Multi-coloured silhouette people against words 'Company Culture'

Company culture has long been linked to business performance, and while a strong culture doesn't guarantee business success, it does provide a foundation for it. Conversely, a poor culture can actually damage your business.

While it's easy to think of business culture as a bit "soft" compared with, say, achieving sales, a 2014 study shows this is not the case, reporting that public companies named in a "Best Places to Work" list in 2009 outperformed the S&P 500 by 115% in the following five years.

The study suggests that a culture which engages and motivates employees helps the bottom line. But the reverse isn't true: A company's success isn't enough to produce a positive culture, and companies that succeed without a positive culture are likely to see performance decline.

If your business is currently performing well, great. But if it's doing so at the expense of employee satisfaction and happiness, chances are that your success is unsustainable – especially in economically tougher times.

So what proactive steps can you take to improve your company culture?

  1. Understand your team

    The key to understanding your team is finding out what motivates and drives each person. For example millennials are typically willing to give up a substantial amount of salary to work at a job that provides a better working environment. Millennials also favour companies with better diversity and inclusion programmes.

    An Australian study showed that organisational culture for older workers was particularly positive in companies led by older CEO's with positive attitudes towards older workers.

    The key point is that, at an organisational level, a positive age-diversity climate is linked to higher company performance. It all boils down to understanding your staff. In other words, what's good for older employees is also a good fit with the values of your millennial staff.

    Creating a discrimination-free environment (not limited to age – also include gender, culture, sexual orientation, etc) provides your company with a diverse and multi-faceted workforce.

  2. Be flexible

    Workplace flexibility matters why? Because the "work to live, not live to work" mantra has resonated with today's employees, and so flexibility and a healthy work/ life balance is highly sought after.

    Adopting an open mind towards the flexible workplace helps you:

    • Attract and retain top talent

    • Gain access to a broader talent pool

    • Achieve increased productivity

    • Respond to changing market needs

    If you are open to negotiating working hours and/ or flexible work locations (eg working from home), make this clear when advertising job vacancies.

    If your position is rigid in this regard, perhaps consider taking this option for a trial run. You may be surprised by the increase in employee satisfaction and overall productivity.

  3. Empower your staff

    A key to a strong internal culture is having staff think and behave like business owners.

    By giving your staff the autonomy to put customers first, your business will benefit and your employees will feel valued. For instance if you're in retail, trust staff to make swift decisions about refunding unsatisfied customers or replacing goods they didn't like.

    Delegating all but the most complex decisions to whoever has the most customer contact ensures customers issues are sorted quickly and efficiently. Your own time will be freed up, your customers will be happier, and so will your front-line staff.

Want to read more of our articles on how to achieve a happy workplace? Check out our mini blog series "How to build a great team":

Cartoon of large hand picking happy employee from lineup of four

Part 1: Employee recruiting - creating job listings to attract the right people

Cartoon of 4 employees holding up 'Welcome' banner

Part 2: Employee on-boarding - how to do it best to impress

Cartoon of happy running employee with text 'I love my job'

Part 3: Employee retention - how to create a culture of happiness