Running a Shop

How To Create and Grow a Healthy Environment Within Your Shop

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For many shop owners, finding and recruiting talent is a significant challenge—but that recruiting mentality shouldn’t stop after the hiring process is over. With top talent in high demand, retaining those employees is more critical than ever. And one way to do that is by creating a strong shop culture where employees feel appreciated and respected and where they can see a long-term future.

Drew Lunt is the president of The Lunt Group LLC, providing HR and employment law consulting services to companies throughout the United States. Lunt, a graduate of the University of Arizona College of Law, is a licensed attorney with over 15 years of experience advising clients on human resources, employment law and labor law matters. 

Lunt breaks down the ways that every shop should work to create a workplace culture that encourages connection and retention.

 

First of all, what makes a workplace culture effective and healthy for all employees?

A company’s culture is its personality combined with its character. It’s reflected in the policies it has or doesn’t have, the way managers interact with employees, its core values, what it expects of its employees, its investment in employees, its relationship with clients and customers and more.

In many cases, that culture develops organically and, especially with small businesses, reflects the owners’ or managers’ personalities and managing styles. Ultimately, the goal of any company culture is to keep employees as motivated and productive as possible while keeping them content enough they don’t look for opportunities elsewhere.

 

How does someone new to business even begin building that environment?

For most new businesses, it can be hard to focus on developing a healthy company culture early on. 

That’s because most new business owners or their managers have so many demands on their time and resources. Many times, when it comes to managing employees and creating a culture, they’re operating on instinct more than anything. They don’t start questioning whether their instincts are producing the best results until they have a conflict with an employee, employees start having conflicts with each other, or a client complains about the way they were treated. 

Then, their failure to take the time to define their culture stares them right in the face, and they start taking steps to improve what’s not working. There are ways to help new business owners and managers minimize the chances of this happening.

As the business grows and the capacity to manage more increases, the owners and managers may implement more standards to reinforce the company culture they first started.

 

Pro Tip

New business owners or managers should sit down and write out the basic expectations they have of all employees.  These expectations may include customer services best-practices, attendance and appearance standards, and any other general standards to which they want employees to conform.

The key is to not get carried away at first but, instead, focus on the standards that are most important. Putting too many policies and procedures in place to begin with will become overwhelming. The new owner or manager must have the time and energy to enforce what they are implementing. 

 

 

How does a manager maintain a healthy workplace culture over a long term?

Employees tend to be more content with their jobs and perform better when they know what is expected of them and what will happen when they don’t meet those expectations. 

They prefer a predictable workplace over an unpredictable one. This standard applies regardless of whether expectations are strict or lenient. Because of this, a significant part of developing a healthy company culture is defining—preferably in writing—what employees are expected to do and how they are expected to do them.

Enforce expectations consistently. Consistent enforcement is important because it reinforces the predictability that employees crave from their employers. Failing to be consistent has the potential to lead to a variety of negative outcomes.

 

How does an owner or manager know when and how to change workplace culture?

Once a company culture is established and consistently implemented, there are improvements that will need to be made.

Even companies with healthy cultures should regularly assess their culture and make changes to improve it. Signs companies should look for to improve company culture include, but are not limited to, low employee productivity, higher-than-expected employee turnover, regular conflicts between employees, belligerent attitudes towards management, chronic failure to comply with established rules and eroding relationships with clients and customers.

The hard part about changing company culture is that although some employees will welcome it, some employees will react negatively. It’s human nature for some people to fear the unknown, and a change in policy represents the unknown. Taking the right approach to the change can make a difference.

Too frequently, rash decisions lead to policies or other actions that are prohibited by law or, at minimum, give the appearance of unlawful discrimination or harassment. Something as simple as telling employees not to talk to each other about their wages can get businesses into legal hot water.

 

Pro Tip

Ensure employees are ready for changes by providing them ample notice. Let them know the change is coming so that they have time to prepare and adjust. For smaller changes, a simple written notice that is distributed a week before the change may be enough.

For bigger changes, management may want to hold staff meetings and distribute more detailed information well in advance of the change to explain what it will be and why it is happening. By taking these steps, business owners and management will soften the blow of the change and have a greater likelihood it will succeed.

 

 

What’s the next step?

Businesses with truly healthy workplace cultures do one thing that others struggle to do. They assess the impact of an attempt to change company culture, admit when it has failed and move on. 

This can be especially difficult when a lot of time and energy has been invested in making the change in the first place. However, continually tweaking a policy or program to make it work without a noticeable positive impact only exacerbates the problem. In fact, it can lead to unintended unhealthy changes, which further erode the company’s culture. Sometimes, it is just better cut the losses and try something completely new.

 

 

Pro Tip

Having a healthy company culture matters. It may be the difference between a company succeeding and failing. New business owners and managers can take steps early on to make sure their culture is on the right path. The steps may be small at first but doing them will be meaningful.

Once established, the culture must be regularly assessed, and, when needed, changed. With deliberate change and employee awareness, businesses can reap the rewards of greater employee productivity and lower turnover that are the products of a healthy culture.

 

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