The Loop

Build a Company Culture That Keeps Employees Happy

Filed under: Benefits

What is the number one feature of a positive company culture? Based on analyses of more than a million workplace reviews written by employees, a recent study conducted by MIT Sloan Management Review discovered that respect is the single most important factor associated with employees being happy with their work culture.

The research demonstrated that workers also place a lot of value on supportive leaders – in contrast to “toxic managers” and unethical behavior. Workday perks, learning opportunities, and job security are among other key contributors to a positive work environment. Another interesting finding was that the frequency and lack of effectiveness of “reorganizations” had a negative impact on their perception of company culture.

As for flexible schedules and manageable workloads, these factors appear to fall more under the realm of benefits and management rather than contributors to the company’s overall culture.

What is key to recognize is that employers cannot mandate their company culture. It is instead reflected in their actions, and evaluated through the perception of the workforce. Therefore, it is not something that can be controlled, like expenses and profits. Establishing a positive perception of company culture requires consistent patterns of behavior, such as treating all workers with respect, with no tolerance for toxic managers, and applying ethically responsible business practices when it comes to inclusivity, transparency, responsive benefits, and commensurate pay.

Culture Components

The following are some of the components that contribute to a positive perception of company culture:

  • Develop a sense of community within the company by celebrating key events, sharing profits, and using layoffs as a last resort to fix a troubled business.
  • Exercise transparency when communicating management decisions.
  • Fair treatment, which generally refers to equitable pay, commensurate with the responsibilities of the job and the experience of the worker. Fairness is also characterized by what it doesn’t mean, such as favoritism and pervasive corporate politics.
  • Honest and ethical managers, whom workers can trust to maintain confidentiality and also to follow through with what they say they’ll do.
  • Encourage innovation and welcome new ideas and suggestions from all ranks of the workforce.
  • Trust and respect workers to get their jobs done without micromanagement, particularly now that remote work is so prevalent.
  • Nurture a caring environment with generous leave policies for new parents, caregivers in crisis, mental health days, sabbaticals for burnout, and even reasonably flexible PTO when workers need an extra day or two to round out their vacation – or transition from it.
  • Offer ongoing professional development. Some people are lifelong academics, while others need incentive to learn more skills. Do more than just offer learning opportunities; outline the value of more education and certificate programs. Will they increase a worker’s pay? Will it lead to more opportunities, such as leadership roles and  promotions? Also, give workers the time they need to complete professional development classes. That shows that you care that they learn the material and appreciate that these courses add additional responsibility to their already busy lives.

Pandemic Pros and Cons

Even before the pandemic, one study revealed that company culture was the biggest contributor to employee satisfaction, more so than even salary and benefits.

However, company culture has taken on a new level of importance in light of the pandemic and The Great Resignation. Many people prefer working at home because their onsite work environment is stressful. In fact, many are willing to quit their job rather than return to the worksite. This behooves employers to find ways to improve work-life balance and career opportunities if they want the retain a satisfied workforce.

Another recent, global survey found that men are happier with their company culture since the

pandemic began – more so than women. On the positive side, workers are happy to be spending less time in meetings, and the average meeting length has become shorter during the Zoom era. Communications among workers, managers and the overall company have improved, no doubt due to necessity brought on by remote work. 

In fact, with more workers visually seeing what home life is like for many of their colleagues (e.g., children and pets seen and heard during meetings, artwork on the walls, books on shelves, furnishings and decorating style), working from home has fostered more personal bonds and, in some cases, empathy for other peoples’ lives.

However, women – whose careers have been more impacted by COVID – are less likely to be impressed with company culture since COVID hit. Among the ones who have retained their jobs, they are frequently saddled with more homelife responsibilities in addition to juggling work. As a result, companies focused on improving their company culture should seek feedback from women on how this can be accomplished.

An unsurprising finding from this survey was that workers who had a favorable view of company culture before the pandemic were more likely to say it has improved. Workers who were previously disenfranchised are more likely to say the culture has gotten worse over the past two years. What this tells us is that a robust company culture is one of the foundations that can help see a company through hard times, while a shaky one is bound to worsen the situation.

Bottom Line ROI

In addition to stronger recruitment and retention potential, some analyses have correlated higher-than-average employee happiness with enhanced financial performance and customer satisfaction. The correlation is particularly key for workers who communicate directly with customers. After all, it’s hard to convincingly bid a customer to have a nice day if they are not having one themselves. Most workers can go through the motions, but interacting with someone who genuinely enjoys her job does convey to customers. And those subsequent interactions are usually satisfying as a result.

Companies often conduct customer surveys to find out how they can make their interactions more positive. But if they don’t improve the experience for the workers charged with that responsibility, those surveys will not likely be fruitful. On the other hand, survey your workers, proactively implement their suggestions, and the trickle down effect is likely to improve the customer experience.

An organization that is truly committed to establishing a positive company culture should make that goal one of its Key Performance Indicators (KPI). Once identified as a KPI, there should be an ample budget allocation and a strategic plan developed, implemented, and tracked to make sure company culture objectives are met.

Chief Happiness Officer

Some companies use these resources to appoint a specific person responsible for energizing the corporate culture. Over the past five years, many companies have hired a Chief Happiness Officer (CHO). In fact, Google has had the same CHO for more than a decade. With so much focus on technology these days, it is revealing that tech companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Spotify have forged a more humanizing path to connect with workers via generous time off benefits, comfortable working environments, and flexible contracts.

However, keeping people happy goes beyond Pizza Fridays and a ping pong table in the break room. It’s the difference between waking up and looking forward to going to work, or having a knot in your stomach the minute you walk through the entrance. Honing a positive corporate culture means aligning company values with the best interests of workers, and showing them that they are valued and respected through generous pay, benefits, a career path, and offering work/life balance opportunities via flexible time off and workplace options.

With that said, it is important to keep your company environment light and fun. A serious and stressful environment is pretty easy to detect the minute a stranger walks through the door, and that is not a good look for new job candidates. Bear in mind that you cannot mandate “smiles everyone,” like a movie director. The best way to elicit genuine smiles is to have a happy, fulfilled workforce. Start by building a positive company culture.

The Loop Archives

Open All | Close All

Health Care Reform
Training & Leadership Development
Performance Management
Attraction & Retention

Request More Info


RSS Subscribe via RSS

Join Our Newsletter

Thank you for subscribing.