The “fake it until you make it” ethos works in a lot of situations, but not when it comes to building a strong and authentic workplace culture. Sadly, there are a lot of companies out there faking happy work environments. They loudly claim to have the best places to work, but ask their employees and you’ll get a different story.
This isn't much of a surprise considering the heavy emphasis that’s placed on workplace culture these days. We read stories about companies like Zappos and can't help but aspire to that, as we should. But cultures like that don’t develop overnight, and faking it isn’t the answer.
So, how do you know if you’re faking your workplace culture? Here are six signs to look for, and some tips to be more genuine.
You pretend to want feedback
Do you ask your employees for their opinion? And, do you really mean it? Some companies avoid employee surveys because they don’t want to hear negative feedback. Other companies ask for feedback but review it with blinkers – they focus on the good and downplay the bad. Neither of these is the road to a strong company culture. Feedback should be embraced, not feared. Even the negative comments. In fact, negative feedback might help you grow and change in more meaningful ways.
You don’t walk the talk
If you preach participation, but conduct your workdays from the beach in Tahiti, don’t expect your employees to show up and generate company culture on their own. If you truly want amazing culture (and off-the-charts employee engagement), you need to be the poster-kid for this type of stuff. Yes, this means being genuinely present, interested, and involved.
You try to buy your culture
You invested in a big pool table, catered lunches, and a lounge room for afternoon naps. Heck you even stocked the fridge full of beer. This clearly is the best place to work, right? Wrong. Okay, even I’m jealous of the coconut water and massages, but all this free stuff can’t ‘buy’ your employees. Why? Because buying stuff is easy; creating and maintaining culture, not so much.
You think a motivational poster is the answer
We’ve all seen those posters with cheesy photographs and cringe-worthy motivational slogans. Adding a bunch of motivational posters to the wall isn’t going to make your workplace an enjoyable atmosphere - it'll probably do the opposite. And it looks like you’re trying too hard. Actively connecting with your employees and inspiring people with your actions may not be as easy as putting up a poster, but you’ll see a far greater and lasting impact.
Your mission statement is not your own
Coming up with mission or vision statements is a tough job, but don’t be tempted to copy from another company. That’s not only lazy, it’s risky and unimaginative (and probably illegal!). Think about who you are, and set out your mission and purpose in a direct and clear way that everyone can understand and get behind.
You think everyone knows your company values
Ask five random employees what your company’s core values are. Do they know? Do they even care? Better yet, do those values really define your company? If you want your values to reflect your people, involve your people. Once your values are defined, communicate clearly and frequently to help people emulate and propagate those values.
“Real” culture stems from devoting time and energy to your people every single day. It’s not going to happen with just one team building event, or by simply proclaiming it. Humor at Work speaker Mike Kerr said it best: "You can’t buy your culture at Walmart!" What are you doing at your workplace to keep things real?