Did you know that companies that focus on creating a highly engaged workforce see 21% higher profitability and 17% higher productivity? In a small business where resources are often tight, this could make or break your company.
Small businesses simply can’t afford to have a high turnover or an unproductive, unmotivated team. It makes having a strong company culture even more crucial, and it could be the secret to unlocking the success of individual employees and the business as a whole.
In a small team, employees often wear many hats, juggling different responsibilities and deadlines. A clear company culture ensures they can prioritize their workload, effectively manage their time, and internalize company goals.
Sure, benefits like monetary bonuses and gym memberships are great. But in reality, small businesses often lack the budget to offer these perks. And a great company culture should go much deeper than this, focusing on communication, respect, shared goals that align with the business and its employees, and a commitment to growth.
When you celebrate team members, company achievements, and drive innovation, you not only make your company a great place to work, you give your small business the opportunity to thrive among the competition.
So if you’re looking to improve your company culture with the resources at your disposal, then scroll down to discover our top tips.
10 Ways to Improve Small Business Company Culture
1. Determine Your Core Values and Make Sure Everyone Understands Them Clearly
Your company's core values are like the compass that points everyone in the right direction within your business. Once you've figured out these core values, don't keep them under wraps. Share them with your team! It's like giving them a clear roadmap. When everyone knows what your business stands for, these values become the guiding lights for your employees' behavior and decision-making. A common purpose brings your team together and makes your business feel more like a close-knit family.
2. Involve Your Team in Shaping the Culture
Think of building a company culture like decorating a shared living space, such as a common area in an apartment building. Instead of one person deciding on the colors, furniture, and decorations, everyone in the building gets a say.
So, when we're talking about company culture, it's like giving each team member a chance to pick out some elements of the "decor." You want to hear their thoughts and ideas on what values, behaviors, and attitudes you should have here.
When people are more involved in tasks, they feel more invested in the outcome and are more likely to embrace it personally. They feel a sense of ownership, and this leads to tighter teamwork and a more positive work atmosphere.
3. Prioritize Employee Well-being and Work-Life Balance
According to The Workplace Health Report: 2023 by Champion Health, 76% of professionals experience moderate to high levels of stress, while 60% feel anxious. Poor mental health can significantly impact productivity, lead to high absenteeism, and reduce employee motivation and morale.
If you have a small team, it can be tempting to take advantage of each employee, assigning them tasks outside of their remit and asking them to work overtime. But overloading them with work hours and unrealistic expectations can significantly hamper their productivity.
Granted, the nature of a small business means it often has to ask employees to go above and beyond. Whether you’re in the competitive e-commerce sector or operate a small SaaS company, asking a lot of your employees may be unavoidable, particularly in the initial stages as the company finds its feet. But if your team becomes physically, mentally, or emotionally drained, they won’t be able to contribute anything of value.
Image Sourced from TheGreatRetention.com
Always keep your employee’s well-being in mind and help them find a good work-life balance. Try to give them a predictive schedule and allow plenty of time for breaks. Ensure they have the tools they need to effectively and comfortably do their job – that might mean investing in ergonomic furniture, but it will be worth it.
Give them space to thrive outside of work, too. Encourage them to take up hobbies in their free time, and organize fun team activities that will bring everyone together.
4. Create a Positive Work Environment
You want your workplace to feel like home, but it's more than just perks like Friday happy hours and ping-pong tables. It's about nurturing a sense of inclusivity and support.
You can do this by encouraging open communication, fostering collaboration, giving recognition and celebrating accomplishments. Above all, make sure every member of your team feels listened to, appreciated, and respected.
Here's a plan to kick things off: consider setting up regular feedback sessions where everyone can openly share their thoughts and ideas. Create collaborative spaces for teams to brainstorm and work together, and recognize and reward your team for their hard work.
According to our State of Culture Report 2023, 86% of organizations have an employee recognition program or strategy, citing employee experience, employee retention, and productivity as the key benefits. So it’s important that companies show they value the commitment and efforts of their team members, as this will play a part in the company’s overall success.
Image Sourced from TheGreatRetention.com
Finally, build a culture centered around DEIB: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging.
A diverse workforce brings more ideas and viewpoints to the table. But more importantly, a well-rounded DEIB approach means each and every team member will know that they're a welcome member of the team, are treated equally, and feel comfortable offering their opinion.
Remember: DEIB, feedback, and recognition programs aren’t a tick-box exercise. You must make sure they are woven into your day-to-day practices to ingrain them in your company culture.
5. Promote a Culture of Collaboration
Make your workplace a real team effort, where you're all-in together, going after those common goals. Encourage everyone to throw in their ideas, team up on projects, and learn from one another. You'll feel the team spirit soaring, see some awesome sparks of innovation, and watch productivity take off.
Make the most of collaborative platforms such as Slack, Monday.com, and Asana – these are particularly beneficial if your team is hybrid or remote. But don’t just set employees up on the platform and hope for the best.
Ensure they understand how to use these tools effectively and why they should be using them. By explaining that collaboration is a crucial part of your company culture and can help them be more productive, solve problems more easily, and keep everyone connected, they’re more likely to embrace it for their benefit.
If your company has multiple teams, encourage cross-functional collaboration too. By communicating and working with different departments, employees can better understand how the whole business functions, make better decisions, and ultimately drive innovation.
Remember, communication is a crucial element of team collaboration, so consider ways you can encourage employees to communicate more often, more effectively, and more consistently.
Again, if you prioritize inclusion, build a positive workplace, and value employee well-being, communication will automatically become much easier. Everyone will feel more comfortable and confident in voicing their opinions, reaching out to colleagues or managers for support, and offering help or feedback to help everyone achieve their goals.
6. Hire Like-Minded and Talented People
Now that you've poured your heart into making your workplace awesome and building a strong company culture, you want to make sure new hires are on the same wavelength. When you bring in fresh faces, look for people who don’t just have the skills you're after, but click with your company's culture and goals.
But don’t think of your company culture in a silo here. To make the most of the talented people you hire, there are various techniques such as workforce management that will ensure you can optimize each employee’s performance.
The process of workforce management helps you adequately staff each team or department, so you know you always place the right people with the right skills and experience where they’re needed.
Using HR software like Personio and Clockify and call center workforce management solutions can all support you in managing your team and building engagement.
Finally, remember that building a strong culture isn’t just about hiring the best people you can afford and putting them into the most suitable role. You must also provide a culture of continuous learning if you want to foster engagement and motivation.
By encouraging employees to hone their skills, broaden their expertise, and undergo formal training or mentoring, you show that you value each employee (old and new) and are invested in their future.
7. Develop an Effective Onboarding Process
When new hires first join the time, it gives them their first taste of what your company's all about. So, make it count! Give them a warm welcome with an onboarding experience that helps familiarize them with your company's values, what's expected, and the lay of the land.
The onboarding process can often be bogged down with endless paperwork, reading handbooks, and signing documents. Some of this is unavoidable – after all, you need to gather certain details for legal or health and safety reasons. But it’s worth simplifying and streamlining the process where possible.
Dedicated software like payroll for small businesses can make things that much easier, as you can automate the process of adding new employees and give them self-service options. This makes onboarding smoother and more engaging from day one, but also improves the employee’s experience throughout their time with the company.
But it’s not just about ticking boxes with HR. To ensure new hires feel at home, involve other team members and managers in the onboarding process. This might be through a mentorship program or a less formal “buddy” system.
Either way, this approach encourages collaboration and communication from the get go, making new hires feel welcome. It also allows you and your team to pass down company values by “doing” rather than “saying” what you stand for in a dull hand book or presentation.
If new hires need to learn skills specific to your company or sector, such as tracking calls with Vonage, you might also consider hands-on training sessions. Finally, survey new hires about a month or two into their time at the company. This helps you gauge how effective the onboarding process was and whether the values you’ve worked hard to embed in your company culture have been passed down.
8. Invest in Employee Engagement
We talk a lot about engagement – and for good reason. Employee engagement is connected to nearly every aspect of their work. So if your sales figures are low, staff turnover and absenteeism is high, and your team is inefficient, it might all come down to poor engagement.
This can be difficult to measure, so think of it holistically. By successfully implementing all of the best practices we’ve listed here, you’re likely to see engagement improve as a result. But there are additional steps you can take.
Involve team members in decision-making processes to show them that you value their opinion. This also enables them to view their role as an individual as a crucial cog in the company’s wheel, keeping everything turning over and working towards progress.
In addition, offer employees plenty of growth opportunities and recognize their achievements publicly. Survey employees to gauge their engagement levels, motivation, and satisfaction, and promptly address concerns, involving the employee to ensure you devise a solution that works for them.
9. Set Common Goals
To build a positive work culture, it's important that employees can see how their efforts fit into the big picture. There's nothing worse than feeling like you're just spinning your wheels at work. So, encourage your team to connect their personal goals and growth with your company's larger purpose. Show them how their role makes a difference for everyone's success.
Remember, this isn't something you only discuss during annual reviews or appraisals. Keep the lines of communication open and maintain an ongoing dialogue. Celebrate victories as a team and acknowledge everyone's contributions to significant projects.
That sense of accomplishment and being part of a successful team is what truly brings employees together and keeps them motivated to achieve more.
10. Leverage Technology and Software
We don't often think of technology as a culture booster. Instead, we see it as tools for getting the job done. But having the right tech isn't just about efficiency; it can supercharge your culture too.
Modern cloud-based platforms and software solutions help companies streamline daily processes while helping employees be more productive. Whether it’s inventory management software, task management tools, collaboration apps, or video conferencing platforms, the end goal is the same: to improve efficiency.
What does this mean for your company culture? Everything. By equipping your team with the right technology, you significantly reduce laborious manual tasks and give them more time to focus on elements of their job that are more important and enjoyable. This can lead to higher levels of job satisfaction (and, of course, engagement), free up more time for training, and encourage innovation.
The good news is there are countless tools that can help you, but it can be overwhelming choosing the best solutions for your needs. Plus, as a small business with a limited budget, you no doubt want to be cautious about what you spend money on.
Decide which areas of your business could benefit the most from automation and optimization and go from there. Look for tools with free trials and weigh up the benefits of paid versions to see if it’s right for you.
Remember, technology isn’t just about software; physical hardware can also strengthen your company culture. If your team works on clunky, outdated devices, it can significantly hamper their efforts and slow everything down. Upgrading devices like company phones, laptops, and desktop computers can be a worthwhile investment that pays off in terms of employee satisfaction and productivity.
Nurturing Your Small Business Culture
Building a solid company culture in your small business isn't a one-and-done deal. It's an ongoing journey that takes some real dedication and elbow grease. Start by nailing down your core values, get your team on board, and make sure everyone's feeling good. When you've got that positive vibe going, it's like magic — people start working together, they're super engaged, and you’ll start to see productivity increase, too.
Don't forget, your employees are your rock stars, and when you invest in a great culture, everyone's work life gets a whole lot better. So don’t wait — start prioritizing employee experience today and you’ll see your small business soar!