Company culture can make the difference between a fine-tuned, high-performance machine and a rusty old station wagon. We at DigitalRelevance like our engines loud and our cars fast. We work together and play together in a culture that supports teamwork and fosters innovation. Here are four things about our culture you can adapt to make your workplace a better place to work, learn and grow.
Typing isn’t the same as talking
One of the best things about the DigitalRelevance culture is how often we build each other up. You won’t see the “Cover Your Ass” e-mails in which individuals copy every supervisor in the company to shame another employee into getting work done or doing something out of the ordinary.
Our business is fast-paced and what I’ve always called “high demand” – not a day goes by without a client request or a team project that needs immediate attention. Our best results come from sitting together, working together and fostering face-to-face communication. It can be hectic and loud, but it’s also one helluva way to build a team that fires on all cylinders together.
Pro tip: Encourage face-to-face communication in your office. Rely less on phone and e-mail conversations. Sit together to work on projects that require more than just yourself. And when you do have to e-mail, keep it clean and concise, with agendas and actions items and follow-up conversations when necessary. Keep the carbon copies and blind carbon copies out of it.
Everyone’s a genius
Never before have I worked in a place where, everywhere I looked, someone knows something game-changing about the work we’re doing. We have varied interests (many of which are shared and supported throughout the organization), and that variety leads to a lot of sharp minds with different ideas and methods for getting the job done.
That Excel wizard at the next table over knows a trick or two that can save you time and headaches galore. When there’s a big discovery or breakthrough, or someone finds a new tool that makes work more efficient, we share it, incorporate it and move on to the next challenge. Together. We don’t guard our secrets as the one thing that keeps us employed, but rather as the keys to keep us all successful.
Pro tip: Host small sessions to share new tools and methods. When an employee finds a new tool or technique for accomplishing a task, no matter how big or workaday, foster the sharing of the new idea. Invite employees to a “lunch and learn” session where the idea is shared (and lunch is provided), or take 20 minutes at the end of the day for a quick presentation.
Low BS Quotient
Nothing is worse than tension hanging in the air. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but when it can be put to rest, it should be. Being open about the big presentation to the star prospect that could become the next Big Client helps foster the “in it together” attitude. When it goes poorly, let your employees share in the disappointment, and build them up for the next prospect on the horizon. Too many times, businesses only share the good news. But sharing some of the bad, and being truthful about clients, prospects, financials, the workforce and more can be crucial to inspiring your company culture.
You don’t have to give away the big merger that’s under wraps, or the star client you just signed that’s going to cause some extra hours before you can hire more employees to adjust the workload… but imagine how much harder your employees work when they’re invested in the company? Face-to-face communication works for more than just employee projects and knowledge sharing. When leaders get up and tell everyone the news—good and bad—and get in the trenches with the teams, the organization is stronger and more inspired to keep working hard.
Pro tip: Open the books. It can be scary to show what state your business is really in. But being open and honest about the financial stability of the company can seriously help a workforce adjust to hardships or lean times. It’s one thing to say there’ll be no raises this year; it’s quite another to show how much operating costs are and how down the company’s profits are. Likewise, this can be scary in times of surplus, too – but if you’re scared of showing your employees how well you’re doing, is it because you’re afraid it won’t last or you don’t want them to know how successful the company is?
Flexibility breeds flexibility
Working in a fast-paced, high-demand environment will sometimes require situations in which employees are asked to put in some extra hours, or to take on tasks that fall outside their responsibilities or expertise. But that hard-charging environment can also come with unique rewards, like a four-day work week, working from home and other awesome benefits.
Showing your trust by offering the ability to work from home can make a big difference in how your employees perform—and how quickly they rise to the challenge of a big project, too. Knowing that you trust and empower them with the time and environment necessary to get the job done is a huge boon to your employees. Other benefits, like time off, shortened work weeks, volunteer days and relaxed dress restrictions all help employees be who they are and bring their A-game to the table.
Pro tip: Ease up off the khakis, will ya? Lots of businesses have casual Fridays, but letting employees “dress down” during the week only helps them stay comfortable in their work environment. Make it mandatory for employees to dress appropriately for client office visits and meetings out of the office, but on a normal day with little chance of client interaction, let employees dress comfortably (but appropriately) and let their hair down. Jeans and tennis shoes never hurt anyone, and a relaxed environment can reduce stress and inspire more togetherness in the office.
The road ahead for any business is a long one, and nurturing a creative, cohesive culture shouldn’t take a backseat to outdated, repressive and close-minded business traditions. Let your employees be who they are and do what they do.