Remote? Hybrid? In-Person? These 7 Steps Help Create a Cohesive Culture.
Help ensure your employees both understand your company’s values and feel valued themselves, no matter where they spend their workdays.
If you were to ask each of your employees what defines your business culture, would they be able to tell you? If they can’t answer and you may not have formalized your work culture—why your company is a good place to work, how you support and value employees, how what you do connects with the world outside your doors—then your workforce may struggle to understand their “why” of work.
The challenge is even greater if, like 73% of small and midsize businesses, you’ve permanently shifted to a remote or hybrid setup.1 Those employees, in particular, may feel a disconnect from your business culture. That can lead to disengagement, loss of talent, and a negative impact on the bottom line.
Developing a work culture doesn’t have to be hard. You probably already know most of what you need to put it together. These seven steps (and question prompts) walk you through the process.
Define and circulate
What does your business do and why? Beyond growth and profits, what’s important to you? Those are your core values; they can be written, formalized, and recirculated frequently.
“Effective leadership is about bringing people together and making them feel like they’re working together and contributing to a common cause,” says Ina Purvanova, Ph.D, professor of leadership and management and department chair at Drake University’s College of Business and Public Administration in Des Moines, Iowa.
In addition, articulate how employees’ roles contribute to those core values. Acknowledging shared goals “helps people feel connected and ‘in it’ together, creating culture from the inside out,” says Peggy Shell, CEO, and founder of Colorado-based recruiting firm Creative Alignments.
Establish practices to ensure your employees
There tends to be a perception gap between employers and employees in how they feel appreciated, understood, and valued. That includes an understanding of advancement opportunities, work-life fit, satisfaction with managers, and satisfaction with compensation.
As you work on the question prompts below, ask employees what’s important to them and what makes them feel valued—their employee sentiment.
Create expectations for communication, connection, and psychological safety.
Your business culture is a product of the people that make it up. An ideal work environment supports employees doing their best work and ensures they interact with you and one another positively and appropriately.
“Don’t underestimate the impact that every small interaction can have on making or breaking company culture,” says Kara Hoogensen, senior vice president of specialty benefits at Principal®. “Make sure leaders in the organization have their pulse on how employees want to be communicated with and what ultimately leads to meaningful connection for them—both aggregate and on an individual basis.”
For example, you may check in with an employee through a quick message if they have a heavy workload to make sure they’re coping. That’s informal communication and connection. You may ask department managers to hold bi-weekly meetings with direct reports to review workload and other needs; that’s formal. And you may encourage (and offer resources for) casual team meetings—virtual or in-person—giving members opportunities for formal and informal connection.
Get timely ideas from businesses like yours at principal.com/benefits.
Detail accountability expectations.
A positive business culture focuses on counting contributions, not counting hours. Flexibility demands different ways to hold people accountable, which may entail a shift in mindset and your culture.
If you’ve shifted to hybrid or remote, you may be feeling a loss of control; that’s natural. Try to replace control with trust, Purvanova suggests: “How do you feel when someone trusts you? Valued, accountable, and responsible.”
Accountability expectations for your hybrid business culture may include:
- Noting planned, significant time away on a shared calendar
- Creating measurable goals for teams and identified accountability members
- Embracing transparency on performance
- Instituting expectations for communication
- Letting go of intrusive monitoring (think activating webcams or questioning why someone didn’t respond right away)
Align benefits to your culture.
Current employees feel valued when benefits support their work-life needs and goals. Potential employees view your workplace as desirable when a well-rounded benefits package makes up part of compensation. Your existing benefits may do both already, but it’s worth it to consistently review what you’re offering for traditional benefits such as retirement, health, and income protection insurance (disability) as well as non-traditional perks. And think outside the box when it comes to hybrid and remote workers; an online workout subscription may be more desirable than an onsite gym, for example.
Connect with and involve employees, whether it’s a working group made of people from all locations, levels, and demographics, or a company-wide initiative. A survey ranking existing and potential new benefits works, too. “People change, and the environment changes. Make a deliberate effort to revisit on a periodic basis,” Hoogensen says.
Benefits to appeal to a hybrid or remote workplace may include:
- House cleaning services
- Wi-Fi reimbursement
- Coffee shop credits
- Fitness programs
- Professional development opportunities
- Workstation and office supply stipends
- Pet insurance
- Travel discounts
- Caregiving support
- Telehealth services
- Mental health benefits
- Flexible monthly stipend to use as see fit
- Access to a choose-your-own perks platform
Create mechanisms to support mental health.
Employees that struggle with burnout, work schedules, or feeling undervalued are less likely to be able to contribute their full selves to work. “People-first cultures are rooted in a philosophy that values people over profits. The ironic twist is that when employees are valued as whole individuals and provided the opportunity for well-being, connection, and fulfillment, companies are generally more innovative, resilient, and even profitable,” Shell says.
Get a step-by-step guide to supporting employees’ mental health and well-being
Support for mental health may include:
- Providing—and communicating access to—a confidential employee assistance program (EAP)
- Stress surveys—with action to follow
- Work schedule evaluation, including hours worked (particularly for those working extra)
“It comes back to creating an environment where employees are going to be best positioned to deliver their best work,” Hoogensen says. “If employees feel they’re supported while at and away from work, they have more mind space available to deliver great results.”
Bring it all together.
After you’ve completed the steps above, create or update a document detailing your business culture for existing and new employees.
- Our purpose is:
- Our values are:
- We ensure our employees feel valued by:
- We encourage communication and connection through:
- We measure accountability with:
- We support employee mental well-being by:
1 Principal Financial Well-Being Index, 2022 SM
Drake University’s College of Business and Public Administration and Creative Alignments are not affiliates of any member company of the Principal Financial Group®.
The subject matter in this communication is educational only and provided with the understanding that Principal® is not rendering legal, accounting, investment, or tax advice. You should consult with appropriate counsel, financial professionals, and other advisors on all matters pertaining to legal, tax, investment, or accounting obligations and requirements.
Insurance products issued by Principal National Life Insurance Co (except in NY) and Principal Life Insurance Company®. Plan administrative services offered by Principal Life. Principal Funds, Inc. is distributed by Principal Funds Distributor, Inc. Securities offered through Principal Securities, Inc., member SIPC and/or independent broker/dealers. Referenced companies are members of the Principal Financial Group®, Des Moines, IA 50392.
© 2022 Principal Financial Services, Inc.