Affecting Organizational Culture

A Mandy Moment:

Some time ago, I worked at a fairly large call center. Inside the beautiful glass building, up the elevator and into the call center’s main floor, I would enter through the electronically secured doors to a sea of fabric cubicles and soft “productivity green” walls. Luckily, there were always seats available, but sitting at the same desk for more than a few days at a time was unheard of. No problem, all this girl needs is a desk and a computer that works. And a coffee.

Hmm. Didn’t have time to grab my Tim’s on the way in. Going to have to go at least 2 hours before getting a coffee, but that’s ok I get a 15 minute break. Wait. I’m on the late shift today so my first 15 minute break is at 1pm. That means I’m going to have to fight through the lunch rush hour to get to Tim’s half a block away, stand in line behind 28 people getting a toasted panini sandwich then boot it back to my desk. I can do this… Then of course, I have to give the queue monitor the ol’ “Sorry, I had to wait for the elevator…” 😉 story.

Oh, Mandy!

It’s no secret that an organization’s culture has a major impact on employee performance and retention, but what can employers to do to improve their culture? I’ve worked in a variety of environments ranging from chain retail stores to one-shop operations to call centers both big and small. Although large, corporate environments may seem to lack any real character, it’s still easy to see what kind of small, seemingly meaningless things can contribute to a positive organizational culture.

Clearly, the old adage “you can’t please everyone” rings true when it comes to organizational culture. What you can do, however, is look at your physical environment and make sure that environment is conducive to promoting a positive culture. Whether you are large or small, here are some things to consider:

Where are you located? Downtown with lots of public transportation and restaurants? Adjacent to a popular coffee shop? On the outskirts of town? In a business or industrial park? Are you open outside of regular business hours?

  • Public Transportation Subsidies – Everyone has travel expenses, that’s a given. Why not offer a partial reimbursement program for public transportation expenses? Employees will appreciate the offer and there’s a hidden benefit to this one! In this age of environmental consciousness, your company will be seen to encourage public transit which has a positive impact on the environment. Another way to deal with transportation issues would be to encourage carpool programs; grab an employee who’s shown some initiative and suggest they arrange a carpool program. Provide some space on a bulletin board or provide access to internal communications to facilitate such a program.
  • Coffee Time – If you’re not located next door to a Tim Horton’s or Starbucks, a quick and easy cultural pick-me-up is making coffee (or tea!) available in the office. Single serve coffee machines are all the rage and employees can contribute to the “coffee fund” so that supplies can be replenished. You could ask a frequent coffee drinker if they’d mind keeping tabs on it for you.
  • The Most Important Meal of the Day – When you’re located in a downtown core or business park where there are lots of restaurants, convenience stores and amenities near by, your employees have access to things like a donut or breakfast sandwich on their way to work. But what if you’re not? Bring in a box of donuts, croissants, fruit or other easy to grab breakfast treat for the office. Start small, maybe every Monday. You’ll be surprised how quickly your employees will start bringing in their own treat to share!

Why do these things make a difference? When you reach out and provide some of these kinds of comforts to your employees, it shows empathy. When your employees feel that you’re going beyond (even if it’s not far beyond) the needs of the organization to make their work day more enjoyable, the rewards are measurable. You may notice that employees are more productive in their daily activities, more friendly with coworkers and more committed to the company’s vision. Even if you’re only one department of a large company, this kind of cultural improvement very well might be contagious!