How would you describe the culture in your workplace? Is it inclusive? Do people feel comfortable sharing ideas or taking risks? Is there an established hierarchy?

There's a lot of disagreement about what organizational culture really is. What we know is that it exists in every workplace, either by default or design, and that it affects the way a business operates. We also know that businesses that are intentional about creating a good organizational culture are typically innovative and successful and have a lower employee turnover (for example, consider Google, Whole Foods, and Facebook).

So if you're a small business owner or manager, how do you improve the culture in your own workplace?

1. Workspace

Start with simple changes to your workspace. Small improvements to your office can go a long way toward encouraging communication and improving the atmosphere.

Wall Color: Multiple studies have proven that color stimulates the mind. Setting the right mood in your office can start with something as simple as your decision to paint the walls a bright color or a muted one.

Layout: Although it is not always possible, improving your workspace layout can help increase productivity and communication. Open office layouts are great for teams and collaboration; they also break down the corporate hierarchy, with management working alongside employees. If your industry values privacy or requires quiet, a traditional office environment might be more suited to your needs.

Plants: Bring plants into your workspace. They have multiple physical and psychological benefits. Check out this list of the best office plants to find one for your space.

Shared Spaces: Shared spaces in the office give employees an opportunity to interact with each other, but they also give employees a space to de-stress. Most companies have a break room, but adding other spaces will only make your workplace a happier place. Some ideas include:

  • Shared library: Employees can bring in their old books, and the company can purchase new books to stock the library.
  • Fitness space: Having yoga mats, free weights, and even exercise machines available helps promote a healthy lifestyle in employees, which often translates to increased happiness and productivity.
  • Green space: Invest in some furniture and landscaping to create an outdoor space employees can enjoy.

For example, employees working for Scribendi enjoy an open office with plants, brightly colored walls, a community library, and a lovely greenspace by a river.

Scribendi Workspace

2. Valuing Employees

No amount of plants or paint will create a good organizational culture if your employees don't feel valued. Although implementing this strategy requires more resources and time, it does pay off. Not only does it make employees happier, which translates into better output but it also makes recruitment easier.

Offer Benefits: A good benefits package makes people want to work for you. It offers employees security and reflects the fact that you care about their wellbeing.

Start Reward Programs: Reward programs are not just for customers! Reward employees for outstanding work; this can take place in the form of bonuses, trips, discounts, etc. Your employees feel recognized, and you can incentivize people to take on more challenging projects.

Another (less costly) way to make people feel valued is by recognizing them publicly. This could take the form of a top performer list, employee of the month competition, or internal awards.

Celebrate: Take the time to celebrate people. Celebrate events such as new babies, retirements, birthdays, or hiring anniversaries. This is a great way to make employees feel recognized and bring the office together as a community.

Encourage Personal Growth: Offer employees the opportunity to expand their education or receive a rebate on gym memberships. This could also help attract people who are passionate and motivated to your organization.

Offer Flex Time: If possible, offer flex time. More and more companies are ditching the typical nine-to-five mold in favor of allowing employees to create schedules that work best for them. This approach encourages a good work–life balance and gives people a degree of control over their own lives.

Just Listen: This is probably the easiest thing you can do to improve your culture. Ask for feedback, and listen to it. Nobody knows your company better than the employees working in it, so ask them what they need in order to do their job well, and actively look for ways to innovate and improve your business. This can be done through surveys, meetings, informal conversions, and suggestion boxes.

For example, in-house employees at Scribendi enjoy a great benefits package, a wellness benefit that can be used towards gym memberships or education opportunities, flexible schedules, and the opportunity to offer suggestions and review company practices in an annual survey.

Valuing Employees

3. Creating Community

So, your office is optimized for employee satisfaction and you are doing everything you can to make them feel valued, yet you aren't seeing the type of collaboration you want on the job. Here's how to create a community within your office that will build the relationships that are so vital to a healthy team.

Social Events: Bring your team together outside of work . . . more than once a year at the holiday party. This creates a sense of community and lets employees get to know each other on a deeper level. Here are a few ideas for events you could hold:

  • Employee retreat
  • Escape room challenge
  • Bowling outing
  • Healthy potluck
  • Sports tournament

Share Responsibilities: Depending on the size of your company, sharing responsibilities is great way to encourage a sense of community. This could include taking turns planning special events, cleaning the break room, or organizing the library.

Give Back: People like to work for companies that care about their communities. Organize or have your employees participate in charity events, marathons, or clean-up initiatives.

For example, Scribendi holds monthly social events to bring people together in the office. In addition to these monthly events, Scribendi provides many opportunities to give back to the community, such as tree planting and packing donation boxes during the holidays.

Community at Scribendi

4. Company Values

According to Business Dictionary, values are "important and lasting beliefs or ideals shared by the members of a culture about what is good or bad and desirable or undesirable." Your organization's values should be clear and in line with the company's vision and mission statement. If company values are integrated into everyday operations, they will help guide business decisions and put management and employees in the right frame of mind.

For example, employees working for Scribendi know that the company values openness. This is explained in the hiring process and throughout employee training and is reinforced through everyday practices such as a collaborative project management system and interdepartmental meetings.

Management is key to creating a strong company culture. Culture flows from the top down, which is why it is essential that management live and exemplify company values. This mindset is translated to employees who are then able to embrace company values.

Taking the First Step

It's obvious that creating an inclusive, people-oriented organizational culture is necessary to create sustainable success, and you should be proud to be putting in the effort. We hope this list will help you determine in which areas you are excelling and what areas could use some improvement.

Having reviewed these strategies and evaluated your own everyday practices, it's time to take the first step toward cultivating a strong organizational culture in which your employees can thrive.

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