Running a company involves much more than being an expert in your niche. Above everything else, it requires you to have a strong understanding of what employees need in order to perform at their best. After all, unless you’re a solopreneur, your business is going to greatly depend on the results achieved by those who work for you.
But predicting what drives and motivates people can be a tough task. After all, the generational gap is now stronger than ever, with highly contrasting expectations between people born in a period of around 50 years.
Research done in 2019 shows that an astounding 49% of Millenials and Gen Zs would quit their current job in the next two years. The main reasons include dissatisfaction with monetary compensation, being bored at work, lack of flexibility, an inability to advance, or feeling underappreciated. Only around 15% of those surveyed stated that they would consider leaving their job due to poor company culture.
So what does this data mean for management? Well, it draws attention to two important aspects of running a successful business. First and foremost, it’s proof that what companies are currently doing in terms of improving culture is showing results (for the most part). Secondly, it’s pointing to areas that still need work.
Younger generations want flexibility
More than 80% of employees born after 1981 would be willing to join the gig economy. That’s a huge percentage, and one you should definitely keep in mind as a leader. The number has several implications:
- People are willing to work harder if it means an increase in income.
- Younger generations assign great importance to work/life balance.
- Workers are aware of their individuality and realize how it relates to productivity and performance.
So how can you include a greater deal of flexibility in your company culture, without sacrificing performance? Well, it’s nowhere near as scary as you probably imagine.
1. Allow for personalized work hours
The fact is, your employees are all wired in different ways. While the tried and tested 9-to-5 scenario worked well 50 years ago, we are becoming more aware of the negative health implications of working more than 38 hours per week. Does this mean you should completely embrace the 6-hour workday?
If you can, the answer is a definite yes. Why not reap the benefits of increased productivity, better health, and job satisfaction of your employees?
But we’re also aware that not all organizations are ready to take this approach, yet. There are, however, some great alternatives you could give a go.
- Let your employees choose when they come into the office.
Perhaps someone would be more comfortable working 7 to 3, or 11 to 7? If their job allows it, let them! They’ll have a better organized private life, which will translate into increased performance at the office.
- Allow people to create their own schedules.
Maybe someone prefers to work on Saturdays while taking Thursday off? Or you can try working 9 hours Monday through Thursday, and leaving the office early every Friday?
2. Experiment with remote work
Allowing employees to work from wherever they want can do a great deal to boost performance. And it’s not so bad for your bottom line either. After all, allowing one to two days of working remotely per week can significantly contribute to lowering your costs, while giving your employees the chance to take better care of their own wellbeing.
Some of the latest research, done in 2019, shows the areas in which remote work has a positive impact. These include:
- better mental health
- lower levels of stress
- increased employee retention
- lowering the number of sick days
- ultimately, an increase in productivity
Furthermore, remote work appears to have positive impacts on the environment as well. What’s not to like about that?
3. Flexibility is not just about hours and location
It’s important to realize that creating a flexible company culture depends on more than just how you create routines. Small things, such as allowing workers to wear casual clothing at the office, letting them choose the technology they’re going to use at work, or even giving them a couple of options they can choose from in terms of benefits, can help you answer their needs in a better way.
Most importantly, these changes in approach can have a minimal impact on your business performance, while contributing significantly to company culture, job satisfaction, and thus, productivity.
Listen to what your employees have to say. Be aware of their priorities and wants. Ask questions on a regular basis.
You can start doing this as early as the hiring process. If you find a person you believe has the ideal skills and approach to business, but their needs aren’t compatible with your company’s structure, don’t assume everything will fall into place naturally. It’s important to understand that they might not yield the same results as someone less skilled, but whose core values are more in line with your company’s.
Automation plays a surprising role in company culture
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Think about all those soul-crushing tasks that have to be done on a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly basis. These seemingly meaningless actions that take up too much time are an instant inspiration killer, yet your business depends on them. They include anything, from creating reports to invoicing, communication, and even marketing.
Employees tend to lose a lot of effort with things that require a significant time investment. Just think about the 80 20 rule of productivity. It is often that 20% of your work is in charge of 80% of the results. That means that a lot of your hours are spent on finishing smaller tasks.
And this doesn’t have to mean that these tasks are unimportant or have a lesser impact. It just goes to show the disproportion between how much we invest and how much we gain.
You might be wondering how automation influences company culture. Well, it’s quite simple. When you take the effort to solve the obstacles your employees have to face on a daily basis, you show them two things:
- That you value their time, their effort, and that you want to make their work easier for them
- That you are invested in the process just as much as they are, and are ready to work with them in finding the solutions that work best for the entire company
If you’re unsure where to start implementing time-saving techniques in your office, there’s a number of great choices, some of which you may already be using.
Slack: further in-house communication without wasting time on emails
TimeTackle: create easy reports regarding time spent on tasks, invoice billable hours and export calendar data
Google Nest / Alexa / Apple HomeKit / IFTTT: make every corner of your office work for you – from lights to plugs, to lunch orders and even security
Evernote: organize projects, share notes, create lists over multiple devices and platforms
Dropbox: share and store files in a secure online platform you can use both at the office and at home
Any.do: create and track tasks, and integrate them with your calendar for complete control over ongoing and future projects
Clockify: track employee attendance and time off
Grammarly: never have to worry again about sending out an email containing an embarrassing typo
LastPass: keep track of passwords and avoid security breaches
Trello: manage projects and enable easy collaboration through creating boards for everything you’re working on
Maintaining discretionary effort
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Once you adopt a company-culture-first approach to shaping your business, you’ll see several positive changes within your workplace. These might take time to show (just as your company culture will take time to be established), but you’ll definitely notice them.
- When your employees’ core values are in line with those of your business, you’ll find that they’ll show more passion towards their place of work.
Whether you support the causes they deem important, treat coworkers in the way they want to be treated, or put the quality of your products/services first, you’ll find that paying attention to these aspects of company culture encourages passion. A more energetic approach to work is an inevitable result of that passion.
- Being loyal to your workers will result in them being loyal to you.
Addressing and fulfilling people’s needs makes them not only feel valued but even more, can be just as effective as a paycheck bonus (though don’t forget to put your money where your mouth is).
- Encouraging healthy relationships in the office and creating opportunities to bond (or just relax) helps create positive associations with the workplace.
If the office is nothing more than a source of stress, the body’s natural response will be to create patterns that help us avoid that stress. Balancing the problems out with fun and positive feelings can help increase productivity, without requiring excessive effort.
You see, discretionary effort doesn’t have to be something that’s conscious. After all, it’s a completely normal, positive reaction to doing work we are passionate about. But achieving it, and maintaining it, does stem from conscious leadership decisions.
This brings us to full circle: positive company culture is not about improving your bottom line. It’s about creating an environment in which everyone is ready to put in their best efforts to achieve a common goal. And the increase in profit is just a byproduct of shared passion and dedication.
So how do you start? Reexamine your core values. Think about the type of environment you want to nurture. Think about what it is that brings you and your team together. Although the process of prioritizing company culture is far from easy, it’s relatively straightforward once you know where your heart lies.
And don’t be afraid to make difficult decisions. More often than not, they’re the ones that grant the most room for growth.
Sarah Kaminski is a freelance writer and social media marketer. She works with a number of small businesses to build their brands through more engaging marketing and content.