The U.S. has an engagement problem. A majority of workers are disengaged, and what’s worse, many actually hate their jobs.
The good news is that there is a solution. It lies in culture. A positive workplace culture where people love going to work is invaluable to any organization. In fact, culture trumps everything.
Culture trumps your business idea. Culture trumps your strategic plan. Culture even trumps the competency of your team. When employees fit with the culture of the organization, they can learn the needed competencies, knowing they have the support of their co-workers. They can learn how to do something faster or better or how to meet a higher standard or deal with a high-maintenance client.
But a positive workplace culture isn’t easy to create and maintain. Companies winning at culture have made it more than a poster on a wall, words in a white paper, or a presentation slide deck. They make culture a living, breathing part of every phase of an employee’s work life cycle.
Here are five simple ways you can infuse culture into your workplace.
1. Codify Culture.
Before infusing culture, organizations must figure out what their culture is. Begin by asking what it is that the organization does. What impact does it make? Then, ask what you believe and how your team members behave based on what you believe.
Once your organization has established your cultural values, document them. Write them down, and make the phrases catchy. For instance, ours includes “ridiculous responsiveness” and “contagious fun.” You don’t have to write them on paper to make them memorable. For example, Netflix has an online culture deck with close to 100 slides.
2. Create Chaos.
Times when tensions are high can put your cultural values to the test and show how well you can work together when the pressure is high. Every once in a while, establish a ridiculous deadline to a daunting project, or challenge team members to take on different roles. This shows team members how strong they are when they work together and illuminates the power of your values at work.
3. Budget For Culture.
Many organizations don’t think of culture as a priority and are paying the price. If you make a little space for it in your budget, the payoff in terms of retention and productivity could be huge.
Plan for regular inexpensive activities that reinforce your values during paid work time. For example, something as simple as a game of cornhole can play out the value of “contagious fun.” Another activity might be going to an escape room where a team leader is locked in a room, and the team has to work together to solve clues that allow him or her to escape.
4. Send an Email.
Every other week, send an email about culture. It can include an article about how to improve on a cultural value or highlight a story about how one of your values is being implemented with positive results by another organization. It can also include culture awards and recognition for employees who are living out your values and setting a positive example.
5. Have Some Fun.
Some time ago, Uber partnered with the ASPCA to take animals that need to be adopted for people to play with for a while. One day, some people on our team were notified that the “UberKittens” were in our area, and one of my employees grabbed a slot.
My team members had a blast playing with these kittens. They took a lot of pictures, posted them on Instagram and were smiling the rest of the day. Breaking up the day made the rest of the workday better and more productive. It was a great example of how infusing a little fun into your workplace, and the small amount of time it takes, can pay off.
Many might balk at spending this much time on culture and wonder whether anyone is getting any work done. But if you try it, you’ll likely find that after a cultural event, you get more work accomplished in the time leading up to, and after, the event than you would have if there had been nothing planned that day.
In other words, think of the cultural event as rocket fuel for the rest of the day. A two-hour break for fun can inspire people to work even harder for the remaining hours of the day.