For a long time, I never put any thought toward building office “culture.” After all, in the early years it was just me, Stephen, Matt, Sandy (Matt’s wife) and an administrative assistant. We had culture for sure, but it was different. With a veteran team leader and a couple of newbies, the culture was, “How does Matt want things done?”
We now have around 30 full-time employees and 20 external coaches, and as our workforce has grown, so have our culture-building needs. We learned the hard way that it’s easier to be proactive in building culture than it is to surf the waves of attrition or low morale.
We are still a work in progress, but we thought it would be helpful to share some things that have been helpful for us, in hopes that they’ll be the same for you. The following are five strategies you can use to start building a better office culture:
- Embrace Team Building Events
Getting out of the office helps bring team members together both personally and professionally. It helps you remember that, even if you have different work styles, you’re good people and can enjoy each other’s company.
We say “embrace” team building on purpose. It’s not a necessary evil. It’s something to enjoy and see as valuable for your organization. We suggest planning them at least quarterly and putting some thought into them.
We recently took a day to get away from the office, going to a minor league baseball game during the middle of the day. It was easy to organize, didn’t break the bank, and our team enjoyed it. Our in-house videographers even decided to make a mini-project out of it. You can watch the video below.
- Make In-Office Days Fun
A few months ago, we decided to adopt a hybrid work model—three days in the office and two days from home. We did this for a couple reasons. First, people like to work from home. Second, there are many benefits to working in-office, like better brainstorming, collaboration and relationship-building. Third, the hybrid schedule helps to create a balance between in-office collaboration and independent work. This balance allows our employees to be more productive and creative while also allowing them to have more flexibility in their work schedules.
On days that we require the team to come into the office, we try to make it fun. We play music throughout the day, we host weekly happy hours, and even turned our office into a putt-putt course. Here’s a look at our course and scorecard:
- Open Communication is Best
Culture isn’t only about having fun, it’s also about how you lead. It’s making sure that members of your team feel heard. If you notice that a team member is frustrated, bring it up privately. Let them talk and seek to understand their concerns before jumping to a solution.
Also, if a team member isn’t performing well, tell them. In most scenarios they will appreciate the candor and correct their behavior. A team member should never be “unsure” about where they stand. Issues that aren’t vocalized and get swept under the rug breed toxicity.
- Lead By Example
Stephen and I have always been hard working. While we may not be present every Friday afternoon, we care about the business and our team knows it. They see Slack messages sent at nights and on weekends. They see us in the office grinding away. How can you expect your team to work hard if you don’t? Hard work is noticed and builds respect, inspiring your employees to work just as hard alongside you.
- Put Someone In Charge
We can't stress this enough: you may be good at a lot of things, but if planning team building events isn't one of them, assign the task to someone else. Empower a member of your team to be in charge of planning activities, recognizing birthdays, etc. Give them a budget and let them make some of these decisions.
Strengthening your organization’s culture is crucial for a team of any size. It doesn’t matter if you’re a solo advisor with a shared assistant or a massive RIA. A strong company culture leads to less turnover, more productivity and higher client satisfaction. While this does take some money and effort, the benefits of actively pursuing an ideal work environment far outweigh the cons of not doing anything at all. However, like most things in life, you get out of it what you put into it.