4 Tips to Create a Productive and Healthy Culture
There is a saying that I am quite fond of as a startup founder, “You hire an employee, and a human being walks in.”
Work culture is easy to talk about but difficult to create and sustain. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind and to be focused on short-term productivity. But work culture matters. Creating a positive environment for your employees will make your team happier, and your company will do better as a result.
Ultimately, the extra work you might squeeze out of an employee who works a little later will pale in comparison to the productivity you lose when your best employees leave. Here are four lessons I’ve learned from my business on how to create a productive and healthy culture at your company:
1. Learn to communicate
The backbone of relationships, personal or professional, is communication. Employees will perform better when they receive constructive feedback and when their managers are clear and honest about their expectations. If you make transparency and feedback a pillar of your business, your employees will reciprocate.
One of the first changes that we made was in how we communicated with one another. In the past we had to schedule meetings or pull people out of what they were doing to talk, but now, we’re using Slack.
Slack provided a great place for the team to discuss and share things freely on their own time, which ultimately helped open up communication. Also, it’s much less of a distraction. This was interesting for me -- someone that enjoys and even thrives off physical interactions -- to see how valuable Slack was for our team.
2. Find people who are different from you
To build an amazing team, you must find people with complementary skills. But what isn’t so obvious is how complementary skills also come with different personalities, communication techniques, interests and expectations. It is your job to create, navigate and sustain an environment for these differences not only to coexist but also to flourish.
Some startup founders recommend finding people with similar mindsets, but doing that will only amplify your weaknesses. Get comfortable working with people who are different from you and learn to appreciate their strengths. Your team will be much better off as a result.
3. Be vulnerable
Nobody knows everything. That’s why it’s important to have a strong team to help support you. When you feel that you are in over your head, appreciate that you are in the process of experiencing growth. Lean on your team members to fill in the gaps and help you get your head back above water. You will soon find yourself stronger and better prepared for the rough waters ahead.
Each person's expectations and vision of Augmate’s ideal environment was not always in line with what I had assumed. From that point forward, my intention as a founder has been to strive to build a workplace that can exceed the expectations of our team.
4. Listen to your employees
Look around. Your mentor in this growth experience is sitting right in front of you, asking to go home and see his kid. Listen and learn from him. He knows what type of environment will put him in the best position to succeed.
Involve your team members in decisions that directly affect them. If you provide your team members with the opportunity to shape the culture and environment of your company, you will see progress being made by a group of enthusiastic people. They will work harder and get more done. Being a leader sometimes just means finding the willingness and courage to be led.
Drew Austin is the co-founder of Augmate, a wearable software startup in New York City. He is a mentor at the Startfast Accelerator program in Syracuse, NY, a managing director of FounderDating, and an advisor for SXSW Startup Village. He was recently accepted as part of the 2015 class of NYC Venture Fellows.