5 Simple Ways Leaders Can Shape Their Company Culture

With the rise of Millennials in the workplace — they now account for the largest generation in the US workforce — job expectations have shifted from climbing the corporate ladder to finding value and connecting with a mission. The concept of leadership is being redefined accordingly. Positional leadership, where hierarchy and climbing the corporate ladder reigns supreme, is on the down turn.

Now, leaders are asked to inspire team loyalty through expertise, vision, and judgement. These leaders are less focused on hierarchy and more focused on increasing drive and performance.

They also have the power to impact an important driver of business success: company culture.

Your company’s leaders guide its culture. In fact, they can make or break it. In our survey of over 28,000 employees at 340 companies (featured in this free report), we found a correlation between confidence in leadership and high-performance cultures.

That confidence goes a long way. As we’ve discussed here, a strong company culture has a direct impact on your company’s engagement, productivity, and retention. </span

So, where to start? We’ve outlined five simple ways your leadership team can drive your culture forward — and boost your business as a result.

 

1. Embody the 10 Qualities Common to High-Performance Companies:

As Alsatian theologian Albert Schqeitzer said, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” If your leadership team embodies your company culture each day, your employees will follow suit.

One way of looking at it is to consider these 10 qualities common to high-performance companies: collaboration, innovation, agility, communication, support, wellness, work environment, responsibility, performance focus, mission and value alignment. 

Ask yourself as a leader how you’re supporting and modeling these qualities in your organization. Do you model effective communication? Do you connect the projects you assign back to the company’s mission?

By addressing these 10 culture qualities on a consistent basis, you’re setting your team and company up for success. The image below shows what tracking these looks like on the CultureIQ dashboard.

improve company culture

 

2. Take Simple Steps to Show You Care

Forty-three percent of employees leave their jobs due to a lack of recognition. As a leader, you can easily develop a culture of appreciation and recognition among your team — and cultivate their loyalty to you, their teams, and the company as a result. Here are some easy, quick ideas to get you started:

  • Go the extra mile with hand-written thank you notes
  • Celebrate work anniversaries with team lunches
  • Step into their shoes: shadow employees for a day
  • Circulate accomplishments across leadership
  • Give feedback on jobs well done
  • Establish employee awards
  • Surprise your team with treats
  • Have employees share their wins each week
  • Celebrate personal accomplishments
  • Let your team leave early after finishing big projects 

 

3. Actively Listen to Employees

Soliciting useful feedback requires more than an annual survey. Improving company culture requires ongoing, consistent check-ins with your employees. By consistently requesting feedback, you’ll stay aligned with the current state of your company culture. You’ll also be able to quickly pivot or change course when there’s room for improvement.

To get started, turn to these three core methods regularly — and consider using a tool like CultureIQ to help.

Culture & Engagement Surveys — Invest time upfront on specific, measurable questions. Focus on evergreen topics like leadership, your mission, support, and workplace flexibility. The 10 qualities above make a good framework for a culture survey.

Pulse Surveys — Send regular surveys that pose the same question to employees, to best track sentiment on a particular topic over time.

Focus GroupsFor issues you’d like more qualitative or anecdotal feedback on, turn to employees passionate about the topic with voluntary focus groups. Read how AppNexus does this for topics like diversity and inclusion.

 

4. Follow Up to Keep the Momentum Going

As a leader, taking action on the feedback your employees trust you with is key in establishing a top-notch culture. Use this simple checklist to follow up on feedback:

✔ Acknowledge that you heard employees and received feedback

✔ Understand your results by analyzing survey data

✔ Dig deeper with your company’s focus groups

✔ Develop an action plan based on findings

✔ Communicate your plan widely and openly

✔ Take action: set goals, timeline, accountability

✔ Regularly cite feedback’s role in initiatives

✔ Rinse and repeat

 

5. Appoint a Champion

Based on your resources and hiring plan, either designate an existing leader or hire one to own company culture. These leaders will be responsible for employee engagement, company values, career development, and overall culture.

Plus, in appointing an employee champion, you’ll be in good company. Companies like AirBnB, Google, Zappos, and Paypal all have executive-level leaders and teams dedicated to improving culture and engagement.

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Want to learn more the role of leadership in driving company culture forward? Check out the below webinar we hosted with David Shanklin, Executive Coach and Head of Culture Strategy at CultureIQ, and Lisa O’Keefe, previously the Senior Advisor of Talent and Engineering Culture at Pritzker Venture Capital. It covers:

  • The role of leaders and managers in driving culture
  • Specific behaviors and techniques that leaders can apply to guide culture
  • How to incorporate the employee voice into your culture efforts

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