Advertisers advice

How to build company culture: tips for Kiwi businesses

Company culture is more important than ever before to Kiwi job hunters. So, how can employers ensure they walk the walk?

High staff turnover is always bad news. Recruiting is disruptive, time-consuming and often leads to a temporary drop in productivity.

While every business experiences a degree of attrition, there are steps you can take to bring your employee exit rate down. Key among these is building a strong company culture.

A Trade Me Jobs survey found that 64% of New Zealanders listed the culture and values of a company as either important or very important to their current work. With the increasing influx of values-conscious graduates into the workforce, this is a statistic that’s likely only to increase in the future.

So, here are some ideas to improve the company culture in your establishment.

Businesses with strong workplace cultures often see higher rates of productivity.

How to build company culture: the steps

1. Define where you want to go

A great company culture should serve the dual purpose of making the workplace somewhere staff love to be, while also furthering your business goals.

But this means different things to different people. So, who should you engage with to make your culture inclusive? Your people, all of them.

Your frontline staff have the best insight into day to day life in your organisation, and are the ones who can bring your culture to life.

A great way to start defining direction is by asking yourself (and your employees) three questions:

  • What’s important to us? What are our company values, and how would we like to see ourselves?
  • What’s our mission? What does this organisation exist to achieve?
  • How are we falling short? As things stand, what needs to change in order for the organisation to live these objectives?

From here, you can shortlist values you think best serve the interests of both the organisation and its staff, and draw up an action plan for achieving them.

2. Reinforce, reinforce, reinforce

A set and forget mentality doesn’t work when it comes to company culture. Staff will quickly become disenchanted if there are no tangible changes to how things operate in their workplace.

A few ways to reinforce your company culture include:

  • Lead by example: refer to values in meetings, and encourage your leadership team to do the same. For example, if you’re discussing the practical workings of a new product launch, ensure your values are explicitly built into your approach.
  • Rewards: prizes for performance are common, but does your organisation reward staff members for living out cultural values? If not, this is an easy and popular fix.
  • Appoint a people and culture officer: having a dedicated member of staff to own this side of your business is a great way to ensure your culture isn’t merely tokenism.

Remember, for long-standing staff members especially, big cultural change can be daunting. This is why continuing to hear their points of view, and easing them into the transition, is important.

Senior staff should lead by example in implementing company values

3. Optimise your hiring process

A company's culture should be people focussed. Once you’ve got your values established, start building culture into the hiring process to ensure your next cohort of employees will become ambassadors for your values..

To do this effectively, make your culture and value statements easy to find on your website. Most job hunters want to research this stuff anyway, and you can’t expect prospective employees to understand your culture if it’s hidden from view.

While CVs and cover letters can give an indication of what a candidate believes to be important, interview time is the best opportunity to really nail this down. Important questions to ask are:

  • “What type of work environment suits you best?”
  • “Why do you want to work for this organisation?”
  • “What management style works best for you?”
  • “How would your current co-workers/manager describe you?”
  • “Do you prefer working independently, or as part of a team?”
  • “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
  • “How do you manage conflict at work?”

4. Encourage staff socialising

An organic way to foster a close-knit culture is to provide opportunities for staff to socialise. It’s a no brainer that employees will enjoy coming to work more if they’re working with friends, rather than just colleagues.

What’s more, a social workplace tends to be one that promotes teamwork, collaboration and information sharing – all of which are key to productivity.

5. Measure the results

You involved your staff in drawing up your culture, but that doesn’t mean you can now disengage. Providing opportunities for employees to register feedback is crucial to allowing your culture to move with the times..

Collecting this feedback in the form of surveys also allows you to measure the success of your culture strategy.

For example, ask questions such as, “how likely would you be to refer a friend for a job with us?”, or “do you think the company aligns with your personal values?” and give an agreement scale from one to ten. By collating responses, you can track change over time, and react to potential problems.

It’s also important to monitor metrics like voluntary turnover rate and reviews on sites such as Glassdoor to gain a holistic view of what staff (and former staff) think of your culture. This is a never-ending process, but one well worth your effort.

Regularly measure the results of your cultural initiatives to ensure they’re working.

The benefits of a strong company culture

1. Attracting and retaining staff

As we’ve seen, culture and values are important factors for New Zealanders when deciding where to work. If you get this stuff right, your employees will become advocates for your organisation, which will make hiring cycles a lot faster and cheaper.

2. Motivated employees

It stands to reason that staff working for a company they believe in will be more motivated than those just clocking in for a pay cheque.

3. Improved performance

A strong culture provides an important sense of identity and common purpose, which drives results for the organisation as a whole.

4. Better brand reputation

A company that looks after its employees through values and culture won’t just create a buzz among the job hunter community. If your organisation is making headlines for all the right reasons, you’ll likely find more companies wanting to do business with you.