How do you determine if you have a healthy business culture?

| May 14, 2021

As employers frantically seek ways to ensure their new hybrid workplace models are operating with staff wellness in mind, some businesses remain unaware of deeper cultural issues that have been permeating since long before the pandemic started. 

These businesses are letting unhealthy cultures and tired processes go unchecked, resulting in rotten fruit and stagnant systems. Many businesses believe that ‘culture’ is a fluffy term that has something to do with lofty mission statements, staff drinks and ping pong tables. On the contrary, culture is an integral part of how your organisation treats its people on a daily basis, and how the people within your organisation treat each other.

Businesses need to realise that culture is no longer a fluffy term associated with employee happiness, but is an integral part of building a healthy organisation from the top down.

So how can businesses start to uncover the cultural issues in their business, and find their way back towards health? The first step is pinpointing exactly where the problems lie. Listening – in both a formal and informal context – is a great way to uncover problems. Business leaders must ensure they are keeping their finger on the pulse each and every day, and regularly opening up honest dialogues with their staff members – whether that’s in the coffee room or on a Zoom call. 

While questionnaires and anonymous surveys are great, there’s a lot to be said for the regular, day-to-day conversations that take place in between the more formal staff assessments. Walk the halls of your office, observe the interactions on your staff video calls, and check in with managers. You can have the best people in your organisation, but even a handful of festering problems are enough to tarnish or push away the great fruitful people.

Putting people first pays dividends

Many businesses will choose to focus on numbers, growth and profitability, but all too often forget to factor their people into the equation. To reverse this trend, businesses must place a greater focus on their people’s behaviour, rather than focussing on outcomes alone. 

Are they a good listener, are they caring, are they good at working within a team? Are they flexible, likeable, and polite? If a particular staff member happens to score low in any one particular area, there needs to be training and processes in place to help improve their skills or grow their confidence. 

While this kind of people-centred action inevitably takes time and money away from other areas of the business, the rewards will far outweigh the negatives. Staff will have more motivation to do a great job, and over time, staff retention will improve. After all, what is a business without the people in it? Overlook this, and you’ll soon see that the effect of one toxic staff member is exponential.

Investment in people improves retention, it’s a fact

Investment in your people over time will improve retention. Although we have heard this many times before, and believe that it might ‘make sense’, it is actually proven. In fact, independent research conducted over a 30 year period by Business Excellence Australia shows that awards recipients significantly outperform the market benchmark by as much as 55% versus the S&P index.

Excellence in people is one of six carefully designed evaluation categories, and one of the nine overarching principles of excellence; five of which all point to an understanding and value of employees. 

It is in an organisations interest to consistently practice excellence in their people. In doing so, they are putting them in a better position to contribute meaningfully to their shareholders, employees, customers, the community and ultimately the economy.

HR is being underutilised 

HR is probably one of the biggest areas that businesses don’t tend to focus on, or perhaps don’t have the skills to properly assess. We often see this in the businesses that we assess for excellence, and not only is it a missed opportunity, but it can be a red flag.

HR departments are commonly focused on pay increases, pay conditions, leave, employment contracts: the standard HR role. But there’s a lot of room to grow HR’s remit to work more closely with their organisations leaders, particularly in the areas of training and evaluation of leaders and employees around workplace culture. If you can do this properly, over time, the culture will naturally start to improve. 

To create lasting structural change, businesses must focus on educating their leaders on the benefits of building a strong work culture, help them understand how it links to performance and ultimately train them in how they can create a culture of excellence.