That we actually liked that thing we do more than anything else in a day (work)? Call me an idealist but I truly believe we can, and it is up to us to make the shift from focusing on best places to work to right places to work. 

Take Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work in 2019 winners list, for example. At the top of the list is international management consulting firm, Bain & Company followed by video communications company Zoom. Now, to suggest that someone working at Bain would be a fit at Zoom isn’t right. While both companies have great cultures for their people, it doesn’t mean that the culture is right for everyone. A universal best doesn’t exist.

Now that we’ve shifted our thinking from best culture to a culture that is right for our people and those we want to attract to our company, consider these five tips that organizational leaders can use to optimize workplace culture: 

1. Stop trying to imitate 

So often we hear companies that aspire to be like the tech giants, and rightfully so. Time and time again we hear about the incredible culture at Google and Salesforce; the ball-pits, nap pods, cafeterias, etc. What we tend to forget, though, is that our people are working with us because of the culture and experience we’ve already created. If they wanted another company’s culture, they’d be there. Instead of imitating, consider looking at the desired experience and empower the team to come up with ‘company-grown’ solutions. 

2. State what happens after 5:00 

For many organizations, work ends at 5:00 and work is left at the office. For others, employees may work late, have events, or be expected to take work home with them. While there isn’t a right or wrong, what happens after work is still important – especially if employees have young families or activities they like to participate in after dinner. The more upfront we can be about what the hours of work really are, the more realistic the expectations of prospective employees will be.

3. Talk about more than skills and requirements

Unfortunately, the typical job description doesn’t do a very good job of describing the job. Instead, it reads more like a skills and requirements checklist. And while the skills and requirements will always be important, talking about the experience at work is often the differentiator. If we can talk about team size, performance management and feedback expectations, office layout, and other experiential qualities, prospective team members will be able to self-vet themselves both in and out of a potential position.

4. Know that perks don’t equal culture

While a keg, ping-pong table, open office, and dogs in the workplace may be appealing to many, the sober introvert on our team that is allergic to dogs may think otherwise. The point is that perks and benefits don’t have to be the focal point of the job description, and don’t necessarily apply to all people. Culture, while inclusive of perks, isn’t limited to them. When talking about their culture, organizations should focus on the 39.5 or 40 hours employees spend working each week, as opposed to the time they spend enjoying extras. 

5. Utilize video

In the interest of being more proactive and articulate about the experience at work, when looking to attract new teammates, consider a basic tour of the office and an interview with a high-performing team member. This doesn’t require a full production company and script, sometimes it can be as simple as an iPhone video and social media, or a career page post to make prospective hires aware of what they are signing up for and who they will be working with. 

Ultimately, if we focus on the experience and culture we have, we shift from best to right culture. And when we do so, we remember that we can’t be all things to all people, nor do we want to be. Instead, we can be all things to the right people.  

Eric Termuende is the co-founder of NoW Innovations and a thought leader on optimizing workplace culture, the future of work, and engagement in the workplace. 

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