Opinion

Walk the walk: You won’t solve company culture with a giftcard

It's time to get real on company culture. When money doesn't talk, what do you do to keep employees engaged and committed? Patrice Pandeleos, founder of Seven Communications, explores.

As we grapple with record-high staff turnover across Australia, it’s clear that money alone won’t keep a team together. While a decent pay packet might initially attract someone to join a company, it’s the less tangible element – those personal touches and shared value – that play a pivotal role in keeping them engaged and committed.

Building and maintaining a vibrant, cohesive team culture involves more than just financial incentives; it requires a holistic approach that keeps the team motivated. This means fostering an environment where openness, mutual respect, and support are the cornerstones.

Here are five key lessons I’ve picked up during my time as a business owner on how to create a team culture that brings out the best in everyone – going beyond talking the talk to truly walking the walk.

The Walk Starts With You

How a business operates is always a reflection of the person at the wheel. Dealing with challenges, from tight deadlines all the way through to the environment around the lunch table and how your team is greeted in the morning, is steered by you. Your approach sets the tone for the whole team, shaping how we face big challenges and everyday interactions alike.

Setting the level of transparency, accountability, resilience and go-getting attitude necessary for a healthy work culture isn’t a ‘set and forget’ approach – it should be treated as an ‘always-on’ commitment. Think about the qualities you’d admire in your ideal team member, and lead by example. Your team will likely mirror these behaviours not just because they have to, but because they want to. Often, they just need to see you’re there in the trenches with them, ready to roll up your sleeves and dive into the challenges together. Remember, you’re the one who sets the standard.

Talk Their Talk

Open and transparent communication is the cornerstone of a thriving team culture. Encourage regular dialogue among team members, provide channels for feedback, and ensure that communication flows freely across all levels of the organisation.

Set aside time with each employee for communication that doesn’t relate to their work. Don’t create a mini WIP out of a one-on-one catch up – instead, genuinely ask them how they’re doing. Are they feeling overwhelmed and unheard? Do they have a clear roadmap for what they want to achieve? By fostering a culture of open communication, you empower your team to share ideas, address concerns, and collaborate more effectively, feeling listened to as a human, not an employee.

Team Up With The Team

A great workplace is one where team members support and uplift each other. When we team up on projects, it’s not just about boosting productivity; it’s about fostering an environment where ideas flow freely and skills are shared. This collaborative spirit builds trust across the board. If someone is struggling with a task, perhaps there’s a team member that excels in the area that can provide insight or collaborate so they can see first-hand how it’s done. This ensures that no one feels siloed or pigeonholed into specific areas and a versatile, collaborative and happy team emerges.

Celebrate The Wins

Flicking over the company card for a pub lunch or slipping a voucher into your team’s inbox is a great way to make the team feel appreciated for a job well done. But rewards like this are lacking that true personal touch. Next time you’re at the lunch table, brainstorm with the team what they want to do as a bonding activity. If you’ve got a crew of music fans, then a gig is a great idea. Or if your team enjoys the finer things in life, a trip to a local winery could be a real treat.

The goal is for these team outings to be events that everyone genuinely looks forward to, not just another box to tick. Make sure these special moments don’t encroach on personal time, unless everyone is on board. This is a chance to try new things together, creating shared experiences that everyone enjoys – yourself included!

Never Cut Corners

It’s easy for some leaders to dismiss perks like birthday leave, flexible work options, or implementing wellness programs as unnecessary luxuries that could interfere with work over time. However, these so-called “small” tokens can have a massive impact on your team’s morale and loyalty – neglect them, and you’ll feel the loss even faster. If you’re going to invest in these programs though, do it properly…for instance, don’t encourage a ‘give back to the community day’ and then hound your employee for document updates all day, this will cause immediate resentment.

Investing in initiatives that promote work-life balance, mental health, and overall well-being will pay for themselves in higher productivity, lower turnover and an overall happier workplace. You want to be the place your employees rave to their friends about and represent with pride. Cutting corners is felt more than employers know and can be all it takes for a top talent to fly onto the greener pastures.

If team culture isn’t consistently on your to-do list, it absolutely should be. A business that focuses on the happiness and satisfaction of its team will have a deep impact on their ability to thrive and succeed. Every team is unique, and the blueprint for a culture that resonates best with your staff is something they’re eager to help shape. Remember, it’s not enough to just talk about a great culture – we need to walk the walk. By doing so, we create a vibrant, supportive environment that not only attracts but retains top talent.

Patrice Pandeleos

Patrice Pandeleos is founder of Seven Communications.

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