A company’s culture is the set of values that reflect who they are, what their business is trying to achieve in the market place, and how they will go about achieving it. Small business owners who successfully raise the profile of their cultures inside and outside of their companies will be faced with the challenge of preserving their unique cultures over time.

Staff iconIt is important to reexamine your company culture often, especially if your business has experienced dramatic growth or during busy periods that put a strain on your staff and resources. If you feel your culture has become less defined or you are in danger of losing the positive workplace environment you have worked hard to create, a check-in is essential.

Consider taking the following steps to help ensure that your small business culture continues to be inspiring, challenging, and rewarding for your team.

Lead by Example

No matter how small or large the business, those at the top set the tone and create the ethical climate for all other employees. You and your leadership team must represent your firm’s culture and exemplify everything it stands for.

To maintain your culture, it’s important to revisit and clarify the values, competencies, and work styles that contribute to employee happiness and productivity. This process should be collaborative, as it requires both input and buy-in from all levels of the company. Let your employees know that their opinions and suggestions matter within the organization. When employees feel appreciated and know they can and should contribute to the company’s purpose, they are more likely to help build and sustain a healthy company culture.

Once you’ve reconfirmed your company’s core values, renew your commitment to modeling them to your leadership team and employees. Reiterate them constantly rather than just filing them away in a drawer. Displaying passion for what you believe in and integrity in how you accomplish it will inspire others to follow your lead.

Respect Employees as Individuals

Employees today are motivated less by their paychecks than by how they are made to feel by the organizations they work for and the people who manage them. A number of recent studies have proven that employees want to work for companies that appreciate them and care about them as individuals, not just their job performance.

Small business owners who respect their employees as individuals and create a culture of mindfulness around issues such as workloads and stress will be rewarded with higher levels of performance and satisfaction. Even the hardest worker has their limits, and the job-related stresses that lead to employee burnout are sabotaging workforce retention.

Take a hard look at your company culture and focus on maintaining or developing employee relationships that result in lower turnover, higher productivity, and greater satisfaction. Monitor your team’s respective workloads regularly and look for signs that individuals are overworked or feeling overwhelmed. Where possible, reassign tasks or projects to even things out or offer flexible scheduling options to better accommodate a healthy work/life balance. Employees are generally more loyal and committed to companies that are sensitive to their needs and genuinely interested in creating a respectful and supportive work environment.

Align Your Hiring Practices

Identify the intrinsic values that all new hires must meet. This will ensure that those you bring on board now and down the road will mesh well with your current culture. These values also help define your customers, marketing, human resources actions, operations management, and many of the tough decisions your company will make over time.

It is imperative that those you hire or promote into leadership positions not only fit your culture, but are also willing to invest in and build on it. If your senior management is not totally committed, it’s unlikely your culture will thrive.

Be Accessible

Smaller companies have unique ways of doing business and sharing responsibilities. Because there are often few layers of management, small business owners can be more hands-on, stay in touch with workers, and guide the direction of the business personally.

If your business has grown, it may be harder to maintain that level of personal engagement. However, to keep your company culture strong, you need to make sure your involvement continues to be felt as much as possible. Make yourself accessible to your employees. Being supportive, listening to what they have to say, and showing genuine interest in their lives demonstrates how much you value their wellbeing. This will go a long way towards preserving an open, respectful, and positive company culture.

Maintain an Open-Door Policy

Fast and accurate communication is essential to creating and sustaining a company’s culture. Small businesses often have an open door policy that gives employees direct access to the management team. However, this ease of communication can become difficult to maintain in an organization that is growing and expanding.

To keep your leadership and employees engaged, they need to feel informed, included, and inspired. All levels of management must work at consistently maintaining communication with their employees. Having an open door policy doesn’t mean your door is literally always open. What matters is that your people know they can come to you with issues or suggestions. Something as simple as holding office hours once a week offers employees a set time to check in and share challenges or successes – remotely or face-to-face.

Practice an Attitude of Gratitude

Employees often leave their jobs because they sense a lack of gratitude for their hard work. Acknowledging their contributions and providing meaningful recognition for their achievements is one of the most impactful and effective ways for small business owners to maintain a happy, productive workforce.

Spending a few moments expressing your thanks not only boosts a person’s self-esteem, it may also lead to increased productivity, positive attitudes, and improved workplace relationships. Weekly or monthly touch-base meetings provide you and your managers with a rich opportunity to acknowledge your staff’s ongoing success. Celebrate big wins with your team and call out key employees who may have been instrumental in bringing ideas and goals to fruition. Reward consistently stellar performers with a bonus day off or consider handing out “performance hours” tokens they can redeem for a longer lunch or an afternoon off.

Putting these steps into practice year-round helps build and sustain a positive company culture – and lets your team know how much you truly appreciate their efforts.

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