Team culture in the workplace is one of the most misunderstood and under-prioritized parts of every office environment. The team culture of any office can make or break the company. Having a positive team culture has proven to go so far as to improve team performance.

But, with many misconceptions about what team culture really is, managers and founders end up setting the wrong expectations and rules within the workplace. All it ends up in is causing unhappy employees, lowering productivity levels, and seeing a massive dip in employee retention rates.

So what is it that in the name of ‘team culture’ that really messes things up?

Let’s dive into the myths of team culture, dissect what it really is, and understand the different ways you can truly build a great environment at the workplace.

What Is ‘Not’ Team Culture?

Team culture is highly misinterpreted by employees, managers, and even founders. When people discuss the culture in their workplace, many people boast about having “unlimited leave policy” as one of the shiny and positive things in their office.

But, team culture is not unlimited leave policy and free food. It’s also not about having a foosball table in your office or movie night every Friday. It’s definitely not getting to wear absolutely anything you wish to, to the workplace!

These are all just perks of working within the organization but it is not an in-built culture that has sustained within the organization.

Now you may be wondering what team culture is because that’s what was being sold to you all this while.

Defining Team Culture

Team culture is an unconscious part of your team. It is the rules of engagement that the people in your workplace follow when interacting with each other. Simply put, culture is about the people, not the objects.

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Great team culture is built on a clearly defined vision and a set of values. By setting up a positive team culture, you can make your employees feel more encouraged to work, increase loyalty and ensure everyone in the team has a shared goal they are working towards.

If you’re skeptical about the impact of team culture, there are many statistics online that will make you reconsider.

According to one study, 47% of people seeking a new job cite company culture as the main reason for doing so. A company without a defined team culture or a poor culture is sure to witness poor employee retention and low performance.

A positive team culture fosters more trust and respect among employees, keeping them engaged with their work. A great team culture doesn’t just benefit employees. It also has a marked influence on the company.

Forbes found that companies with strong cultures saw a 4x increase in revenue growth.

In companies like Google, team culture is an unstated part of the ecosystem. This is because such large companies have set the tone in the earlier days of the company, and as the team grew, the values were present without emphasizing it too much. Such organizations also have an excellent onboarding team that introduces the company culture in such a way that new hires are immersed in the culture from the start.

If you’re just starting out at defining your team culture, fret not. We spoke to the HRs from different organizations, asking them how they built a positive work environment. Here’s everything we learned.

Top 5 Ways to Build Positive Team Culture

1. Don’t be afraid to define some rules

When setting up the foundation of what your team culture should be, ask yourself— what behavior should be rewarded and what should be disciplined?

For instance, if one employee talks over the other, will you correct them or let it slide? If you let this behavior slide, you are rewarding a rude characteristic and thus, setting it as a culture within your company.

Let’s take another example. You’ve asked a team member to run a meeting with a set agenda. Now another team member simply barges in with a point that is off the agenda. Would you ask that team member to set up another meeting for it or would you permit the existing meeting to get carried away?

Every little detail matters when setting rules. They might seem a little stringent in the beginning, but they’re the only way to ensure high productivity levels.

Read this blog about setting up a positive team culture that makes your workplace more successful.

2. Continually identify areas of improvement

For many companies, setting a team culture might not already be ingrained into the workings of the team. Since you are starting from scratch but with a full-fledged team, you need to set aside time to identify culture problems within the company and solve them.

Be vocal about how you discourage rude and negative behavior and encourage employees to come to you with any problems they are facing when communicating with peers.

Once employees do confide in you about any issues they are facing, work with them to set up rules to safeguard them. It’s also good to pull aside any employees who have shown culturally unfit behavior and have a conversation to ensure they don’t repeat themselves.

Let’s give you an example. You’re advocating how every team member should take more ownership. Then you make an experienced hire in the team, who starts to micromanage every little task at hand. This results in your first hire losing track of their tasks and losing productivity.

At this point, your first hire should be able to walk up to you and mention what is blocking them from making progress.

3. Ask for ‘honest’ feedback routinely

Setting up a recurring meeting that is set within everyone’s schedule is a great way to make your team more connected and get feedback regularly. Some companies like to have daily standups for employees to discuss work and share problems they have to come up with a collaborative solution. Others have weekly or fortnightly meetings that are just about tackling issues.

Alana Brajdic, a product designer at SafetyCulture, mentioned that her design team has introduced a team day on Fridays to discuss their areas of improvement and combat struggles they have. This doesn’t just help them identify roadblocks but also come up with solutions together, making their team bond stronger.

4. Start by setting an example

When setting down the rules to build a positive team culture, the most important thing to do is to take the lead. Without setting an example for the rules you’ve set down, how do you expect your employees to follow through with them?

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For instance, checking or picking up your phone while in a meeting is a very negative habit. By doing this, you instantly set the wrong expectation about the culture you want to set in your company and give leeway to employees remaining distracted during meetings. That’s an absolute no-no if you ask us!

The same holds true for when you want your team members to take more ownership and feel responsible for achieving company goals. If they don’t see you doing the same or they notice you’ve been taking a step back yourself, it becomes very hard to nudge them to work harder.

5. Be absolutely transparent 

Encourage transparency in the company by taking lead. Ask managers to share company metrics at all-hands meetings and let everyone in the company know that transparency is one of your organization’s foundations.

Be more open about everyone’s responsibilities and functions – if the need be don’t be afraid to define roles either. Push employees to share even the smaller milestones – on and off work. Joining your team members and celebrating their little wins, also makes them more transparent about their individual goals.

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Asana wrote a brilliant post on how being transparent actually helps a team do better work together. Read it here.

Setting the right team culture – starting today! 

Setting the right team culture isn’t easy. Companies like Buffer, Google and others took their time to define what they want it to be like and define it. So take your time, but start early!

It only gets more difficult to inculcate the team culture as your team grows.

Remember, even when you are not setting up the culture, you are setting up a culture. So, don’t put team culture on the back burner!

We hope these 5 tips have helped you build a positive team culture in the workplace and transform your organization to be more inclusive, engaging, and fulfilling.

What’s the one rule of thumb you followed to while setting up a team culture?

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