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Everyone wants to build a strong corporate culture and it’s easy to see why. Whether your goal is to attract new talent, increase retention or simply improve the workplace to boost employee morale, building and maintaining a healthy company culture is essential to both the well-being of your employees and that of your company. However, it is important for leaders to recognize that there is a difference between communicating the corporate culture and creating it.
So what’s the difference? It’s about what you put into practice. As the founder and managing partner of a seven-figure law firm recently named “Best Place to Work” by Business First magazine, I’ve learned that creating a corporate culture is more than just words:
1. Ask your employees what they think is important
To build a positive company culture, it is important to put your employees first. As leaders, we all have an idea of what kind of corporate culture we want to build, but it’s important that this vision also includes what our employees want. After all, if your corporate culture concept doesn’t suit your employees, you’ll struggle to attract and retain top talent.
The best way to create a healthy corporate culture that employees love is through communication. Ask employees what they want from the workplace and put those suggestions into practice. Do they want free lunches? Shorter Fridays? Morning hugs? Possibilities for hybrid work?
Your employees are one of your best learning tools for creating a great company culture. Asking questions and implementing their feedback is a great way to improve your company culture and make your employees feel valued and heard.
Related: What Makes a Great Company Culture (and Why It Matters)
2. Go in-depth with your employee relations
Don’t be afraid to encourage relationship building that fosters a healthy sense of community in the workplace. studies show that friendships between colleagues offer a whole range of benefits, including increased job satisfaction, improved productivity and reduced turnover.
Related: How to attract new employees who want to do a great job?
While you don’t want to force relationships that just aren’t there, don’t be afraid to create space for organic connections in the workplace. Create time for employees to connect on a personal level so they know you see them as more than just a cog in the machine.
Not sure how to achieve this? Don’t think too much about it. Even a simple 1-on-1 employee program can do the trick. Match employees for a short outing—perhaps coffee, a walk, or lunch (paid for by the company, of course)—so people can get to know each other better.
3. Establish healthy boundaries around work (and mirror them)
If you want to create a truly award-winning corporate culture, it’s time to start a conversation about boundaries. Overtime is not healthyand – although it may be tempting to put in a few extra hours for the sake of the grind – Research shows that working more doesn’t make you more productive either.
What helps? Taking breaks, for starters. Not only are frequent breaks great for productivity and creativity, but they can also help boost motivation and even improve your physical and mental health.
Related: 3 ways to really get employees to take a break
However, if you want your employees to actually take breaks, you need to do more than just encourage them. Mandate breaks for both you and your team members, and model the behaviors you want to build into your company culture. For example, if it’s nice outside, encourage your employees to go for a 10-minute walk. If the weather isn’t great, take a mandatory coffee break to encourage your employees to reset and refocus.
Other ways you can encourage healthy boundaries include things like mandatory vacation, no emails at work at night and/or on weekends, time off for doctor appointments (no questions asked), or no lunch at your desk. The possibilities are endless! Don’t be afraid to ask your employees what they think is important, and create a culture that actually allows these things instead of just saying you do.
4. Don’t run your business by someone else’s rules
If you want your business to be unique, don’t do what other businesses do. Creating a healthy corporate culture that stands out from the rest requires innovation and adaptability. It’s not enough to offer the “standard” corporate culture that everyone else is modeling. If you want to be the best, it’s time to experiment.
Closes early on Fridays, celebrate everything, use credit card points to pay for employees’ vacations. I’ve seen many companies try many different things, and there aren’t many “wrong” answers. Just do what works for you and your employees!
The most important thing to remember is to keep innovating. Your company culture will change as your company changes, as your employees change and as you do – and that’s a good thing. Embrace those changes and support them if you want to thrive.