Whether your small business has one employee or 100, establishing a supportive organizational culture with support from management is the foundation on which employee satisfaction is based. Creating a culture that is inspiring, challenging, and rewarding for your team can have a positive impact on your bottom line: culture-conscious companies typically out-earn and outperform their competition.

Here are some key considerations for building a culture that supports your employees and helps them succeed:

Establish Common Values

A well-defined culture is grounded in a company’s mission. Your mission addresses the reason your company exists and what it strives to deliver to customers. It also may encompass your vision, goals, tenets, and beliefs. Your company culture brings this mission to life by defining the standards of behavior that your leadership and employees will strive to live up to.

According to the Harvard Business Review, a cohesive and sustainable culture needs a common set of values, which are the company’s principles, and a common set of standards for measuring how employees uphold those principles. For example, if mentorship is one of your business values, you need to clearly define it and how it will be measured so that everyone on your team understands what is expected.

Lead by Example

As a small business owner, you are the embodiment of your company’s values and standards. You and your leadership team must represent your firm’s culture and exemplify everything it stands for. Commit to making being supportive a core company value, and model supportive behavior to your leadership team and employees. Displaying passion for what you believe in and integrity in how you accomplish it will inspire others to follow your lead. 

Respect Employees as Human Beings

Being supportive means caring about the overall employee, not just his or her job performance. As the use of technology expands in the workplace, business owners need to remember that employees are not machines. Even the hardest worker has their limits, and the job-related stresses that lead to employee burnout are sabotaging workforce retention.

Prospective workers of all ages are looking for companies that offer flexibility and work/life balance. Small business owners who respect their employees as individuals and create a culture of mindfulness around workloads and stress will be rewarded with higher levels of performance and retention.

Foster Open Communication

Fast, accurate, and open communication is essential to establishing a supportive company culture. Miscommunication and a lack of openness can result in confusion and leave employees feeling out of the loop and underappreciated. Your entire team, from top to bottom, needs to feel informed, included, and inspired to stay involved. Keep in mind that some of the best business ideas are generated through discussions between employees at every level of an organization.

Involving your employees in the company’s decision-making process shows you value their opinion. When your team believes their ideas and suggestions matter and they are empowered to contribute to the company’s goals, they will help build and sustain a healthy culture.

Recognize Accomplishments

Recognizing your employees’ successes creates a positive organizational culture and lets them know how much you truly appreciate their efforts. Employees who feel appreciated by their bosses are more confident about their abilities, and public recognition can provide an added incentive to work even harder.

Remember that there is a difference between offering motivational incentives and creating a supportive work environment. To achieve the latter, it’s better to set clear goals and celebrate a job well done after the fact.

Cultivate Trust

Building a supportive company culture involves reinforcing the trust relationship between managers and employees. Rather than micromanaging, having confidence in your employees’ ability to accomplish their work and giving them the autonomy to do so can lead to greater engagement and productivity.

A culture grounded in self-sufficiency encourages independent thinking and creative problem solving, which can result in a greater sense of accomplishment. Research published in Psychological Science reported that employees who felt empowered were 26 percent more satisfied with their jobs than their less powerful colleagues.

Build a Support System

In many small businesses, employees consider each other family. A 2017 study showed that workers spent approximately 240 days of the year on the job. At a minimum of 8 hours a day, this means the average employee spends more time with their co-workers than they spend with family. Small business owners who are growing their companies and hiring employees need to keep in mind that they are building a support system which functions as a second family for members of their team.

Eliminate Fear of Failure

In a supportive culture, employees are empowered to be fearless. Fostering an entrepreneurial spirit in your small business means giving team members the opportunity to stretch, move out of their comfort zones, and experiment with innovative ideas. Mistakes are valuable lessons on the path to growth, and you and your managers need to encourage employees to take the initiative and fail without fear.

A company culture that cultivates fairness, trust, and transparency sets the tone for building long-term relationships with your employees and with those outside of your firm. Small businesses that provide a positive work environment have happier, more dedicated employees. This leads to better customer service, increased customer satisfaction, and a healthier bottom line.

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