5 Ways To Create A Great Work Culture

Having spent a dozen years as USA TODAY’s senior small business columnist, one thing I have seen is that all small businesses have a culture, whether they like to admit it or not. The problem is that only a few are by design and most are by default. And the problem with that is that not having a thoughtful corporate culture – or worse – having a bad one, can have all sorts of negative consequences: Boredom, resentment, laziness, incompetence, and worse, can all stem from a negative culture.


On the other hand, a great culture can create the opposite results: Happy and satisfied employees, people going above the call of duty, ownership of results – all of this and more comes from creating a great place to work.

A positive culture becomes the oxygen that your staff breathes.

Indeed, creating a great culture gives work meaning. It gives employees direction. It brings to life the company’s vision. So, how do you do create a superior culture? Consider that businesses with great cultures do the following. If you emulate these ideas, you can’t go wrong:

1. The business has clear goals and values, lives by them: Businesses usually set goals, but are just as likely to tuck them neatly away in some large binder. Or they may have a mission statement prominently displayed around the office, and employees might even pay it lip service, but that does not mean that it becomes a code of ethics people work by.

When employees don’t really understand what it is that the business is about, or if they are forced to heed some maxim on a plaque that they neither buy into nor believe is true, morale suffers.

Conversly, successful businesses have a vision, values, and a plan of action that everyone buys into. Think about what your business goals and values are, share them, and then enlist your people into that vision. That is the first step to creating a positive corporate culture.

2. You must communicate effectively: Great business leaders are masters at involving employees in decision-making because it encourages ownership of the results. Good communication could be a quarterly “state of the company” report to all employees which encourages them to call with suggestions and questions, or it could be one-on-one meeting devoted to career goals. The important thing is that employees hear for themselves what is going on and where things are headed.

3. Employees feel that they are part of a team: According to a Department of Labor survey, teamwork is a major factor in developing superior corporate cultures. In a great company, people don’t want to leave. At Starbucks for example, employee turnover hovers around 50 percent per year, whereas in the fast food industry generally, it is 150 percent.

4. You reward employees: Rewards can take many forms, but the most obvious are compensation, profit sharing, and benefits. Less evident rewards can also make a big difference. A gift certificate when a big order is made, a luncheon to honor employees who have made outstanding contributions, or tickets to the game all help boost morale.

5. Employees enjoy their work: Employees who don’t like the atmosphere, who are berated, who are not challenged, are people who can subtly or overtly sabotage your business.

Implementing even a few of these ideas can go a long way towards building a business that will not only be a great place to work, but will prosper in the process.

Steve StraussSenior small business columnist at USA TODAY and author of 15 books, including The Small Business Bible, Steve is your host at TheSelfEmployed.com.

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