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What does it take to hire and retain the best talent in the industry? That’s a question businesses have been asking more and more. It’s plain to see that a great work environment with a positive culture helps keep employees happy and productive. The dangers of a poor corporate culture include high turnover, a tarnished reputation, difficulty recruiting, and overall stressed and unproductive workers. So, what does positive work culture really look like in a modern economy?

What Authentic Positive Culture Looks Like

We recently spoke with Leasa Mayer, president and CEO of CRG Events, about her thoughts on corporate culture. Her highly ranked 2016 WPC session, titled The Secrets to Creating a Culture that Attracts (and keeps) Top Performers, was focused on how she builds strong teams, attracts new talent, and keeps CRG Events regularly listed as one of the top ten places to work in Seattle. Leasa firmly believes that a strong corporate culture, one where people love their work and respect their colleagues, is what enables businesses to maximize productivity, increase innovation, and grow their bottom line.

Leasa noted that companies are putting more importance on culture primarily due to low unemployment rates. She continued, “When unemployment hovers around 10% or higher, it’s easier for companies to not invest in culture. But when we get to this place where unemployment is between 4-5%, a strong culture is essential to keep your employees engaged and committed to coming to your place of employment every day instead of someone else’s.” Culture is important as companies strive to attract, recruit, hire, and retain the best possible employees.

While some companies have jumped on the bandwagon of having ping pong tables and a kegerator around the office, Leasa doesn’t consider that to be culture. She describes it as more of a superficial perk or fad that fails to have the lasting impact on employee satisfaction that positive culture is capable of.

“It’s considered cool to tell engineers that we have a ping pong table and therefore we’re a great place to work, but I just don’t buy that.”

– Leasa Mayer, President and CEO, CRG Events

Real positive culture is not terribly complicated but it is difficult to execute well. Leasa says there are three pillars to creating good culture in the work place, and the flow between these pillars is what continually renews and revives a company’s overall philosophy. Those pillars are enabling clear communication, encouraging healthy conflict, and measuring results.

1. Clear Communication

Clear communication is critical to an authentic positive culture. The value of communication around vision, goals, feedback, expectations around performance and accountability, or what’s expected of you and what it means if you do or don’t achieve those expectations. “At the end of the day, no matter what kind of company you are, the most important part of a strong, healthy culture is clear, open communication.”
To achieve that, companies must be willing to invest in communication by building a common vocabulary between leadership and employees. Tools such as the popular Insights program and Myers-Briggs personality type profile can help coworkers communicate and collaborate better on a day to day basis.

2. Healthy Conflict

Encouraging healthy conflict with meaningful feedback loops are one additional way companies can build a strong culture. Leasa recommends the book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni, as it helps companies find ways to communicate and even celebrate conflict.

“When you can get people in a room arguing about anything from ideas, to concepts, to plans, and then be able and willing to say ‘While I might not agree with what we’re doing, I understand why, and I’m in.’
That’s a strong culture.”

– Leasa Mayer, President and CEO, CRG Events

Leasa believes that paying attention to the size of teams is also important. Once a team grows beyond about seven people, they start to lose cohesiveness. That cohesion is very important to building and maintaining a positive work culture. Also, keep in mind that many workers contribute to multiple teams, and that cohesion is important for each and every role they own.

3. Measurable Results

As we all know, that which gets measured gets done. If you are not measuring feedback, measuring accountability, measuring your results, then you’re wasting your effort. Leasa says the most important measurement for business success is and always will be whether a company is making money. If there is no profit, then something is wrong. She also recommends finding the individual metrics that work for you, whether they are relating to recruitment, retention, feedback, or reputation. Measuring your goals as they relate to good culture is what will keep your company accountable.

The Impact of Technology on Work Culture

The modern work environment has created some interesting challenges for companies who are committed to fostering a healthy culture. To make room for better work-life balance, many companies have seen how mobile work stations, flexible schedules, and modern communication technologies have made that balance more and less attainable at the same time. Workers who can work from home, on their own schedules, are often pressured into checking their devices or making themselves available 24/7.

Helping employees find that sweet-spot of good communication and healthy boundaries is what maintains a positive work culture. In large part, that balance depends on using the right communication tools, hiring the right employees, and trusting your workers to get the job done.

How have you seen good culture impact the success of your business? Share your stories with other partners in the comments below.

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