Company culture is a difficult thing to measure, but critical for long-term success. Staff retention, collaboration, productivity, job satisfaction – all the key elements of a healthy business are rooted in culture. If something’s wrong below the surface, it will inevitably impact the visible areas too. So how can we make sure we maintain a healthy culture throughout the organisation, and how can software help?
Systems underpin culture
In all areas of business we rely on systems to operate smoothly. The same goes for people and relationships, only those systems are often much more complex than a flowchart or a piece of computer code can ever explain. What does help, however, is having routines and operations that guide the way we work and interact with each other. This is where smart, dependable software tools can really support us.
Let’s take a look at some of the areas where software systems can underpin successful human relationships in the business world.
At the heart of a healthy company culture is always a sense of collaboration. The ability to work together towards common objectives and helping each other is central to making everyone feel valued and significant. By having software in place to make collaboration and communication easy, you can avoid the strains that often come with isolated teams.
A modern business library of collaboration tools includes at least one project management system like Slack or Podio. This is where each team member is able to access visual overviews of projects and share files and information.
Most modern collaboration systems enable conversation threads to grow within the system – keeping all relevant information in one place. Often these types of systems also facilitate building knowledge bases, where everyone gets to share their insight and gradually create a database of searchable, useful information.
Another flavour of collaboration is of course instant communication. While this is particularly useful for distributed teams or working across long distances, it can also be a quick and easy way to send a short request across a building. Many collaboration systems have instant messaging built-in, but standalone systems are sometimes better. Although Skype is widely used, many companies choose to have their own, tailored in-house communications platform for security or quality reasons.
Fun and games
Few things help build morale as much as having fun together. Organising friendly competitions, draws and social gatherings can be made easy using online tournament systems and planning tools.
It’s becoming popular to apply a form of ‘gamification’ to both work and learning. It can be easy to create an interactive scoreboard for sales numbers, phone calls, bug fixes or other measurable areas of the business to encourage some friendly competition. For others, the gaming element could come in the form of learning achievements and knowledge badges.
And for those real-life activities that are also ever important for team building, there are systems like BookingHound which will help you keep on top of planned events and registrations.
In businesses where a negative culture is brewing, transparency is often one of the first things to get overlooked. A lack of openness means that things get discussed in small cliques of people, where others feel left out. The best thing the business can do to counteract this behaviour is to instil a sense of transparency across the organisation – starting from the top. By setting a good example in terms of sharing information and insight, this can spread to teams further down the chain.
Many organisations use forums like ‘town hall’ sessions, where everyone gets together – in person or remotely – to get an update on company performance and significant events. Systems like Webex or GoToMeeting are popular options as they allow voice, video, screen sharing and audience comments, which gets as close as possible to actually gathering everyone together in one room.
Many businesses also use the reporting functionality in their CRM or business management systems to create visual representations of performance. Salesforce.com is a great example of a system that can create beautifully clear and simple dashboards of information.
Companies that have a thriving workplace culture often have a tendency to recognise and reward people at every level. Fair rewards allow everyone to feel important and valued. A simple way to do this is through internal nomination systems, such as RewardGateway, where managers and other members of staff can nominate or vote for people who have performed well in a certain period, or perhaps just been a great co-worker and contributor.
Despite our best efforts, things sometimes do go terribly wrong and incidents occur in the workplace that damage the company culture. Bullying, harassment, discrimination or abuse – we see it all much too often. Behaviour like this must be stopped quickly, but it can only be addressed if it gets reported – and it only gets reported if the victim feels safe to do so. By having a simple reporting facility, such as WhistleB (ideally combined with an unbiased helpline) a company can help to ensure that issues like these get highlighted and dealt with immediately. This also shows that the organisation is committed to taking action against any breaches of ethical guidelines.
Ongoing training is a huge part of nurturing a good company culture. This goes beyond basic skills and operations training, to also entail training on values and behaviour. This can be particularly important when a merge between two businesses occurs, or when the company is global and relies on people from different parts of the world being able to work comfortably together.
There are plenty of learning management systems (LMS) available, some which are specifically tailored to different industries. The highest rated out-of-the-box LMS solutions are listed in this overview by Capterra, but many organisations also choose to build their own LMS with a software development partner, to ensure they get a perfectly tailored solution for the business.
Software as part of the business environment
As we see recurring examples of in the business world, culture is far from straight-forward. The complexity of human behaviour is hard to predict and sometimes impossible to understand. But although we can never eliminate the element of human carelessness, we can do our very best to create a business environment where the good qualities flourish and bad behaviour is quickly shut down – and software can help us do this in more ways today than ever before.