Company culture is a common buzzword in the business world of late, and its importance is being increasingly emphasised.   

You only need to look as far as Uber to see what can happen if you get company culture wrong. The aggressive and unrestrained corporate culture was revealed after a former employee published her experience of working as an engineer for the Silicon Valley giant, along with many other horror stories of discrimination and sexual harassment coming to light. 

And this is a worldwide problem: our research shows that poor company culture is costing the UK economy £23.6 billion per year.

But building and maintaining a strong company culture is no over-night job. It’s not just a project, it’s a business strategy that you’ll embed within your business plan and carry forward into years to come. And as a first step, you’ll need a plan of action.

A great first step is to focus on the more granular stuff and take a look at the culture within your teams. How do your teams operate? Do they communicate to a practical level? On the odd occasion when conflict rears its ugly head, is it tackled and resolved effectively? 

But firstly – what actually defines team culture, and why does it matter anyway?

What is team culture?

Simply put, team culture is the collective phrase used to describe four important characteristics within a team: 

  • Values
  • Beliefs
  • Attitudes
  • Behaviours

Ultimately, culture is how a team jells, communicates and co-operates to work towards shared goals and visions. It’s how team members treat one another and understand each other. It’s what the dynamics of a team look like and how personalities and opinions flow together.

What is the definition of ‘good team culture’?

Too often are line managers and CEOs mistaken in thinking that beer Fridays and other “fluffy” treats and benefits make for a good team culture. 

In fact, good team culture is achieved by the total opposite of providing materialistic perks. Culture is created by leaders and their employees, and not through ‘things’. And a good one isn’t something that can be simply implemented overnight – you’ll need to embed it in your management style, strategies and operations within the team.

But, if you’ve mastered your team culture, you’ll reap the benefits: you’ll soon notice that your employees are engaged, driven and invested in the team and its goals, and therefore a rise in productivity and morale levels. What’s not to like?

The dangers of a toxic team culture

On the flip side, the consequences of a bad culture spread much further than having to deal with unhappy employees and a disconnected team.

If the culture in your team is suffering, you’re at risk of it being made up of employees who are disengaged in their roles and have little or no morale - a recipe for low employee retention.

There are many reasons that toxic team culture can develop, including lack of transparency and office discipline and little or no trust in the team leader (I could go on).

However, the one common denominator is that, whether the culture is good or bad, it stems down from the leader of the team. For example, if a manager is known for partaking in office gossip, members of the team will slowly begin to lose trust and belief that they take their goals seriously. And so you enter the dangerous downward spiral towards negative culture.

Evidently, toxic culture is best avoided at all costs. Let’s take a look at 6 great ways that you can steer clear and build a culture that your team thrive in.

6 tips to build a strong team culture

Assess where your culture currently stands 

In order to know where you want to go, you’ll need to know what your starting point looks like.

Carrying out a culture audit is a great way of calculating this; this simple exercise will help you benchmark your culture and provide you with the foundations that you can build upon going forwards.  

Make it a joint vision

Encourage the entire team to take responsibility for the culture. In order to build and, more importantly, maintain your team culture, you’ll need everyone on board and sharing the same goal.

Get to know your team

Make an effort to get to know your team – both inside and outside of work – to let them know you’re invested in them and you genuinely care.

Celebrate birthdays and promotions, socialise on a Friday after work and encourage the team to eat lunch together once in a while. It’ll go further than you might think.

Praise

Tell your team when they’ve done a good job, praise them for going the extra mile and congratulate them for developing in their role. Knowing that they’re doing a great job will make employees feel like a valued part of the team and will motivate them to get even better at what they do.

HR software is a great tool to use to make it easier to give your employees the recognition they deserve; check out Breathe’s Kudos tool to see how.

Communication is key

Arrange regular team catch-ups to make sure everyone is on the same page and make weekly 1-2-1s a must – these are a great opportunity for you to provide an employee with constructive feedback and for them to discuss any concerns with you, whether that’s work-related or personal.

Knowing that this time is put aside specifically to discuss them will result in them feeling far more comfortable speaking up about things on their mind.

Be transparent

This isn’t about knowing everything about everyone, it’s about sharing information with your team to give them a better insight into priorities and what they need to working towards. More importantly, leaders who speak openly about results and company statistics are likely to be most trusted than those who don’t.

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