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Dec 20, 2017

Stress has the ability to destroy even the best company culture. No matter how hard you’ve worked to foster a positive workplace environment, when employees are overwhelmed, they soon burn out.

Then the inevitable happens — productivity slows and the potential for employee exit increases.

Unfortunately, organizational root rot doesn’t stop there. When word gets around about consistently high stress levels on the job, potential candidates won’t want to work with the company.

It’s tempting to look for any new changes you can make in the company to stop the spread of disengagement and culture decay. However, introducing too many groundbreaking solutions at once will only add to the confusion created when company culture breaks down due to stress.

That’s why it’s important to continually go back to the basics. A firm but gentle reminder of what lies at the heart of the organization will ensure your company culture can withstand even the most stressful situations.

Focus on these three basics to make your culture exceptional.

1. Reinforce company mission and values

When employees can connect everything they do with the company’s mission and overall goals, they’re less likely to experience stress. Instead, they feel empowered to overcome setbacks by focusing on how they can use their skills and expertise for a greater good.

In fact, 44% of the 600 U.S. employees surveyed in the 2016 SHRM Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Survey reported that overall corporate culture and company values are very important to them. And 43% of the respondents stated it was very important that they saw meaningfulness in their job.

Knowledge is power. Employees want to know exactly what’s expected of them. They don’t want to play guessing games, or risk making mistakes because they aren’t sure of how the task directly benefits the company.

Remarkably, the 2017 CultureIQ Company Culture Trends and Insights report revealed that 88% of the 28,371 professionals surveyed said they understand what determines success for their roles.

The best way for employees to gain a strong grasp of the company’s mission and how their role and work directly supports those values is to ensure goals align. Make an effort to identify employees’ individual goals and connect them to the company’s goals.

It’s essential to both employee and company success to realize that goals change over time. These discussions and 360 feedback should be ongoing. As employees accomplish the immediate marks set for them, have a conversation on appropriate next steps that will challenge them to be in a state of continual improvement.

Also, encourage employees to hold themselves, their co-workers, and their leaders accountable for upholding the company values and mission and working toward mutually beneficial goals.

2. Safety check the working environment

Engaged employees want to do their part to contribute to a positive workplace culture. The most critical element of nurturing a positive workplace is making sure team members feel safe in their work environment.

Obviously, employees should be physically safe from environmental and structural threats as well as abusive treatment. However, safety also comes in the form of creating a workplace where team members can be themselves and feel open to alert leadership when they feel particularly stressed by something.

When employees are comfortable in their workspace, they feel better connected to co-workers and the company as a whole. Some simple ways to help employees feel more comfortable at work include allowing employees to keep personal items at work (trinkets, photos, plants) that help them de-stress, encouraging  clean and organized work spaces, creating relaxation spaces and implementing fitness breaks throughout the day.

Digital consulting company Omnigon provides employees with free, in-office massages. Logistics firm Trax Technologies schedules team member activity and meditation classes throughout the day.

Beyond ambiance, find ways to help employees feel comfortable sharing thoughts that improve the workplace culture. The most successful companies place high value on collaboration.

Nike, for example, has been known to gather up to 50 professionals in various concentrations (performance training, biomechanics, fashion) to develop one shoe. Similarly, for clothing photo shoots, Kohl’s assembles teams of 40 or more, including those with skills in carpentry, art design, cosmetology, marketing, and more.

Every employee adds a unique element that benefits projects. When input is encouraged and valued from these team members, the end result is a comprehensive product or presentation with minimal stress on any one employee. Instead, all employees can focus on sharing in the success.

3. Keep employees focusing on what they do best

To that end, make it clear that while each employee is an expert in what they do, they’re not expected to solve problems outside of their focus. They are not responsible for anyone else’s work being completed on time or fixing any major company issues that arise.

Employees make the greatest impact simply by focusing on what they do best. This doesn’t mean they can’t offer suggestions for improvement in other areas. To keep employees engaged, create focus groups they can get involved in to ensure they are channeling their energy toward something they can truly impact in a positive way.

The key is to empower employees to apply themselves by focusing on being a valuable part of the culture. When everyone plays their role, there shouldn’t be a need for fixing it05You can’t prevent stress from affecting your workplace. But you can prevent it from disrupting company culture by focusing on employee strengths, empowering them to excel at their jobs, and clearly communicating company mission and values and how they relate to each employee’s worth.

How do you create a great company culture? Let us know in the comments!

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