The Blue Kite Blog

5 Ways to Create a Strong Company Culture on a Budget

By | March 14, 2016

If I asked you to tell me the first company that comes to mind when I say, “great company culture,” who would you say? Google? Netflix? Zappos?

These companies boast unlimited vacation days, generous severance packages, expansive campuses with on-site fitness centers, cafeterias, laundry services, free meals, nap pods and more.

Scores of articles have been written about these perks. And, as a result, these companies have become a symbol for what companies should strive for with their company culture.

Although Google, Zappos, Netflix and others have created enviable cultures, their model isn’t attainable for most businesses. If you’re a small business, you might not have the ability to offer a generous severance package to ensure great, not just good, employees or the physical space or resources to build an on-site fitness center.

But, you don’t have to have a big budget to create a culture that can compete with the likes of Google, Zappos or Netflix.

Your company’s culture is about the environment you are creating among your people. It’s more about your mission and vision, the beliefs and norms you are promoting and less about the size of your budget or your ability to offer nap pods.

Whether you are focusing on it or not, culture is being created at your company.

Effort towards cultivating a healthy and thriving company culture has to be intentional and that intentional effort doesn’t have to cost money.

Cost Effective Ways to Build Company Culture

So how do you create a strong company culture without spending a fortune? Here are five ways to improve your company’s culture on a budget.

1. Establish Trust.

Most people agree that trust is the foundation of any strong relationship. So why would your company be any different?

Creating opportunities to build trust and instilling that within your company is the foundation of healthy culture. While free, establishing trust among your employees is definitely not easy, especially when distrust may be prevalent.

In order to build trust within your company, you, as the leader, must be present. You need to show up and be reliable. Leaders must be willing to listen to their employees. They need to be honest, authentic and open in their communication with their team.

Stephen Covey suggests that, “the job of a leader is to go first, to extend trust first.” He goes on to say that trust is born out of two dimensions: character and competence. You must have a strong character, but you also need to show that you can get the job done.

2. Practice Transparency.

A way to build trust is to practice transparency. When everyone knows what is going on, it’s 100 times easier to be on the same page. Transparency requires honesty, directness and authenticity. It allows for understanding and can eliminate behind the back conversations, nasty office politics and gossip.

This may not mean a complete look at the books for all employees like some companies or allowing all staff to know each other’s salaries, but finding what fits for your company to ensure employees feel informed and in the know is a great place to start. Whatever form it takes, transparency encourages honesty, openness and trust.

3. Allow Flexibility.

Sitting behind a desk eight hours a day in the same space, every day for a whole day is not everyone’s ideal situation. Neither is having to miss your child’s soccer game because of your rigid work schedule.

That’s why it’s valuable to allow for some flexibility in employee schedules. Not only will it make your employees happier, chances are good that it will improve productivity as well.

This flexibility could look like having three mandatory office days where everyone is expected to be at the office and the other two days employees have the benefit of working from home or wherever they feel most productive.

Other companies choose to have “summer hours” where they only work until noon on Friday’s or they are able to change up their hours during the summer season.

You could also allow a change in the format of your regular meetings, consider walking meetings or get creative in what your meetings look like. Regardless of exactly how flexibility looks in your office, there are numerous benefits to offering it to your employees.

4. Create Connections.

How often are you connecting with your employees? How often are they connecting with each other?

Even a quick check-in can make a huge difference. For instance, this could be a daily huddle with your team by the coffee maker (don’t sit down!) to do a quick check-in and make sure everyone’s on the same page.

When you first get in for the day, pop your head into each office or make the rounds to say good morning. Invite the team to eat lunch together in the conference room. Hang around the office and actually engage with your employees.

Personal contact goes a long way to ensuring everyone has the same understanding, to promote engagement across staff teams and to be sure that your employees don’t operate as silos.

5. Physical Improvements.

We often don’t realize the effect our physical environment has on us, but factors like light, colors and furniture can impact employee’s performance.

Replacing outdated furniture, rearranging furniture, changing paint colors, and allowing employees to personalize their workplace can make a positive impact on your company’s culture. If you’re able to get employees in on the decorating and decisions regarding any changes in the space, even better!

Create a space that is reflective of the culture you want your company to embody. Like workplace strategist, Stephanie Heiple says, “It is thoughtful to consider the physical real estate as a silent communicator for organizational culture.”

You don’t have to be Google to be a poster child for great company culture. You don’t have to have a huge budget either. These five suggestions are just a starting place, but can be your launching pad to create a thriving company culture at your workplace.

What do you think? What ideas do you have for improving company culture on a budget?

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