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How to Change Your Workplace Culture with Consistent Effort

Just how much money is spent in trying to get the “right culture” for an organization? According to a recent report by Gartner$230 billion is spent in the US, and a further £55 billion in the UK. Most of that money is spent on a combination of “consultants, surveys, and workshops.”

Yet even with that amount of money spent, only 30% of organizations feel like they have the right culture — despite spending an average of $2,200 per employee.

If we unpack this report, we can draw two conclusions: the first is that organizations recognize that establishing the right culture is important as it can result in reduced spending on recruitment and increased productivity. The second is that companies struggle to find the right way to invest in culture. Spending money doesn’t guarantee you the right culture for your organization.

But creating a culture is not about spending on recruitment (though that is a factor). It’s not about doing one-off things like an annual survey, or artificially boosting morale through parties multiple times a year. It’s not even about bringing in an outside consultant to “fix” things.

Creating a culture is about consistency.

Consistency is important in the actions of leadership and in messaging. Once a culture has been defined leaders then need to encourage the right behavior with the right actions. For example, if an organization’s senior leaders preach wellbeing, then drive hard projects and hard deadlines with overwhelming force, it’s not consistent. There’s a disconnect between the idea of culture and the experience of it.

It’s a common thing that workplaces see these days. The Gartner report also suggests that 69% of employees do not believe in their organization’s definition of their own culture. This doesn’t mean that we can’t have deadlines (every business would fail if that were the case). It just means that more has to be done about bridging the gap between the idea of culture and the experience of it.

There are a few things your company needs to do to close the gap between idea and reality:

Define your culture.
In order to improve and maintain a culture, senior leaders need to take the time to define what a good culture will actually look like in your company (not what business school textbooks or the latest hot trend says). It means taking the time to understand the people in your organization, and the culture that is already in place, before trying to fix anything. When you have a clear understanding of where you want to go, then you can set up processes that support everyone in the organization to consistently put it into practice.

A Small Plug
At Friday we’ve made a study of what makes good and bad cultures. If you’re looking for how to improve your culture, then we suggest thinking about it in terms of being positive and productive. Based on our extensive research, we’ve found that there are Five Ways to Happiness in the Workplace. This evidence-based guide is a very good starting framework for a positive culture.

Consistency, consistency, consistency.
Good culture is built on good practices at all levels of the organization. It can’t be done with one-off surveys, or the occasional office party. It takes regular, honest conversations between teams and team leaders.

Start at the Team Level.
Changing culture starts with the team level and works up. A common mistake that senior leaders often make is thinking that their organization has just one culture — one that they can define from the top. This is true to a degree, and leaders need to have a vision of where they want their organization to go. However, our data has shown that a company’s culture is made of lots of micro-cultures. Every team faces different challenges and reacts differently to them partly because of circumstance but also due to the unique mix of personalities in the team.

Happy teams are the foundation of every successful work culture. In order to build these teams, team leaders need to have authentic and honest conversations with their team members on a regular basis. Here at Friday, we suggest teams take the time every week to recognize each other’s successes and achievements as well as appreciating the support they give each other. Too often in a fast-moving world of work we move on to the next task without reflecting on our achievements and giving recognition where it is due.

Just as important as celebrating successes is giving teams the chance to voice any concerns or frustrations they may have. If these are caught early enough, these problems can be addressed straight away without giving it time to fester into resentment. Again, this is the power of consistency — regular conversations prevent resentment.

These conversations don’t even have to be that long — just 15 to 20 minutes each week can pay huge dividends. In our research, we’ve found that a small increase in team happiness can lead to a 17% reduction in staff turnover and a 7% increase in productivity. Just these two tangible benefits translate into an immediate 6X return on investment.

Those types of benefits don’t come from a one-off training or a day survey. No one leaves those things thinking, “Wow, all the problems I have with my team have disappeared.” It’s consistency and persistency that gives you the ability to address the problems that teams face. Because while taking the time to listen and have conversations with teams is not hard, it does take time for a relationship of trust to grow.

At Friday, we believe that culture can be a force of good in the workplace. It can lift people up and empower them to reach their potential and be productive. The foundations of a good culture are built on happy high-performing teams — a place where people work well together. Like any office environment there are ups and downs, but good teams are able to bounce back quickly from any setbacks.