How to Create a Work Culture That Can Survive Anything

A toxic work environment can hurt your business more than compensation — so you can't afford to ignore it anymore. Use these tips to build a culture that will remain restorative, regenerative and strong no matter what's going on in the world.

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By Martha Weidmann • Dec 8, 2022

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In the age of the Great Resignation, executives are in a near-constant battle to attract and retain talent. Paramount to this issue is the importance of company culture. In fact, studies have found that a toxic corporate environment is over 10 times more impactful than compensation when it comes to an employee leaving their job.

Forward-thinking companies must put the focus back on building and maintaining an engaging, rewarding company culture, to which employees feel empowered to contribute, strengthen, and support for the long haul — especially in times of challenge or change. Such is the definition of "regenerative" — to renew, restore and continuously come back stronger.

But achieving this means maintaining a people-first mindset and nurturing your employees to be your number one advocates for each other and the company. Here are four fundamentals for building a regenerative workplace culture.

Related: Your Employees Want Purpose — Not Ping Pong Tables. Here's How to Thrive Through the Great Resignation.

Align your employees with company values

Successful organizations energize employees around core values, referring back to them in times of uncertainty and modeling them for clients, consumers, and the greater good. Establish your values early and explicitly, such that employees can understand them, act on them and identify them in others.

A consistent and shared appreciation of company values allows your employees to engage with the organization on a deeper level, fostering a professional and personal investment that promotes greater ownership, agency and motivation toward company goals.

One way to align your team around company values is to acknowledge and uplift them at every opportunity. It's important to both recognize staff who exemplify company values and create incentives for those who uphold them. Another way is to ensure your company policies both reflect and reinforce your beliefs, thereby giving back to employees and demonstrating your sincerity.

At NINE dot ARTS, we host regular arts-oriented social activities to lean into our "authentic" and "creative" values, as well as offer ongoing DEIB training and professional development opportunities so employees can embrace our "ethical" and "educational" values.

When your company's core tenets help to ground your team in the face of obstacles, guide shared decision-making and galvanize collective action, you will experience the kind of continued growth and affirmation necessary for a regenerative culture.

Related: 5 Lessons for Early-Stage Entrepreneurs I Wish I Knew

Focus on human connection

Values alignment is critical for organizations because it also helps promote employee connection. Thus, it's essential to create opportunities for your staff to recognize, celebrate and support one another around core beliefs and business goals. And given that approximately 50% of leaders are asking employees to return to an in-office environment, such connections may be easier than you think.

In fact, despite the rise of office perks like ping pong tables or deluxe coffee drinks, new research by Enboarder found that 60% of respondents feel the most valuable element of working in an office is the opportunity for spontaneous interactions with coworkers. Other top activities from which employees derived the strongest feelings of connection were team meetings, one-on-ones and skill sharing with peers.

Such findings mean good news for employers because these activities aren't anything new. There's no need for special events or unique "connection-building" programs. Instead, incentivizing staff to collaborate in person through simple meetings, coffee dates and even serendipitous interactions may be just the key to strengthening overall connections.

And when the connection is strong, the research found, employee productivity, satisfaction and retention are strong , too — all contributing to a regenerative culture.

Related: Here's the Secret to Improving Employee Engagement That Every Company Can Afford

Promote employee agency

As a longtime entrepreneur and business leader, I truly believe that diverse, hard-working individuals who unite around shared values can produce new innovations and outstanding results.

This begins in the hiring process. One of the greatest lessons learned in my career is to hire for your deficits. After all, even the best leaders have blind spots. Bringing together fresh perspectives, diverse life experiences and a range of expertise can make your organization stronger as a whole, helping to prevent siloed thinking, promote ingenuity and hold everyone accountable. And when diverse specialists share common values and feel connected to one another and your mission, the potential is endless.

Further, knowing you have committed, specialized team members who balance each other out can allow you to delegate with trust and confidence, giving employees the agency they (and you) need to improve your organization.

For instance, our employees create topical task forces around our core principles, presenting recommendations to leadership about policy changes in these areas — from sustainability measures to artist advocacy efforts. Meanwhile, with the support of leadership, employees are emboldened to take initiative on operational innovations, creating efficiencies and improvements that benefit our business success.

Such employee agency is critical for seeing the kind of sustained problem-solving and improvements necessary for regenerative workplace culture.

Related: Investing in Your Employees Is the Smartest Business Decision You Can Make

Emphasize education

Lastly, don't forget to further your employees' aspirations — both personal and professional. Oftentimes, employees who seek to enhance a certain skill set, passion or area of expertise will contribute their newfound strengths to your organization in meaningful ways.

Start by including education in your staff training. For example, at NINE dot ARTS, all new team members complete three Courageous Allyship trainings and each year we have a company-wide session for all employees. This workshop gives our team a shared understanding and language around diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging — a core component of our ethos across every department.

Additionally, provide continuing education stipends to fund workshops, lectures, conferences or other educational endeavors. And let your employees present their learnings from such opportunities to the company as a whole. Promoting your staff's continuous advancement inspires each individual to have a growth-oriented mindset for themselves and the organization.

Related: Is Your Employee Engagement Program Up to Snuff?

Move beyond material perks

In today's hiring and retention landscape, we can't underestimate the impact of workplace culture. Gone are the days when a mini fridge, coffee machine, branded merch or gym membership could entice talent to your organization. Instead, leaders need to focus on the foundational aspects of culture, like values alignment and human connection. Once these are solidified, empower employees to feel ownership, agency and a sense of purpose around their work — and provide educational opportunities to further that purpose. These are the building blocks of a regenerative culture — one that is adaptive, resilient and always improving on what's been done before.

Martha Weidmann

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

CEO of NINE dot ARTS

Martha Weidmann aims to be a mentor and champion for aspiring artists and business leaders alike. NINE dot ARTS has completed over 900 projects in real-estate development, generating over $40 million in revenue for the creative economy.

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