Why You Can’t ‘Create’ a Great Workplace Culture

It all starts with your behavior and values.

It doesn’t matter if you have 10 employees or 10,000. The employee problems you face in your company are, in all likelihood, strikingly similar to those faced by other business leaders.

That’s because you’re dealing with human beings, all of whom have a set of core needs, desires and expectations that are innate to the human condition. And those needs, desires and expectations are worthy of your attention, if you’re at all concerned about building a thriving workplace culture.

How Do You Create a Terrific Culture?

Trick question. You don’t. Culture can’t be deliberately “created” or “instilled”—at least, not like most HR and organization development professionals advise. Rather, culture is like a chain reaction. It’s the manifestation of what senior leaders hold to be true, valuable and rewarded. It’s your leadership values externalized.

Put another way, culture is a result. It happens whether you want it to or not.

Instead, focus on the things that generate job happiness. Be intentional about providing the workplace elements most people want in an employment scenario, and relentlessly root out those that result in unnecessary frustration.

This has to start first in the CEO suite or owner’s office, where budgets are set, priorities are established and norms of behavior are modeled.

What Makes People Happy?

Happiness is complicated. Obviously, it’s influenced by a host of issues that are, in many cases, out of the control of small business owners and leaders. The employee has the ultimate responsibility for managing his or her own contentment.

However, there are elements of workplace life that the small business leader can control. Here are six ways you can set the stage for great culture.

Create accountability // Make sure employees understand priorities and expectations. Deliver frequent performance feedback, and ensure there’s a commitment to delivering results.

Encourage open communication // Communication should be clear and frequent among everyone in your organization—upward, downward, laterally, between and within groups.

Ensure fairness // Focus on appropriate compensation and benefits, work-life balance, equal opportunities and equitable, consistent policies.

Encourage growth // Provide personal and professional learning experiences. That includes formal training, mentoring and career opportunities.

Cultivate relationships // Encourage opportunities for your team members to interact socially. Having a little fun at work often leads to improved teamwork.

Build trust in leadership // Select and develop capable and caring leaders. Be transparent and honest. Minimize politics. Respect and practice confidentiality.