We often think of culture on the macro scale – the shared holidays, music, tv, or movies that can be recognized from New Mexico to Maine. However, culture also lives on a smaller scale – the ideas, behaviors, and customs that bind any group together. At work, that means all the in-jokes, support, shared lows, and joint celebrations come together to create a team culture; a binding relationship between the people you work with.
It’s no surprise a culture grows out of teamwork – you’re often with your colleagues 40-plus hours a week! However, while culture does grow naturally, it can always use a helping hand. After all, a strong team culture can help build a more supportive environment, engage employees, improve interpersonal relationships, enhance collaboration and emotional intelligence, boost talent retention, and more.
So, how can you build a strong team culture at your organization? Let’s find out! But first, let’s dig a little deeper into why a strong team culture is something you would want to invest in.
What Is the Impact of Team Culture on Performance?
A strong team culture drives performance in a number of ways and benefits the company, leadership, and each individual team member. Let’s go over a few examples of the benefits of a good team culture:
Supportive environment – a good team culture means people feel part of a broader whole, where they are more supportive and supported. From feeling more able to admit mistakes to accepting help when you need it, being in a supportive environment helps everyone’s performance.
Engaged employees – this is especially important for performance because when you feel like part of a team through shared culture, you feel like working for shared goals and ambitions. You really engage with the task at hand and your team’s goals.
Improved relationships – a team culture is shared bonds between all members, including the management. When a company is built on healthy relationships (i.e. a good culture), then everything benefits, including performance.
Increased talent retention – why would anyone join a company with a bad team culture? More importantly, why would you leave a team with a great culture? Strong bonds retain good team members.
How can you Build and Maintain a Great Team Culture?
Building and maintaining a strong team culture involves combining the right tools and strategies for your company. The first step is figuring out where you currently stand by reviewing your team culture and identifying strengths and weaknesses.
What you ask yourself will depend on your specific team, but some possible questions that will help you review your team culture are:
- What are your team values?
- How are these values reflected in the team’s behavior?
- What are the behavioral norms for communicating internally and externally?
- How would you rate:
- Interpersonal relationships?
- Is your team able to give constructive feedback?
- Is your team able to receive constructive feedback?
- How does your team feel about:
- Individual goals?
- Team goals?
- Company goals?
- How are you currently fostering a strong team culture?
- What processes are in place to help support a good team culture?
Once you start digging into your team culture, you’ll quickly find what’s working, what isn’t, and how you can develop strategies to help improve company culture. For example, if you realize that your company culture lacks support, you could develop strategies around:
- Building team collaboration processes for direct support of younger (or differently-skilled) colleagues.
- Creating a ticket system for help requests
- Running a workshop on how to ask for support effectively
There are plenty of strategies that you can develop to build your culture – just be creative and remember that each team is unique,what works for one won’t work for another.
When it comes to tools, there’s only one question you need to ask yourself: how do your communication channels support a strong team culture? Communication tools for teams are the practical means by which a culture is built – you can’t build bonds if you can’t communicate.
Choosing the right tools and techniques differs from team to team, but there are several features you’ll want to look for whether you’re working remotely or in an office. Let’s take a look at both to see how you can get the tools for a strong company culture today.
Communication at work can generally be broken down into two main categories: professional and personal. The former is most commonly carried out through email, which remains the most important feature of a team communication app, along with video conferencing and phone calls. This communication covers everything that would require a more professional tone and is focused on active company tasks. The latter is harder to pin down. In a traditional office environment, this would be chatter that happens around the water cooler or coffee pot. Basically, the communication that takes place in social areas.
For remote teams to have a good team culture, your digital tools have to provide those social areas. One great way is with group chats dedicated to non-business communication. This gives your team the opportunity to build personal relationships and concretize the team culture, whether it’s sharing photos of their weekend hike or saying happy birthday to a new team member.
In addition to communication, a good team culture needs strong collaboration, which in a digital tool means shared online notes or documents. This gives team members a shared space in which to collaborate effectively. Ideally, this shared space would be multi-media, allowing not just for text communication but the sharing of pictures, videos, sketches, GIFs, emojis, and more.
Team communication apps are arguably much more important for remote teams since they are the only way colleagues can connect. There are several features to look for when choosing your communication tool, as mentioned above, each one filling an important niche. At a minimum, your remote office communication tool to build company culture should include:
Collaborative online notes or documents
Unlike with fully remote teams, the communication tools you need for building an in-office team culture are supportive rather than fundamental. Of course, you still need email, video, voice calls, and all the other features that are expected in a modern work environment.
However, the tools that are really key to building a good in-office team culture and those that enable people to switch seamlessly between in-person and digital collaboration.
One feature to look for is the ability to sync content and files across multiple devices. While a remote team might be at the same computer for every meeting, an in-office team might work at a desktop, grab a tablet for a meeting elsewhere in the building, and take down notes on their phone when they’re standing around the water cooler. Having collaborative notes sync across all platforms regardless of where folks are located means they can focus on communicating with colleagues, rather than chasing scraps of paper.
How Do Companies Destroy Team culture?
Team culture can be hard to build, but it is incredibly easy to destroy – and unfortunately, companies do it all the time. There are plenty of ways to do it, but some common mistakes include:
Having inaccessible leadership – if team members can’t easily talk to their manager, there is going to be growing resentment and an eventual breakdown in any communication. Bonus points if managers become especially inaccessible during times of turbulence in the company.
Non-constructive criticism – public ridicule of colleagues, or worse, subordinates, is a sure way to destroy a team culture. It undermines and embarrasses employees and stops teams from wanting to try.
Constantly ask staff for updates – “don’t you trust me?” Always asking for updates, or micromanaging in general, gives your team the impression that you don’t trust them or their work.
Be a hypocrite – if you say one thing and do another, you’re setting a bad example for your team and the culture will suffer.
Misassign credit – if you don’t clearly give credit where credit is due, your team will grow resentful. Reward and acknowledge people for their achievements.
What do all of these have in common? They are the result of, or examples of, poor communication! This single failure can undermine entire teams in record time. Focus on communicating effectively and team culture will take care of itself.
Simple Steps for Building Team Culture
Team culture is vital for a successful business, with clear benefits to productivity and performance thanks to a supportive environment, more engaged employees, improved relationships, and keeping great talent. However, it’s all too simple to let your team culture crumble if you don’t focus on good communication, both in the office and online.
Fortunately, there are plenty of strategies and tools to help you build and maintain a strong team culture, and avoid the pitfalls of company destruction. Whether you’re a fully remote team or back in the office, Spike combines all the features you need to cultivate and nurture a strong company culture – from super-charged email and Online Notes to custom Groups and voice messages. The variety of communication channels and tools, which include video, voice, text, image, GIFs, and emojis support allows your team to communicate in a way that suits them – professionally and personally – and carve out the culture that fits their style.
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