Motivated and dedicated employees are a key driver of an organisation's long-term success. That's why great employers are permanently investing in their employees and in their workplace culture. But how exactly do they go about creating an excellent workplace culture? To take a closer look at an organisation's HR and culture activities, Great Place to Work® Switzerland analyses the 9 dimensions of successful workplace culture through the Employee Culture Journey. In this article we want to show a few particularly nice best practices from organisations we have worked with and inspire you to get creative yourself.
Employee Culture Journey - The journey is the destination
As the name suggests, the Employee Culture Journey describes all activities and processes an employee goes through during their journey in an organisation - starting from the first job interview. These processes can be categorised into 9 dimensions and three core areas of a successful workplace culture: «forming a strong team» (hiring, celebrating, sharing), «achieving goals better» (inspiring, speaking, listening) and «encouraging performance» (caring, developing, thanking). The focal point is always filling the trust reservoir between the employees and the organisation. Yet there is no guideline for perfect implementation. What is important is to work constantly on the processes so that the organisational culture remains positive and is actively lived.
In the following we would like to show a few particularly beautiful examples of organisations we have worked with (for confidentiality reasons they will of course remain anonymous). You can read these examples as beautiful stories or take them as a source of inspiration to get creative yourself and further develop your own workplace culture.
Before new employees can be integrated into an existing organisational culture, they must first be recruited. Recruiting is an important milestone in the shaping of an organisational culture. After all, it is at this point that it is decided whether candidates fit into the organisation at all based on their personal values and, consequently, whether they can identify with the existing organisational culture.
A large retailer in the textile sector proves that this cultural fit can also be found out in a playful way. In a quiz, they ask candidates specific questions about their organisational culture. Candidates are only invited if there is a fit between their answers and the organisation's culture. In this way, the retailer wants to ensure that potential new employees fit the organisation and vice versa.
In case the cultural fit and the professional skills of a candidate fit and the employment contract is signed, the next, perhaps most important step in the new employees' cultural journey is to welcome and integrate them into the organisation and the new team. This should be done in a way that makes new employees feel comfortable and part of their team and the organisation as a whole.
In order to stimulate interesting conversations between new employees and their team members and colleagues from other departments as quickly as possible, a small IT company has brought to life the 10 Things list. On this list one can find 10 interesting facts about each person, which should serve as an "icebreaker" for conversations with the new team. This way, new employees can approach other team members (and vice versa) and pick up a topic from the 10 Things list.
Once new employees have settled into their work environment, however, the integration into the organisational culture is not over. It is important to continuously inspire employees and show them the value of their work in general and also in relation to the overall success of the company. One effective and easy-to-implement measure is "positive gossip".
For example, the employees of a food company exchange positive gossip about their day-to-day activities before every meeting. This can be work-related (e.g. discussing a successful presentation) or organisation-related (e.g. a funny situation from last week's virtual team apéro). The purpose is to set a positive mood for the subsequent meeting and to highlight the valuable contributions of the employees to the success of the whole organisation.
Informing and Listening
Similar to the above mentioned dimension, but with a slightly different focus, "informing" and "listening" are about promoting open and transparent communication throughout the organisation. For this, it is important to share both good and bad news with all employees. This could for example be company updates in which the new business strategy is outlined. Equally important is the promotion of an active feedback culture. Feedback from individuals can help answer questions from everyone or even improve existing processes. Employees should therefore be regularly informed about events and their input should be taken into account and actively considered in decision-making.
A medium-sized company in the media industry has created the "Meet-the-CEO-Lunch". Every three months, employees are invited to lunch with the CEO. Ten employees at a time may register voluntarily for the lunch. In this informal round, the CEO informs about current topics, answers the questions of the participants and takes feedback.
Giving feedback does not only have to be done on a formal, substantive level. Feedback on an informal, emotional level - for example by saying thank you and showing appreciation - is just as important. And not only between managers and employees, but also among employees.
To promote this peer-to-peer appreciation, a medium-sized company in the pharmaceutical sector has introduced the thank-you tree. The thank-you tree stands in the entrance area and is decorated with compliments from employees to their colleagues. The appreciation is thus visible to all and after a few weeks the compliments are handed over to the respective individuals.
While appreciation and thanking acknowledge past efforts, development focuses on the future. Another form of recognition and an important dimension within Employee Culture Journey is the further development of employees.
In order to promote and focus on the further development of all employees, a market leader in the beverage sector has launched the programme "May is for Mentoring". In May, each manager sets aside one day of their time for mentoring, which employees can book in 1-hour slots. As the idea was so successful, it was repeated after a short time. The motto "May is for Mentoring" will probably have to be extended to other months in the future.
We spend a considerable amount of our time at work. Therefore, the balance with our private life, the so-called work-life balance, is very important.
An interesting approach is being taken by a large furniture manufacturer, which has come up with a programme to increase not only the work-life balance but also internal diversity and equality between men and women. For example, this company offers the course "Maternity, resp. Paternity as a Master" for expecting mothers and fathers. In this workshop, the future parents are prepared for the new phase of their lives and are also encouraged to use their newly acquired skills, such as resilience and time management, in the workplace.
Of course, there are always reasons to celebrate and strengthen the culture in organisations beyond the birth of children. Be it business milestones, birthdays or anniversaries.
To make the celebration of milestones a little fun, a small IT company rings a cowbell to celebrate successes. This is not a digital button, but a real cowbell! It can be rung by employees so that everyone knows about positive news. Some digitalisation of the cowbell has been done, however, because it is also available in the intranet in the Good News Channel, so that all those who were not in the office can also hear the bell ringing symbolically.
Communicating and celebrating good news within the company is essential. But if you look beyond your own organisation, there is also great news that can come from outside and is just as much part of the employee culture journey.
In a medium-sized pharmaceutical company, all employees have the opportunity to spend one day a year with a patient whose life has been positively affected by treatment with the company's products. These encounters are motivating and at the same time demonstrate one's contribution to the common good.
In addition to an organisation's contribution to society, it is of course important to also focus on one's own employees. This can include, among other things, monetary appreciation.
As a sign of trust and appreciation, an organisation in the financial sector thanks long-serving employees with company shares. On the one hand, this shows that they are grateful for their commitment and, on the other hand, that they believe in the success of their company. Specifically, each employee receives 5 company shares on their 5th anniversary, respectively 10 company shares on their 10th anniversary, and every subsequent 5 years employees can choose between another 5 company shares or a selection of other gifts.
Positive organisational culture needs to be actively shaped, lived and, if necessary, improved
These are just some of the cool, inspiring and creative stories of organisations we have worked with. Of course, there are many more ways to welcome new employees, successfully communicate and solicit feedback, show appreciation, celebrate achievements, etc. These best practices should mainly encourage you to implement creative ideas and inputs yourself that fit your organisation.
It may be that some measures may not be equally feasible or even suitable for all organisations. And that’s absolutely fine! The important thing is to think about your own Employee Culture Journey, actively work on it, regularly challenge programmes and processes and, if necessary, adapt them. In this way, a positive organisational culture can be actively shaped and continuously developed.
You have own ideas that you wish to implement? You want to actively shape your workplace culture and don't know exactly where to start?