Small Business

Five Ways To Cultivate A Great Company Culture

Brian Chesky, co-founder of Airbnb once said, “culture is simply a shared way of doing something with passion”. When it comes to building work places and businesses we can be proud of, cultivating a strong company culture is key. We’re living in a time when employee loyalty is low (3.2 years is the average length of time people aged 25 – 34 stay at a company, while 78% of employees said they aren’t looking for a new role, but would be open to the right opportunity) and when the tools to source another job, upskill and switch careers and/or even start your own business are boundless.

But what makes a great company culture and how can small business owners cultivate one?

This month our resident small business expert, Fiona Killackey of My Daily Business Coach breaks down five ways to cultivate a company culture to engage and inspire any team!

Fiona Killackey
Fiona Killackey
4th of October 2019

1. Share your vision

All too often, I meet small biz owners who are frustrated by their staff’s lack of initiative or loyalty. When I ask if said staff are aware of the key company goals and its big-picture vision, I’m met with blank stares. The best way to engage staff is to bring them along on the journey. That means, to show them the vision for the company.

Let your team see the key business goals and how their work ties in with both. By enabling people to feel that the work they do is actually contributing to a greater goal, you inject a sense of purpose and ownership into their work.

2. See the whole person

Despite an influx of ‘fun’ position titles in the last decade — think Chief Experience Officer (CEO) or Chief Change Maker — most people today will still be employed for a particular skills-based role, and given an associated title i.e. graphic designer, marketing specialist, online editor etc. While this provides a level of clarity over their day-to-day tasks, it also means we can get stuck thinking that’s what the staff member should do 100% of the time, instead of looking at them as a whole person. What other areas of the business might inspire and engage them? What other parts of themselves would they jump to show at work?

A strong company culture is one that allows people to feel free to put themselves forward for new projects or ask if they might assist in a job that doesn’t strictly fall under their remit. If you have staff (even remote ones) consider asking them to fill in a skills matrix, then look at the areas they have interest and skills in, but little/no experience. This can be gold for engaging your staff, while also adding new skills to your business.

3. Give back

In a 2016 study by Cone Communications, 75% of millennials said they would accept a pay cut in order to work for a socially responsible company. Giving back can be one of the greatest ways to engage your staff, while also helping the wider community. For small business owners this may look like providing free services to a not-for-profit/charity, giving a % of sales to a cause selected by your staff or allowing staff to get paid for X number of volunteer days throughout the year.

4. Lead by example

A toxic work culture is rarely powered by people at the bottom. To cultivate a positive company culture, leaders need to be “walking the talk”. That means, if you shout about women’s empowerment on your business’ social media, ensure it’s backed up internally with flexible work arrangements for parents, a strong domestic violence leave policy, private locked rooms for new Mums to pump, and a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to sexism and bullying. Brand values and induction speeches mean little if company leaders don’t reflect the traits their brand promotes.

5. Trust and appreciate your staff

This is perhaps the most important point of all. No one wants to be micromanaged or told what to do 100% of the time. We spend the bulk of our best years, and best hours of the day, at work. Trusting that you have hired the right people, and actually granting them the space to do their job is essential in creating a thriving company culture. Likewise, bringing the sunshine in terms of appreciation and a simple ‘thank you’ or ‘well done’ can do wonders for helping staff feel valued as a key member of the team.


Fiona Killackey is business consultant, author and mentor for My Daily Business Coach. Sign up to her weekly email full of small biz insights and tips here

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