Establishing company culture can be a difficult task, because it is so intangible but you know it when you see it. Company culture involves all the electronics, colors, buildings, brands, emails, people, and food–but is somehow so much more than the mere sum of the parts. When you make the right hire, they can have a huge positive impact on establishing company culture. Make the wrong hire, and you can set company culture back for decades.
If you need to make some positive boosts to company culture, try requesting talent from a staffing agency before you make your next hire. Staffing agencies can help with the hiring process by outsourcing the job search and creating candidates that internal HR departments never would’ve found or identified. It’s really hard to build great teams without great individuals, and it’s really hard to have motivated teams without employees who have defined personal mission statements.
As you read this post, think about the ways that there are different structures of teams and cultures functioning in your company. The whole company is a team that has a culture, but also each group of employees has its own teamwork dynamic and culture of its own. Creating team culture means managing the ways that different groups and relationships function in a work context.
Why do Teams Establish Norms?
Your entire company is a team, and there are probably teams within that larger team. Teams establish norms because that is the only way that human beings come together to function in groups. Without a defined list of behaviors and reactions, nobody in the group would be able to predict and understand how other people will respond to them. That would cause chaos. We need expectations about the way that certain behaviors will drive different reactions from people, otherwise we don’t know how to behave.
Teams establish norms to grant stability to the group and allow the individuals to operate in a coherent group context. The norms that the group forms will drive different kinds of behavior from the individuals. Teams at work should use different methods to control the kinds of norms that are formed, otherwise the team will be at the whim of the loudest members and the undercurrents of the more passive aggressive.
Norm Setting Protocol
A company that attracts talented, high performing employees knows how to create great teams. Some people may love to be the maverick and the lone ranger, but they aren’t going to stick around long anyway. The best employees know that they are at their most effective and most creative in a team setting. They’re going to crave good teamwork and a culture that creates valuable teams.
The norm setting protocols that will work well for your company depend largely on the way that teams are created and destroyed in your company. If you have a small company or a company with a fairly stable set of employee relationships, then you can simply work in the long run to get employees to function well together. The hard part is when a company involves teams that fluidly change the boundaries. For situations like these, it can be really helpful to have some norm setting protocols in place to keep things functioning well.
Employee fulfillment and team success need to define the way that the team creates norms and behaves. Additionally, you’ll need to think of the context that your team is operating within. Small businesses have very different teamwork cultures to navigate than bigger corporations.
Go get lunch. Eating together as a team at the start of a lengthy project can provide some valuable facetime. You might even make the rule of the lunch that no official company business can get discussed. The gig economy is changing employment, and lines of friendship and work and family are blurring more than ever.
Establish communication norms. Overcommunication absolutely crushes the productivity of teams, but under-communication leaves team members feeling isolated and as if they are not actually a part of a team after all. The big trigger hiding behind effective communication is the expectations of communication. If people on the team expect people to drop everything to respond, they will not communicate well with people on the team who check your communication solution a couple times an hour. Get the team to talk about expectations for communication, that way everyone is on the same page from the beginning.
If you’re in a customer service environment, teamwork looks very different there than it does in a different kind of environment, such as a client-facing program team. It’s important to remember that effective teamwork means two things simultaneously: (1) that all the members of the team are happy and fulfilled in their roles, and (2) that the team effectively accomplishes a defined set of goals and tasks at a high level. If you can do both of those two things with your team, the team has succeeded.
The first goal is in place because it doesn’t matter if the team crushes a project if half the employees are on the path to quitting after finishing it. If the day-to-day functioning of the team is brutal and the work environment is draining, then the team didn’t perform well. Great teams make employees feel valued and drive employee morale up. Working with other people should be a rewarding experience.
Second, it doesn’t matter if the team is super happy if nothing gets done. Good teams need goals at the same time. You need a bottom line. The team needs a defined list of goals that they are trying to accomplish and a vision for what it would mean to accomplish those goals at a high level. The team should function within the mission statement of the company, but also be a unique expression of that mission.
Creating a Good Company Culture
Attracting and retaining talented employees can be a difficult task for companies that don’t have a good company culture. You might be able to fool some talented people into joining your company, but without a good culture, they’ll be planning their next moves shortly after they arrive. Culture is shaped by the core values that your company has, and is the expression of those values that individual employees either support or rebel against.
Establishing company culture means that you need to get all of the different levels of teams to work well together. We saw in the beginning of the post that you can think of your company as a conglomeration of different teams. The whole company is a team, but also every relationship between individual employees can be considered a “team.”
Team norms will create company culture. The words that you use to talk about teams and people will create expectations. By setting expectations for teams and the way people treat other people, you will do what you can to create a solid company culture.
Company Team Expectations and Takeways
These might function to create a culture in the whole company, or as norms within specific teams.
- Kindness. Treat everyone with kindness, even when you really don’t want to in the moment.
- Authenticity. Be honest about how you are personally and the way that the project is function.
- “I can.” Be willing to take on extra work for the sake of the team.
- Focus. When you’re working on something, really be working on that thing.
- Communication. Update other members on the status of projects.
- Wellness. Take care of yourself and encourage others to take care of themselves too.
As you consider ways to normalize social processes and employee interactions, remember that the expectations you set will create a lasting tone that will resonate throughout your entire staff.