In the last few years, the term culture has been popping up across a wide array of topics; it was even recognized as the 2014 Merriam-Webster word of the year. We are seeing it in every direction, culture of transparency, consumer culture; here in Los Angeles, we run into celebrity culture frequently. In terms of our Silicon Beach start-up world, it again means something different.
Office culture used to be defined as the environment within a company, but Generation Y has now transformed it into a business priority. There is more focus on culture in the workplace as a tool to help coworkers bond and thrive.
Maybe such a change in thought is just in time. According to Gallup’s 2014 Employee Engagement Poll, “only 31.5% of US employees are engaged & thriving–the other 68-ish percent aren’t lazy, their disconnectedness stems from feeling unsupported and disempowered at work.” How do you engage the other 68%?
There are other ways to approach this problem, but today’s emphasis on building a strong work culture seems especially relevant. By empowering your employees to support each other, you create a system of trust and camaraderie that may be the key to keeping employees engaged.
Forge Interpersonal Connections
Speaking of culture(d), our team hails from 14 countries just within our walls. To celebrate this, we put a map on the wall pinning everyone’s name to their respective hometown. I believe where you are from is who you are. Take aside a shy co-worker and ask them about their home, and I promise you they’ll start talking.
Expanding on the idea, we asked our team to answer a “Getting Know to You Quiz.” These went up around the map, and has become quite the spectacle and conversation piece; randoms bursts of laughter are commonly heard. The quiz was a way to spark conversation and discover shared interests, which strengthens the ties between employees and shorten the distances between departments.
Humanize Your Team
Your employees are not robots. They are emotional, physical and mental beings. In order to inspire innovation and to watch your team grow (which, in turn, helps your business grow) you must humanize your team. Even something as simple as enabling them to take a stress-free break and gather their thoughts will go a long way.
Our new addition to the Retention Science office is ‘Room 5:01’. Technically it’s not even a room, it’s a sign on the wall next to our well-stocked liquor cabinet, but it serves its purpose. It shows that we are thinking of ways to make our RS Family know it is A-OK to take a break and hang out.
5 o’clock, although not the end of our work day, is a time to look forward to. It’s our millennial water cooler, nudging everyone to get to know each other over a tasting of an aged, single-barrel whiskey.
Think Culture, Not Perks
The idea of catered lunches and casual dresscode definitely appeals to new hires, but perks a culture do not make. While perks can keep your team happy, they only work how they should if there is already a good culture in motion.
A perfect example: Thanks to one of our data scientists, we recently added a shiny new foosball table to our headquarters. While it is exciting to have something your friends’ offices may not have, the bottom line is we wouldn’t be using it if we didn’t already connect with each other. Retention Science is now split into more than one office, so this now acts as a fun little bridge between departments.
Personally, my favorite part was building it – though that might be because I am terrible at foosball. We had a beer, misunderstood directions, used power tools, and laughed at each other’s mechanical shortcomings. In normal circumstances, building something for two hours is a chore, but having the opportunity to bond with a coworker made it fun.
When sustaining a culture, a foosball table isn’t going to fix a drama-filled workplace or establish a more trusting atmosphere. Companies should focus on cultivating and preserving a great culture to draw in and retain their employees. It won’t need to be forced if you can steer them in the right direction by making ‘getting to know you’ accessible.
Your employees have to feel valued, have direction, and must be given meaning and purpose to their hard work. Brainstorm ways that you can build relationships that will draw your team together, creating a community, not just a shared workspace.