Our work selves and our true selves were once two separate beings. We would put on our proverbial or literal uniforms and go about our job duties until the clock said it was time to go home. But these days, work has become a major part of our lives. Our jobs are a big reflection of who we are and what we value as individuals. Company culture is no longer a sociological phenomenon – it’s a way of work. Or rather, a way of life.
Company Culture Then and Now
Before the 1970s, organizational culture didn’t exist, at least not consciously. Work was just a place people went to make money. But the 70s was a groovy time, and people started rethinking how we fit into society, both as individuals and together. In 1979, Andrew Pettigrew wrote an article titled “On Studying Organizational Cultures.” It was one of the first pieces to examine the idea of company culture, and the first piece to clearly define it. He described organizational culture as a mix of beliefs, identity, ritual, and myth. Over the next 20 years, scholars began researching how these shared beliefs could shape a company itself and affect its employees. It’s a popular subject even today, as cultural norms are constantly evolving.
It should seem fairly obvious that a positive company culture has positive effects on productivity. Of course people like working for businesses that have cool people and great perks! But it’s a little more complicated than that. We’re just now starting to figure out that productivity doesn’t work as a motivator for improving organizational culture – a genuine interest in employee well-being does. As we continue to discover ways to reconcile our work lives and our private lives, the archetypes of company culture will continue to change.
The Future of Organizational Culture
The last ten years have had a contradictory impact on how we work. The internet has enabled remote work and flexible schedules but has blurred the edges of work/life boundaries. Social media has opened a new world of corporate transparency but has also been the downfall of many a brand. Big data and automation seek to streamline our daily workflows but have created steep learning curves and perceived job instability in the process. Stress levels are up across the board. How can a new age company culture fix this?
Encourage “Play” At Work
Play is one of the strongest motivators of why we work. It’s our natural curiosity to learn more, to create, and to problem-solve. When people are given the freedom and the resources to “play” with their work, they become motivated by the work itself. The most innovative company cultures encourage creativity and play at work, freeing employees from the confines of rigid task lists and directives.
Invest in Wellness Initiatives
Health insurance is a must these days, but employers are starting to look more closely at the benefits of offering robust wellness plans. Aside from the obvious perks, like fewer absences, studies have found that employees who have access to wellness plans are happier, more energized, and more engaged at work. The key to creating an effective plan is to offer flexibility based on the employee’s needs. This could include holistic health coverage, mental health options, stress management, and even preventative measures such as massages and comfortable workspace design.
Strive for Transparency and Accountability
For too long there has been a dividing line between rank-and-file employees and executives. There’s a general lack of transparency in most companies, which makes employees feel they can’t trust their higher-ups. In fact, 25% of employees don’t trust their managers – and many of them quit for that reason. Companies who want to foster a culture of trust should look first at the relationships between senior leaders and employees. Managers who are up-front about company problems and willing to collaborate with employees often have higher trust and engagement rates. As we’ve said before, transparency and accountability are paramount to modern company culture.
Use Technology Wisely
Doesn’t it seem like so many businesses use technology just for technology’s sake? It’s a waste of time and money, and it ends up creating heftier workloads (and more stress) for the employees who are tasked with implementing it. Technology is a herald of innovation, sure, but only if it’s used in meaningful ways. This means using technology not just to increase flexibility, but to solve the many challenges that accompany remote work as well. It also means integrating automation and AI to work in harmony with human employees, instead of hindering them and creating job insecurity.
Offer Flexible Growth Opportunities
Back in the day, growth opportunity used to mean one thing: promotions. And while everyone loves making more money, “growth” has taken on a different meaning in today’s workplace. Millennials, in particular, value career and personal growth over simply climbing the ladder – they want to learn skills that serve a purpose. Flexible growth opportunities give employees the freedom to customize their career paths, which could mean working with mentors, joining online courses, taking on more responsibilities, or creating new roles.
Create a Community of Diverse Perspectives
A sense of community helps employees feel invested in their work, but only if they can see themselves represented within that community. A true community should reflect the diversity of its individuals. And though employers have come a long way in hiring for diversity and inclusion over the last 30 years, the work is far from complete. Employers must stay focused on hiring initiatives that embrace people of all different ages, genders, and races.
In the grand scheme of things, the concept of company culture is new. We’re still looking for ways to merge our work and personal lives so the edges line up, and perhaps we always will be. The light has been shone on the future of the utopian workplace. It’s up to us to move toward it.