What is Culture?
The term “culture” in regards to the workplace or classroom may be seen as a buzzword, conjuring images of offices with ping pong tables and spirit weeks, but the reality is that knowing how to improve culture is an integral part of individual and group success. An organization’s culture is part of its overall personality – it’s the foundation of employee or student experience and it determines how people behave and work together. Culture can grow and shift with the circumstances and it also guides people on what behaviors, expectations, and matters of importance are part of the current ecosystem. That means that our environment at work or school is a living entity that naturally evolves. It also means we all have a role to play when it comes to our workplace or classroom culture and it should not be left to Leadership or Human Resources to enforce their vision.
At its core, a great organization values the “we not me” mentality and has an understanding of how important that mindset is towards engagement, productivity, and success. However, as the events of 2020 unfolded, our expectations of what constitutes a good school or workplace culture have changed. Employees and students are now navigating new systems that are made up of people working and studying remotely, who are entirely office- or school-based, or those who are using a hybrid model. It has also forced us into extended self-reflection and has amplified our need for belonging. Some of the top reasons for disengagement are feelings of isolation and being undervalued.
How can we adapt to this change while creating a culture of solidarity? Here are a few tips we can apply:
- Be welcoming
Socialize with your new coworkers or schoolmates by focusing less on paperwork and more on relationship building. First impressions endure, so move beyond the walk-around introductions and create opportunities for new students/employees to integrate naturally into the environment.
- Make goal setting a routine part of conversations
Create simple approaches to meaningful conversations with your fellow staff or students, asking how they are progressing with their professional or personal aspirations. Taking an interest in each can strengthen everyone’s sense of belonging.
- Encourage collaboration
People feel greater ownership over systems they contribute towards, so don’t be hesitant to give or receive feedback. It isn’t an easy feat to manage the opinions of a diverse group of people, but it pays off in the end by fostering feelings of trust and accountability.
- Create a recognition program
Openly recognizing the successes of your peers reinforces the values and culture that you want to create. This can be done through anonymous nominations that lead to a shoutout through internal communication channels. This increases camaraderie and encourages more dynamic performances.
- Be transparent
Prioritize top-down communication by keeping everyone informed about what’s going on in the organization through group emails and timely updates. Establish an open-door policy that promotes accessibility.
- Encourage development and growth
All of the conversations about goals and recognitions for growth will mean nothing if there are not any opportunities for improvement and advancement. Behind every high-performing team is an organization that is invested in learning and development.
Great leaders recognize the environment you foster ensures everyone feels important and included which in turn leads to success and a feeling of accomplishment for everyone.