By Alex Hattingh, Chief People Officer of Employment Hero
A healthy workplace culture is an important part of any successful business. A positive workplace culture not only improves teamwork and raises morale, but it also helps everyone to be more productive and efficient.
However, the challenge that employers are now facing in a new world of hybrid working is how to balance the complex needs and preferences of employees to create a workplace culture that is happy and productive.
With the ‘Great Resignation’ continuing to have an enormous influence on the ability of employers to retain their top talent, it is important that employers know how to spot the tell-tale signs of a toxic workplace culture and understand the simple steps they can take to create a more positive and productive workplace culture.
What is company culture?
What often separates the highest-performing businesses from their competitors is culture. Workplace culture dictates decision-making processes, how employees behave and how your people interact with one another. In essence, culture is the glue which binds everything together. It focuses on fostering a sense of belonging, of shared purpose and meaning.
Culture can form around shared values, goals, and expectations. On a physical level, it’s everything from the working environment, the dress code and even the type of technology you choose to use.
What are the signs of a toxic workplace culture?
- Poor Leadership and Management
Whenever a manager displays poor leadership skills like shutting down, humiliating or dismissing anyone who speaks out of turn, you’ve got a highly toxic working environment. An unpleasant leader not only contributes to an unhealthy workplace but also models and endorses their ‘bad’ behaviours to others. In short, if a manager uses threatening language as a means to get work done, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that your team leaders and members start doing the same.
- Toxic Positivity
In the workplace, toxic positivity can be especially harmful. It can make individuals feel invalidated, unseen and unheard. Often, a toxic positivity offender genuinely believes that he or she is being helpful and encouraging to someone in distress. But, in actuality, toxic positivity disregards an individual’s true, legitimate emotions. The suppression of negative emotions can significantly harm an individual’s physical and mental health, both inside and outside of the workplace.
- A fear of failure (and its consequences)
Mistakes happen, we’re only human. Nobody goes out of their way to mess up at work. Yet 56% of employees believe their mistakes are held against them at work. This often comes down to toxic workplace culture that disapproves and punishes perceived failures. A lack of psychological safety is one of the top indicators of an unhealthy working environment. For employees, having the ability to take risks and make mistakes without living in fear of judgement or punishment is crucial in building an inclusive company culture.
- A lack of trust
Trust is one of the core foundations of a successful organisation. But in a toxic working environment, trust is perceived as something that needs to be earned rather than provided. We’re talking managers checking, double-checking and triple-checking everything regardless of a person’s previous experience or performance.
Five steps to create a positive company culture.
- Be flexible.
82% of employees say they would be more loyal to their employer if flexible work arrangements were encouraged. Chances are that COVID-19 has seen your company adapt to flexible working. Continue to prioritise this. When executed well, flexible work policies can create a company culture of trust, work-life balance, and self-managed productivity.
- Grow what you’ve got
Did you know that one third of millennials plan to quit their jobs after the COVID-19 pandemic? With this generation now making up much of the workforce, a lot of your star talent could be heading for the door. 94% of employees say that they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development, so it’s never been more important to give your employees a reason to stay. Invest in the careers of your employees, seek to understand their goals, and partner with them in achieving those goals. This is key to producing a healthy company culture that fosters loyalty and motivation.
- Show some appreciation
The world’s leading companies are often very good at recognising and rewarding employees. This doesn’t have to cost the earth. Make it standard practice to acknowledge successes privately and publicly — both big and small. You could also try creating a simple system in which employees can be nominated by colleagues or clients for their efforts.
Our recent ‘employee movement and retention report found that a lack of appreciation and recognition was the main reason (31%) for an employee seeking a new role elsewhere. This makes showing appreciation vital, not only for tackling a toxic workplace culture but talent retention also
- Everyone loves a perk
Employee benefits are a great way to create a positive company culture. A well-run benefits program can set your company apart from the competition and increase employee satisfaction, engagement, and happiness. Explore creative ways in which you can offer employees the perks they really want. How can you do this? It’s simple – ask your team! A basic survey can help you find out what your employees value and are excited about.
- People first
Think of your employees as people — whole people, with financial, physical, emotional needs. Prioritise their holistic wellbeing, and your company culture will reap the benefits. Healthy employees are better employees. Health and efficiency have a clear connection. Healthier employees take fewer sick days and work more productively. Put your people first and put their health at the top of your list. You should ask yourself how you can directly contribute to the wellbeing of your employees. How can you invest in their mental health? Physical health? Financial health?
Toxicity in the workplace comes with a high price, so it’s critical to address these signs the moment you start noticing them. Whilst the above steps will certainly help, there is no magic formula to create the perfect workplace culture. Business leaders must look within if they wish to address issues of workplace toxicity and create a culture that everyone can feel productive and happy in.