Products, marketing and sales are vital to every company, but your most valuable asset is your people. If your employees aren't happy, your organization probably won't be successful.
Creating a workplace culture that will help you attract and retain the top employees should be a priority, no matter what your business does.
"Culture unleashes the power and energy of every individual in the organization," said Manish Goel, a board member of Aerospike Inc. "No matter how much work is put into developing strategies, all have to work in an environment where they feel they can succeed and are supported. A great culture ... has to be fostered."
Kerry Alison Wekelo, managing director of human resources and operations for Actualize Consulting, said it's important for leaders to create a corporate culture where teams feel valued and believe in the organization's vision.
"When an employer considers the wants and needs of their employees, and creates policies and a workplace environment based around them, it sends a clear message to their people. That message is 'we value you,'" added Jodie Shaw, chief marketing officer for TAB. "When you value your people, it creates a happier workplace. Employees who feel they are valued and trusted are more loyal and therefore more productive."
Here are six simple ways leaders can build and improve company culture.
1. Remove hierarchies.
The new open-door policy is the no-door policy, Goel said. It's easy to fall into the trap of "us" and "them" when leadership is behind closed doors and others are in a cube. This type of environment creates an atmosphere of intimidation and inhibits the free flow of ideas, he said.
2. Handle conflict immediately.
Wekelo suggests handling conflict directly, openly and immediately.
"When there are issues within your team, remember that every problem is an opportunity to make positive change," she said. "Take the approach that everything is a learning opportunity, and work with your employees on how to improve rather than running them into the ground and making them feel worse."
She also said you'll have your employees' loyalty if you support them during hard times. When an employee is performing poorly, there is likely something going on in their personal life, or they don't have the skills needed for the task at hand.
3. Empower and trust.
When you're a business leader, most of what goes on in the organization is not visible to you. Goel advised leaders to empower and trust their team to make the right decisions. The benefits of trusting and empowering others far outweigh the risk of mistakes.
"It is important for the entire company to know that they are an integral part of the company's success," Goel said. "Control outcomes, not behaviors."
4. Offer flexibility.
When your employees have a well-balanced life between work and other activities, they will be more satisfied, more motivated, happier and healthier, said Christine Barney, CEO of rbb Communications.
Employers should offer flexible work opportunities, such as flextime, telecommuting and compressed workweeks. Even in more formal environments or positions where extensive flexibility isn't a possibility, employers can still try to improve work-life balance, said Shaw. This can include letting employees leave early for family commitments, offering dress-down days or encouraging employees to take their birthdays off.
5. Encourage team connection.
Getting together reduces stress and builds closer relationships, which promotes teamwork and work satisfaction, said Wekelo.
"These events are also a great way for leadership to show their support for a culture that prioritizes well-being," she said. "Offer a variety of social and cause-related activities throughout the year."
6. Have one unified culture.
"Many organizations have one culture for executives, and another for the rank and file," Barney said. "A culture that truly encourages collaboration and enhances productivity is one where the entire company is on the same page and working within the same guidelines."
For example, if your company promotes flexibility but only managers can telecommute, then you're not being authentic, she said.
Rather than guess what your employees want from this unified culture, Barney advises asking them directly.
"To improve company culture, ask … what they like most about the company and what they dislike the most," she told Business News Daily. "Their answers can help you reinforce the positive and find solutions for the negative."
Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon and Paula Fernandes. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.