Team culture is a phrase that’s been thrown around more frequently in the past few years, yet there’s still a lot of confusion as to what it is and why we need it. After all, it’s not exactly something you can write an SOP for.
In short, a healthy team culture is what transforms your group of employees from a bunch of people who work together into a cohesive unit that share similar ideas, values, and goals.
It’s the unique dynamic between individuals on your team. As your team’s leader, it’s your job to nurture and grow that dynamic into a thriving team that supports the company vision.
Why is team culture important?
A strong team culture can make a huge impact on engagement, morale, productivity, and employee retention. Millennials, in particular, are more inclined to stay with a company with a healthy work culture. (22 times more likely, in fact.)
And since millennials make up the largest segment of the workforce since 2016, it’s more important than ever to invest in your company’s team culture.
Of course, there are still plenty of Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers in the workforce; growing a strong team culture is just as beneficial for them too!
Here’s how to build a positive, thriving team culture within your business:
Be approachable, and listen
Before you can take any action to build a healthy team culture, you need to listen – and absorb – what your employees are telling you. (And what they’re not telling you.)
To this end, it’s always helpful to conduct regular one-on-one meetings with your team. But you will probably learn even more by getting out of your office and spending some time out on the floor to observe their day to day interactions.
Your team members need to feel comfortable coming to you when they have a problem or an idea, and that all starts with making yourself available and being seen.
Your team needs to trust you and each other in order to thrive.
And trust begins with transparency.
Because your team is aware when things are going on behind the scenes, even if they’re not sure what. Even seemingly innocent things like closing your office door once too often can send signals to the team that something is afoot.
No one likes to be kept in the dark and your employees are no exception.
Address rumors before they start and keep your team updated on what’s going on, even if it isn’t good news.
That doesn’t mean you have to tell your team every single thing that’s going on in upper management, but in most cases, you should be able to give a high-level overview of the situation without disclosing any sensitive or confidential details.
Regularly communicating with them in this way via Town Hall meetings and email memos can help your team feel a part of what’s going on.
Have a little faith
The flip side to having your team trust you is that you need to trust them, too. Nothing kills engagement and teamwork like a micromanaging boss.
Once you’ve assigned a task or project, let them take the lead on it and then back off. If applicable, you can ask for weekly reports on the task or project to keep an eye on the progress. It’s also important to iterate to your reports that you are always there if they need help or a situation needs escalation.
But trust them to come to you.
Some managers really have a hard time with this because they know that if something goes wrong it reflects upon them as a manager. But if you can’t trust your team enough to complete the assigned duties without hovering over them, at best it’s keeping you from other important tasks you should be focusing on.
Unlock your squad’s superpowers
Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. Playing to your reports’ strengths can change your department of mild-mannered Clark Kents into corporate Supermen.
How do you determine what your employees’ strengths are?
One way is using the Myers Briggs test. Have each of your team members complete this free personality test to find out which of the 16 personalities types they are. This is not only a good way to discover your team’s strength and weaknesses, it’s a fun team-building exercise as well!
Ask them where they feel there greatest strengths lay as well – after all they know themselves better than anyone else! Also pay attention to tasks they really shine on and which they struggle with. For example, one team member may be an analytic data wizard while the next is an out-of-the-box thinking problem-solver.
Once you have identified the strengths of your team, align them to the duties within the company that best compliment their strengths.
Invest in each employee’s growth
36% of millennials are likely to quit their job if there aren’t enough opportunities to learn and grow.
While some employees might be happy in their day-to-day for the foreseeable future, most are continually looking to advance their career. You need to help them continue to grow professionally through education and training.
In turn, you may be able to promote internally when the time comes. But even though you can’t promote every employee, you will keep the turnover rate low so long as your reports feel they are growing within their roles.
Investing in your team’s growth can take many forms, including:
- Cross-training in other departments
- Giving them a new project or responsibility that will challenge them
- Offering reimbursement for off-site training, like workshops or continuing education programs
Take down the invisible walls
Invisible barriers appear in the form of tension between employees, or even between departments.
Friction between employees is often not obvious from an outsider perspective, and this is when listening and observing subtleties become important.
Pay attention to employee feedback and to day-to-day interactions on the floor to get a better idea of the relationship between departments. If you see any individuals or departments that aren’t interacting well with each other, find the reason why, and then remove it.
Sometimes it’s an easy fix, like eliminating a process that’s become redundant. Other times it could require some involved restructuring or mediation between employees.
Adjust for better work-life balance
Millennials, in particular, are prioritizing work-life balance in a way that the previous generations haven’t. The problem is that – like team culture – work-life balance is a bit of an abstract concept; what feels balanced for one person might not be for the next.
It comes back to listening to your employees’ pain points and making concessions where you can. For example, a business may need to happen between 9-5 but that doesn’t mean you can integrate flex-time into your employees work weeks.
As esoteric as team culture may seem at first, it’s a vital concept to consider in the future of any business. Keep in mind that everyone is unique and that means that one company’s team culture will be different than the next.
It can take time and consistency for your crew to come into their own. But with this framework, you can create a stable foundation for your team to grow and flourish!