Recently, I’ve read several articles that address the creation of inspired workplaces. This piece from Andre Eikmeier, cofounder of Vinomofo (an online wine retailer out of Australia) makes some good suggestions that include flexible rules for employees (without going overboard) and a great physical space to foster collaboration and reinvigorate employees. Eikmeier also points out that it is crucial to involve everyone in the future direction of the company. I unequivocally agree. If you establish a corporate culture where employees at all levels are encouraged to participate in the organization’s success, then that culture will truly become an integral part of the organization and survive any particular manager. But how does a team become invested in the company’s future? What are the most important elements needed to shift an uninspired culture in the right direction?
In my experience, there are three fundamental keys to creating a cohesive and inspired workplace culture. Start with these essential building blocks and the rest will fall into place.
The first key is the elimination of fear. Once people understand that every idea they have deserves consideration, and they will not be shot down for raising it, their passion for improving the business will begin to manifest. Many employees are hesitant to offer ideas for fear that their bosses will respond with ridicule or apathy. The open-door management policy is largely a myth: to make it real, it’s important to acknowledge all ideas. Let employees know that even if an idea is presently impractical, it is still worthy of consideration. Create an environment where people at all levels are expected to contribute ideas.
Once employees feel safe and appreciated in the office environment, and not just with their peers but also with managers and even senior executives, they will be more engaged with the business as a whole, more likely to offer creative solutions, and even more likely to share them. If an employee is hesitant to speak up when they do have an idea, then a vast, untapped resource is being wasted.
The second key is communication—not just top down, but among people.Communication is a bullet point on every list of keys to successful business culture, yet it’s still something that so many companies struggle with. I’ve heard people say they can’t get something done because a peer is not cooperating. More often than not, they simply haven’t communicated with each other enough or in the right ways. They get signals from management that empowerment is only top-down and fail to productively collaborate. Establishing a culture where people are expected to communicate with each other and commit to each other goes a long way to fueling successful business growth. And it allows employees to solve problems without involving management.
In addition to communicating on specific projects or deadlines, it is essential to offer the opportunity to express frustrations, address challenges, and celebrate achievements. Lines should be open laterally, from the top-down, and from the bottom-up as well. The more feedback that is given and received in all directions, the smaller the chance that an issue will be overlooked and potentially become a more serious problem.
The third key is respect. Most suggestions for improving workplace culture boil down to a manifestation of the disrespect/respect behavior. Respect must come directly from the leadership of any organization, must be demonstrated by the entire management team, and must be expected of everyone. Treating all people in an organization with respect and dignity will forge a healthy relationship between the individual and their employer. The consequences of a culture of respect may not directly translate to better or faster growth or even higher profits, but it will ultimately ensure that people feel good about their contributions.
Keeping employees involved and vested in the future of the company shows them respect. Letting everyone know that their ideas are welcome and will be taken seriously shows respect. Even giving employees the flexibility to work from home if they need to shows respect. And the more an employee feels like a valued, respected part of the team, the more they will put into the success of the company as a whole.
I’ve led the turnaround of a high-tech online media company and have grown small and large tech businesses. Success in these businesses would not have been possible if not for the team of individuals who were inspired to work together toward a common set of goals. All were rooted in the three building blocks discussed above: eliminating fear, fostering communication, and emphasizing respect set the stage for success.
This article was originally posted on Linkedin Pulse.
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