You always hear about those amazing workplaces where the employees drink beer with their boss on Fridays, have amazing company parties, and there’s a “zen room” with low lights, a hammock, soundproofing panels, and chillwave music playing, in case anyone needs to “get away and re-center” for a few minutes in the work day. Now, we’re not saying that your office necessarily needs to (or even should) possess all or any of the aforementioned perks, but offices like this illuminate a valuable set of practices and ideals that all businesses can take advantage of: the idea of creating a company culture.
Particularly for small businesses, success and growth are largely dependent upon attracting the best, most qualified, most motivated employees. Increasingly, one of the most effective ways to be a magnet for this kind of amazing team is to make your company’s physical space a place that makes people say, “Oh wow, I want to be here.” It turns out, the office can be an enjoyable place to work – and when you create such an environment, the best job candidates come to you. And not just employees; when clients come for meetings, being a part of the special and unique vibe you’ve created will enliven them with the same energy that fuels your staff everyday, and they’ll want to be a part of it too.
So how does one go about building a happening company culture? Here are some starter tips:
1. Consider work/life balance
If you want to have a staff that loves to work, you can’t demand that they live to work. More than ever, there’s a widespread emphasis on having more of a balance between work and other parts of life. This is actually a good thing for business; employees that are rested and relaxed because they’ve actually had time to tend to themselves and their families means a less-stressed, more focused workday. Whether it’s by having a few extra paid days off, the option to work from home on certain days, or taking a half-day on Friday, offering up demonstrations that you care about your employees have well-rounded lives will pay off on multiple levels.
2. Foster personal career growth
Broad, sweeping generalization that’s totally true: The best employees are constantly focused on progress, growth, and where they’re headed. To short-sighted employers, this is a slightly off-putting quality in a candidate; they want someone who wants the job they’re offering, and won’t be in a hurry to leave it. But the truth is, being focused on the future makes people more committed to what they’re working on in the present. The key to bringing in these super motivated job candidates while neutralizing the fear that they’ll jump ship to pursue professional growth is to create fully developed avenues for that same growth to occur within your company. Make sure to lay out where the opportunities for ascension, learning, and achievement are when you’re in the interview. Express an enthusiasm for developing a game plan with this person that truly fosters their careers. Showing an interest in someone’s whole range of talents and a willingness to nurture their potential is how you get the very best candidates wanting your company, rather than going through a series of people using you as a stepping stone. An invested staff is the central component of a successful company culture.
3. Be generous – with your time and money
Making sure that your staff feels that their ideas are valued is the absolute best way to make sure that those ideas keep coming. A workplace that is set up to foster the flow of communication between all levels of employees, and that gives celebration to innovation and forward thinking, is a workplace that will keep moving ahead. Allow employees to schedule lunches with you, or have team lunches once a week as an open forum for discussing and enjoying new ideas, rather than continuing to trudge through existing projects. And on the money front: people love a good cause. So your company should have one. And you can make picking it a team activity; have employees suggest charities to work with and support, and make the decision a consensus. Showing a commitment to giving back is good for your reputation, both internally and externally.
4. And yes, beer is good.
Obviously, you’re not going to get much accomplished if you and your staff are hammered every day, but there actually is a lot to be gained from having a little intra-office happy hour on Friday afternoons. Enjoyable, relaxing, team-building rituals like this are amazing for office morale. And yes, winning “cool points” with your employees can go a long way towards building a sense of community and personal loyalty, not to mention a sure-fire way to end the week on a high note, but more than that, the act of cracking open a cold one and sitting together casually can put everyone’s mind in a completely different place. You’re most likely going to end up talking about work anyway, but now the pressure is off, everyone is relaxed, and the context for talking and thinking is entirely different – meaning an entirely new approach to issues and challenges that might have been leaving you all stumped while in “work brain”. “Beer brain” at the end of the week might just be the breath of fresh air that boosts brainstorming.