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Carole Spiers

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A five-step programme for creating a healthy corporate culture

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Each company has a corporate culture that will work either for you or against you – but don’t even think about ignoring it. 

Corporate cultures comprise a collection of attitudes, policies and values that steer the way in which employees behave.
 
An HR director who believes that a healthy culture is important and takes the time to create and nourish it will help to build and sustain competitive advantage for the business. Healthy employees = healthy organisations = healthy outcomes. While this may have been said many times before, it is as relevant today as it ever was.
 
To be effective in this arena, however, it is important that HR directors communicate corporate goals effectively and, wherever possible, allow employees to take a stake in achieving them. Bonuses and performance-related pay are also great incentives, in any department.
 
But creating a healthy workplace culture also means re-evaluating everyone’s skills and learning how to use and deploy them for maximum gain. Competitive advantage will also be gained from exploiting the rich seam of cultural diversity and finding ways to value the range of talents that already exist within the organisation.
 
Step 1 – Communicate the organisation’s vision and core values
 
Communication with the workforce needs to be effective at every level if individuals are to gain a clear understanding and appreciation of the organisation’s mission, goals, targets and deadlines. To this end, an open, two-way dialogue between directors, managers, supervisors and their teams is essential.
 
Healthy cultures tend to have a mission statement that clearly states corporate aims. It is useful as most employees are keen to be part of an organisation that is both recognised as successful in its field and in which they know that they play an integral part.
 
Therefore, if such a mission statement doesn’t already exist, a published document enumerating the organisation’s core values should be devised to ensure that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities and where they fit within the whole.
 
During times of organisational change in particular, staff also need to know what direction the business is taking and what is expected of them individually. If different ways of working are introduced, it can initially be disorientating for people, especially if their personal responsibilities and duties alter. 
 
Therefore, it is up to managers to provide reassurance and motivate their teams to move forward, which means that HR could well be called upon for support.
 
Step 2 – Ensure that teams become more resilient
 
Stress either at work or home can adversely affect people’s health, happiness, and work performance. Productivity and, ultimately, the bottom-line can end up being hit, which is why any prolonged and excessive bouts of pressure must be identified and dealt with at all levels of management. 
 
Building resilient teams that can manage stress is a key factor in creating a healthy workplace culture, especially when economic conditions are difficult.
 
As a result, managers should be trained to identify the early warning signs of stress both in themselves and others. They should also be made aware that trained HR personnel are available to help and provide additional support where necessary.
 
Step 3 – Create a listening culture
 
It is important to establish a ‘listening culture’ in which concerns can be voiced and action taken if required. But all too many managers find that they have been promoted and given people responsibility without having developed the necessary expertise
 
But communication skills are vital. Rather than feeling that they don’t have time to listen, managers should be encouraged to understand that there isn’t time ‘not to listen’ as problems can escalate very quickly, resulting in key employees morphing into the latest absenteeism statistic.
 
This means that an ‘open door’ policy to encourage two-way dialogue between managers and individual team members is crucial.
 
Step 4: Recognise and reward achievement
 
Feeling valued and recognised is important in human work relationships – almost as important as monetary gain. Undervaluing skills at any level can lead to low productivity and poor morale. But also bear in mind that recognition and reward must be commensurate with the task.
 
While it is always important to give praise for a job well done, regular appraisals are likewise useful to help individuals identify strengths and weaknesses and cater to their continuing professional development needs.
 
Of course, appraisals must be a two-way process that enables both managers and members of their team to agree individual performance targets and an acceptable work schedule. 
 
Treating each person as an individual will encourage the ‘feel good’ factor, while allocating specific roles and responsibilities will help to empower people to reach their full potential.
 
Step 5 – Have fun at work
 
In the words of Kahlil Gibran: ‘Work is love made visible’, and if your employees enjoy their job, they will work harder and be more committed to the organisation. Everyone likes to work in an environment in which those around them are positive, motivating and share common goals.
 
And in a successful organisation, a positive attitude is everything. The moment that negativity creeps in, creativity and motivation rush out. Positive affirmations that are used from the boardroom to the shop floor can give organisations a greater chance of success in meeting their targets, for instance.
 
But whatever tack you take, an organisation’s morale is fundamental to its success, with high morale being an essential contributory factor to sustained profitability. A healthy corporate culture will celebrate success and achievement, creating workplace heroes whom everyone recognises.
 
The dividends of a healthy corporate culture
 
A motivating and engaging culture will help to unleash individuals’ potential, which is particularly important for those companies that are trying to do ‘more with less’.
 
Therefore, by introducing a ‘hearts and minds’ campaign to encourage purpose and pride in the organisation, HR professionals and senior managers hold the key to cutting healthcare costs and lowering absenteeism rates.
 
Carrying the baton of a ‘we culture’ that is infused with a sense of community and belonging will help to inspire and motivate teams. But the message must be consistent throughout the whole company.
 
The idea is that, if you get it right, the organisation’s health, efficiency and growth will all be boosted – and, over time, it will find itself in the enviable position of being an employer of choice.
 
Carole Spiers is a motivational speaker and author who has just written a new book entitled ‘Show Stress who’s boss‘.
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Carole Spiers

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