When you think of the kind of company you’d like to work for, what comes to mind?
While flexible work schedules and free lunches might be the type of perks that immediately jump into your head, think a little deeper. What makes your work feel worthwhile and fulfilling?
If you’re like most workers, you’re probably thinking along the lines of collaboration, innovation, and trust.
These and similar qualities are the foundation of all those brilliant team cultures you hear about at companies like Google and Apple.
But we’ve got great news for you: as a company leader, you can build the team culture of your dreams right in your organization.
This article will walk you through what team culture is, why it’s so important, and what a good team culture looks like. Then, we’ll take you step-by-step through developing a strong team culture of your own.
What is team culture?
Team culture is a shared approach to work based on beliefs, values, and attitudes. It highlights what’s most important to a company and impacts every part of a business.
For instance, some companies may promote a culture of service or excellence. These values will show up in job descriptions, hiring processes, training sequences, company events, and more.
A company’s core values are often displayed on the website and other materials, like in this example from Hireology:
Team culture can make or break a company. A healthy team culture fosters collaboration and motivates employees, but a bad or toxic team culture leads to high turnover and other problems.
Currently, about 43% of employees look for inspirational team culture. In fact, it’s a top priority for these job seekers.
Considering executives attribute 72% of a company’s value to its employees, it’s smart to think about how you can create a company culture that everyone wants to be a part of.
Why is team culture important in the workplace?
Your team culture and shared values define how your company approaches business.
It impacts your relationships inside and outside of the company through hiring the right people, working with good clients, and creating business partnerships that benefit the company.
For your employees, a great team culture provides a shared identity and purpose. That shared purpose leads to higher engagement and retention.
77% of companies focus specifically on the employee experience to increase employee retention. Creating an inspirational team culture is a huge area of improvement for companies, according to 38% of talent professionals.
But what does an effective team culture do for your business? Quite a lot.
Here are just a few business benefits of cultivating a strong team culture at work:
- More engaged employees: Employees invested in the company and the work get better results and are often more productive and efficient.
- Lower turnover: Engaged employees are less likely to search for a new job, reducing recruiting and hiring costs.
- Increased collaboration: An effective team culture provides connections and outlets for employees to work together to solve problems.
- Improved productivity: Employees who care about the company, its culture, and its purpose are often more productive, allowing you to conduct more business without hiring more people. According to some research, an inspired employee is up to 125% more productive than a merely satisfied one.
- Opportunities for innovation: Productive, collaborative employees come up with new ideas and often make them happen. This kind of innovation helps push your team and your business forward.
Not all team cultures will produce the same results. It depends on what’s most important to your business.
However, there are a few common elements of great team cultures, which we’ll cover next.
What makes a great team culture?
While excellence, service, or innovation are all great shared values for team culture, you may not need each of them, depending on the nature of your business or your team’s work.
First, though, you need to build the foundation of your team culture.
Here are a few key values you can consider as the basis of a healthy team culture:
- Communication: Everyone can access the information they need to do their jobs.
- Trust: Employees receive autonomy to do their work without being micromanaged.
- Teamwork: Employees work together toward a shared goal, rather than competing against each other.
- Knowledge sharing: Team members don’t hoard information; instead, they make sure everyone can learn, and the company is better for it.
- Support: Employees help each other get work done when needed, reducing stress and burnout.
It’s easy to think that great team culture is one with ping-pong tables and kombucha on tap. Those things can be nice perks, but they don’t drive benefits like employee wellbeing, retention, productivity, and business performance.
What does? A culture of dignity, according to 95% of organizations. That dignity relies on communication, trust, support, and more.
7 steps to developing a strong team culture
Building a great company culture starts at the top.
As a business leader, you need to think about what you want your company to promote and achieve.
Then, you need to develop a plan for getting your employees on board.
Developing a strong team culture is more than just offering free lunches and other perks. Take a look at these steps to learn how to get started.
1. Brainstorm team values
The great thing about developing a work culture is that you get to decide what it should look like as a company leader.
Think about what values you want your company and your employees to embody. For example, do you want to be a culture of honesty? Fairness? Service? Learning?
You may want to be all of these things, but consider what is most important for your business and your brand. For example, what message do you want to convey to your employees and customers alike?
Depending on the size of your company, you can ask for employee input on team values at this stage. It’s also fine to create your team culture vision on your own.
2. Gather inspiration from other workplaces
Next, look at companies you admire, whether they’re in your industry or just well-known.
What sets them apart? What do you like about their culture?
It’s smart to look at companies both inside and outside of your industry. You should also look at companies that are similar in size and those that are larger to see how values evolve as companies grow.
Pay attention to how other workplaces convey their team culture and shared values.
For instance, this example from ServiceNow phrases its values as actions the team does together, like “win as a team” and “deliver customer success.”
Think about how to incorporate these ideas into your own workplace culture. How will you convey company values to your team? How will you inspire them to participate in the new team culture?
3. Define what it looks like to be a team player
With your team culture values in hand, it’s time to think about what your culture should look like in practice.
Take each value and come up with specific examples of what it looks like to live out that value in the workplace.
For instance, if exceptional service is one of your values, think about what it means for each team in your business.
On the customer service team, this likely means resolving client problems quickly. Or, it could mean going above and beyond for customers, so they are as happy as possible.
But you’ll also need to think about what service looks like for non-customer-facing roles too. How will human resources live out your culture of service?
The more specific you can be, the easier it will be for your employees to adapt to the new team culture. Vague values make it difficult to know what’s expected, so be as detailed as possible to avoid any confusion.
4. Share your expectations with your team
By now, you should have a pretty clear vision of what your team culture should look like.
That means it’s time to tell the employees about your vision.
Present your team culture expectations to employees in a more relaxed setting, if possible. This relieves some of the pressure of the workday and can provide a welcome break for your team.
Consider offering free lunch or another perk to make it even more enticing.
As you share your vision for great team culture, make it a conversation rather than a lecture. Allow time for employees to ask questions, give feedback, and chat with each other about infusing team culture into their work.
5. Model your ideal team culture
As your team adopts the culture, they’ll look to you to set an example.
That means it’s important to live out your company values. Hold yourself to a higher standard than you hold your employees.
As your employees adjust, give them kind direction and feedback. Implementing the team culture should be a collaborative process, with everyone figuring out the best way to live out company values in their specific work context.
If you’re trying to change an established company culture, this process may take time. That’s okay! Be patient and lead by example, guiding your employees to the ideal team culture at every opportunity.
6. Provide the tools your team needs to live out your team culture
To best set the team up for success in living out your team culture, make sure they have all the resources needed to do it well.
This could be new collaboration tools, better systems or processes for customer service, or training on topics related to team culture.
For instance, if diversity is one of your values, provide formal training on inclusion and diversity, as 70% of organizations already do.
Or, if you’re promoting a culture of learning, provide stipends or scholarships for training, conferences, and online courses.
Essentially, you want to make sure you’re only asking employees to do what you’ve given them the tools for.
7. Gather employee feedback
If you developed your team culture expectations on your own, you might find that your expectations are too high for your company’s current reality.
For instance, if you put new customer service practices into place, they may be overloading that team and not accomplishing what you want.
To remedy this, ask for and implement employee feedback as much as possible. This is particularly important if your team culture emphasizes collaboration.
Ensure that your team culture is always serving your customers and your employees — not making it harder.
Start building an effective team culture today
Team culture impacts your company’s ability to collaborate, innovate, and even generate revenue. But team culture doesn’t just happen accidentally.
To build a strong team culture, you need to decide what you want that culture to be, define your expectations for your team, and set an example by living up to your company’s values in everything you do.
Then, you’ll be able to work with your team to continue to grow and cultivate your company’s culture moving forward.
To learn more about how you can develop a strong team culture, reach out to Pareto Labs today.