When discussing the proponents of running a successful business, focus is often placed on customer-driven pursuits such as customer experience or targeted marketing. However, while customers are the outwards drivers of your business, it is your team of employees that keeps the whole operation running smoothly and efficiently, and without them there would be no business altogether. One of the most often-overlooked and yet vital aspects of running a successful business is creating a positive office culture for your employees. A recent study found that 88% of employees believe a distinct corporate culture is important to a business’ success, and yet another study put forward that 64% of employees don’t think their company has a robust workplace culture.
Even with five locations my dermatology practice could be considered a small business, and I believe that is where creating a healthy workplace environment should begin. In establishing your values from the beginning, you not only create a reputation of being a desirable place of employment but also laying key foundations for the kind of environment your workplace is. Below are some of the practices best begun early in your businesses’ life to improve workplace morale, brighten the mood, and spark productivity.
Take concrete steps to show your appreciation, and often.
When it comes to a positive workplace environment, one of the most cost-effective ways you can make a difference in the mood is through making your employees feel valued. This can be as simple as organizing a card to be passed around and signed for a birthday or anniversary, organizing a lunch outing to celebrate meeting a goal, or even a straightforward thank you for the good work and hard effort they are providing. The key is to continue finding creative ways to appreciate and thank their outstanding performances. Whenever I notice somebody on my team going above and beyond for a patient, I like to write them a handwritten note of gratitude acknowledging their commitment to providing excellent patient care. When an employee feels appreciated for the job they are performing, they are much more likely to do it well, and wish to remain at the company for longer periods of time.
Provide opportunities for community impact projects as a team.
Workplace relationships are an essential element to a positive company culture. One of the toughest lessons I’ve learned as I’ve grown my business is a person’s competence at a position means nothing if their attitude and values do not align with the rest of the company’s. In that way, it is extremely important to company morale and turnover that everybody feels like they are an integral and accepted part of the team. After Hurricane Dorian hit Florida last year, I organized an opportunity for my employees and I to get involved with supporting the community by assisting in the rebuilding of houses destroyed by the storm. Although the excursion was voluntary, nearly every single member of my team ended up attending, and we had a great time while also contributing to our community. Leaders need to provide employees with opportunities for social interactions in the workplace, because without fostering strong relationships there’s no possible way for a strong culture to grow.
Emphasize the meaning of the work the company is providing.
Just as giving back to the community fosters togetherness within the workplace, it is imperative for employees to be able to see the bigger picture for their jobs. Their position is often a sizable portion of an employee’s time, and without finding purpose within such time job satisfaction can quickly take a hit. My dermatology practice focuses solely on medical needs such as skin cancer and other skin diseases, and it is a tenet of my business that we don’t provide cosmetic dermatological procedures. I am constantly impressing on my employees that although their jobs can sometimes be frustrating, stressful, or monotonous, the work they are providing is improving the lives of our patients every day. One suggestion I have is to create a mission statement and set of core values to communicate to employees. By giving your employees specific examples of how their roles positively impact the company and its clients, you help them find meaning and purpose within the workplace.
Be empathetic and practice open communication.
Being a good communicator is one of the easiest ways employers can start to build a positive culture. Mutual understanding is key to any successful human interaction, but it is especially critical in the workplace. When it comes to company culture, open communication is about whether, and how often, you choose to share information about the state of the company with employees. It also means learning and employing the valuable skill of empathy. In being empathetic you show and share the feelings of another, allowing you to reserve judgment of others, as well as expect and encourage the best of people. With my own employees I try to listen attentively to what they’re telling me, putting my complete focus on the person in front of me and not letting myself get distracted. I want to understand the difficulty my employee may be facing without putting the focus on me, and so I try to spend more time listening than talking. When we listen and understand our team, we create a stronger and more prosperous organization.
Show your employees they can trust you by entrusting your business in them.
The true staying power in a company can be found in trusting your employees. In order to do so, you as an employer and boss have to believe that every person working for your business wants to do their own best personal work and make independent decisions on how to do it. By trusting your employees’ intuition, hunches, and willingness to do what’s best, you empower them to feel confident in bringing such ideas to the table, which can ultimately better your business. It was one of my own nurses who, after listening to me complain about our time-consuming and distracting electronic record-keeping system for the umpteenth time, suggested that we abandon the system in favor of a paper filing system. She pointed out how the extra bit of time spent faxing a medical record between locations was well worth the improved patient connection, something that I had failed to see up to that point. Had I not made her feel open to making such a radical suggestion, we may have continued using a system I felt in my gut wasn’t right for my business.
Today, almost my entire nursing staff has been with my practice for over ten years. These are just a few of the ways you can create a positive office environment and work culture. By cultivating a positive culture that enhances the talent, diversity, and happiness of your workforce, you encourage your employees to invest not only their talents but also their future with your company.