We hear a lot about workplace culture these days, from perks like ping-pong tables, on-site fitness gyms and even free alcohol (no…I’m not making that up). Companies spend big bucks on these perks trying to find and keep top talent.

While these benefits might be nice and make the work day go by faster, developing a good culture at work goes well beyond the perks that are given out. A good culture can truly make your organization succeed. That’s not just wishful thinking: Forbes magazine reported on a study where 200 companies were studied and found that those with great cultures did 4 times the revenue of those with mediocre or lack-luster cultures. So maybe a little afternoon ping-pong isn’t such a far fetched idea after all!

People want something they can believe in and they aren’t stupid. They want to unite behind a common cause. Ideally that cause is you and your organization and what you both stand for. In a world full of shiny objects, it is easy for you to get lost if you don’t stand out. You need to have a shared vision that will inspire and motivate yourself and all those around you. Business is tough and sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees so having a united team will help keep you motivated and heading in the direction that’s right for you.

Apple is a great example of this principle. During the development of the Macintosh, the development team worked insane hours to create something that was going to be unbelievably great. Everyone KNEW it was going to be great and they wanted to be a part of it and change the world. During this marathon, someone actually created t-shirts as a morale booster that said, “90 hours a week and loving it.” That team was working crazy hours, putting their personal lives on hold while they were creating at work and ultimately loving it. Normal employees don’t put in that kind of effort, not even for money. If you want that kind of dedication–that level of effort–your people have to truly believe in your cause…and Apple had one. They still do. Their employee retention and productivity are among the highest in the technology space. People who work at Apple are fiercely loyal in a sector that is known for constant movement.

What is your cause? What can your people get behind? If it’s just to be in business and turn a profit then you will get people to come to work and put in their required hours but you’ll get little more. If you want to really make a difference, you need a passion and you need to ignite that in your team.

How Do I Create A Cause?

If your products or services aren’t all that exciting alone, then you need to find other aspects of your business to create a cause. If you are having a hard time envisioning it, here is something to try: You believe in your company, right? Why? What was your motivation for going offering those products or services? Translate that motivation into something your people would want to care about. You have to make it meaningful to them or they just won’t get into it. If you are honest and sincere about your vision and can show passion and ignite it in others, then you can build your movement…your cause. We all desperately want something we can believe in. If what you have is real and authentic, then your people will be in. When your people commit and are truly in all the way, it is a sight to behold.

In a study by Deloitte, nearly 90% of organizations express that culture and employee engagement are one of their top challenges. This is real…and it costs real dollars in terms of employee retention and ultimately employee workplace satisfaction. You can’t afford to ignore it. If you do, it might cost you dearly.

Focusing on your culture has the potential to take your organization to the next level…and beyond. Here are a few ideas for improving your culture:

  1. Focus on initiatives that celebrate diversity. You really DON”T want people who think like you do! Developing and nurturing diversity within your company will translate into more creativity, expanded ideas, better problem solving- the list goes on.
  2. Plan team-building activities. It takes time and real effort to mesh a bunch of disparate individuals into a cohesive group that is firing on all cylinders. Ongoing team-building activities will help form bonds of trust within your organization and that’s when the magic happens.
  3. Give back to the community. You might ask what does this have to do with improving my culture? A recent study reveals that 75% of employees who volunteer through work feel better about their employer, with 93% reporting an improved overall mood and 79% reporting lower stress levels. Giving back to the community has real benefits…and that includes that its also the right thing to do!
  4. Be involved in your employees’ wellness. Aside from showing your people that you care about them, having employees that are actively working on their health increases self-esteem and drastically cuts down on those unproductive sick days.
  5. Create a culture manifesto or vision statement. Your team needs the visual reminder of what you as a group are trying to accomplish. It will also help to keep it foremost in your team’s thoughts if they see it often and in key places.
  6. Solicit employee feedback. Feedback is a gift. You have to fully embrace that notion. There is no such thing as bad feedback. How your team really feels will help you gauge your success and glean important insights into what you need to work on or enhance. People need to feel like they are heard. It will help them buy in to the the changes you are making and set you up for success.

Engagement begins at the top. It has to be a company priority. Reinforce that your people are your focus. Making work meaningful is cited as the #1 desire of Millennial’s as they seek an employer. Listen to and engage them. Their desires, needs and values will shape your organization over the next decade.

Understand that highly engaged companies will attract the best talent, have the lowest turnover and will be more profitable in the long run. By focusing on creating a mission that your employees can be a part of, your organization will improve execution, retention and ultimately, financial performance.

Oh….and it will be a really cool place to work.


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