You can think of culture as your company’s personality. Just as with personality, corporate culture impacts perceptions, both internally and externally. Sites like LinkedIn, Indeed, and Glassdoor make it so any conversation about your company can become public information. Point being, how your employees are treated, and the work environment you create, can positively or negatively affect your business.

When you create a great company culture, it doesn’t only help retain talent, lower turnover rates, improve employee engagement and productivity. But it’s also been proven to improve reputation, customer satisfaction levels, and increase earnings growth, according to several workplace and organizational studies.

A strong culture can lead to strong profits (let’s just ruminate on that point for a second). Considering labor is scarce and job seekers can easily compare a business’s pros and cons, focusing on your company’s culture should be as high of a priority as increasing sales.

The good news? Culture-building doesn’t have to consume your budget to have a positive effect on your bottom line. Here are six budget-friendly, people-first strategies to develop a culture that counts.

Champion Communication

When employees say they work at a great company, they often mean they can communicate openly and honestly. A survey of over 1,000 employees found that 81 percent of respondents would rather join a company that values “open communication” than one that offers great perks. Crazy, right?

Here’s the thing: open communication helps workers feel valued and respected, which is essential to building a positive work environment. But it falls on you to encourage honesty, and the sharing of both positive and negative feedback. This doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as weekly check-ins with staff, inviting them to share ideas, frustrations or hurdles. Leaders who also regularly check in are building better culture simply by making themselves visible, available, and welcoming of dialogue.

Keep Development on the Forefront

No matter how many ping pong tables or free snacks your office has, that will ultimately fall flat if you’re not considering your employees’ need for development and advancement. There comes a point when your company’s top performers are going to be looking for the next step in their careers, and want to know what they can do to move ahead. Providing regular feedback and helping employees understand what’s next in their career progression can help morale and improve chances of retaining talent.

For instance, we provide reviews twice a year, encourage advancement training courses, and give employees visibility into job stages, salary ranges, and expectations. This ensures they know what opportunities lie ahead. Having a ‘promote from within’ philosophy, and building skillsets from the ground up has allowed us to create a strong team of long-tenured employees (over 30 percent of our workforce has worked with FirstBank 10 years or more).

Promote Relationships

Team-building, volunteer days, company barbeques, and friendly competitions may not seem like that big of a deal. But people and relationships are often the very core of how we feel towards our employer. Creating the right events and social efforts can foster relationships, aid communication, and ultimately, help turn a group of lukewarm employees into brand advocates.

You can start by simply setting aside a place and time for employees to bond, whether that’s an outing away from the office, or pizza in a shared workspace. Gestures like these send an important message that leadership values collaborative and supportive relationships. Likewise, leaders can set the example by making an effort to develop a personal relationship with each employee.

Combat Battle Burnout and Encourage Self Care

A company’s growth will not be sustainable if it comes at the cost of employee burnout. The solution? Give your employees some semblance of flexibility and opportunities to decompress. Enabling them to choose their hours, providing opportunities to work remote (if possible), embracing work-life balance, encouraging breaks or eliminating guilt around taking PTO are some of the many ways you can diminish battle burnout, while increasing output.

Research shows that by giving employees some control over their work schedules, they tend to be happier, more productive, and engaged. A mass study from the Corporate Executive Board states employees who believe they have job flexibility worked 21 percent harder and have more positive perceptions about their employer. A Stanford University study also found when companies emphasized results over face-time, employees achieved more, took less sick days, worked longer hours, and were generally more satisfied in their jobs.

One of the things we do to help keep employees happy and healthy — in addition to encouraging work-life balance and using PTO – is allow employees to apply for a health-related allowance. This includes massages/chiropractic services, gym memberships, fresh food delivery services, and almost anything that promotes an individual’s health.

Happy employees lead to happy customers, and you can’t neglect the most vital catalyst for client satisfaction.

Practice Gratitude

Recognition matters. Think back to the earliest days of your career. How did you feel when a mentor, co-worker or boss praised your work? Pretty stellar, right? Turns out there’s something to that:

In a survey of over 500 companies, employees who received recognition were much more likely to rate their workplace as fun. What’s more, the majority of respondents interviewed said that personal recognition would encourage them to deliver higher performance results.

Acknowledging good work can go a long way. Experiment with weekly shout-outs, or create a recognition program that encourages regular kudos from workers to their team members. At FirstBank, we have an interactive employee appreciation program that allows team members to earn points for great work and swap those points for gifts. It’s a program that serves our scale well, but can easily be replicated in a smaller environment.

Hire for Compatibility

While it often takes leadership to set a standard around which others can rally, the culture you’ve worked so hard to build can potentially be unmade by personalities that clash with it.

Hiring managers should always focus on finding the right person for the job, but it’s also important to understand your workplace culture and hire people who are also right for the company. For many years, the business world valued brilliant jerks, but most organizations have come to recognize that talent doesn’t have to be toxic. The best talent enriches those around it, rather than tearing them down.

When considering how to factor culture into our hiring practices, we find ways to work our company values into interviews and then pay close attention to the responses.

Remember, Culture Is What You Make It

Culture can’t be bought. It has to be made, and it’s a project that’s never finished. But hopefully, these people-first strategies will help you further define and refine your workplace culture, without breaking the bank.

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