It’s no secret that fostering a positive company culture is important. It’s also no secret that it takes a lot of work. Understanding this is the easy part.
Things get trickier when you sit down and try to figure out how to do this in a way that makes everyone on the team feel included.
We human beings are a pretty diverse bunch; there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to fostering company culture. What works for some people on your team won’t work for everyone. These challenges lead some companies to let culture take care of itself.
It just seems like too much work for too little reward.
But fostering company culture — in an inclusive way — is important on so many levels. Left unchecked, a company’s culture can easily turn sour and have far-reaching negative impacts.
Here’s why — and how — to invest time, effort, and energy in creating a company culture that’s positive and inclusive of everyone on your team.
The value of an inclusive company culture
As with many things in life, your company culture is only as strong as its weakest link. Every company needs to promote team cohesion and cooperation, deliver the best customer experiences, and retain their top performers. Building this can’t happen if only a subset of your employees feel valued and included as part of a strong, positive team.
Obviously, incentive programs, competitive compensation, and employee benefits have their place. But these initiatives aren’t that effective for keeping your teams connected on a more personal level and making everyone feel included.
That’s where initiatives that directly address the interpersonal side of company culture come in. Company culture initiatives have many benefits.
Improved team cohesion and performance
Teams are all about teamwork. And people work better together when they feel connected. Creating a culture that brings everyone into the fold and intentionally recognizes everyone for their contributions makes your teams more cohesive, reduces internal friction, and ultimately increases performance.
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Better customer experiences
Happy employees are just better at interacting with customers. But making employees happy goes beyond tangible benefits.
It’s just not possible to pay someone enough to be satisfied with their work if they feel excluded or undervalued. Bad company culture will make employees unhappy, even with competitive compensation packages, robust benefits, and accommodating schedules.
Attract and retain your best employees
If working for your company is great, people have fewer reasons to leave. Getting to the point where employees have no reason to leave is the ultimate goal of all employee retention efforts.
Achieving this goal simply isn’t possible if you haven’t created an atmosphere where everyone feels like they belong. For people to really want to stick around, they need to feel like they’re an integral part of the company.
All this is to say that building an inclusive company culture helps you build a better company, in the long run. Building an inclusive culture is a smart move, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. If you execute them well, a few good ideas for inclusivity will get you most of the way to the finish line.
With that, here are several ideas for fostering your company culture with inclusivity in mind.
1. Build a better onboarding process
Onboarding is your first opportunity to make people feel included as part of the team. And you definitely don’t want to miss this opportunity. You only get one first impression.
Along with the standard elements of any onboarding, there are three elements that you can add to make sure new team members understand your company culture and feel included from day one.
It’s relatively common for companies to distribute a company values handbook or packet. This is a good practice, but it’s not a great practice.
In addition to your written materials, a company values video makes everything more accessible and easier to remember. A video can even be distributed through email before an employee’s first day of work. It’s the best way to put your company values front and center, right from the start.
Company principles are an important part of the support structure for your company values.
Your values provide a sense of direction for your employees. Company principles outline the objective truths that undergird those values.
New team member intro videos
Most companies don’t have new hires create a video to introduce themselves. But it’s a slam dunk for helping people feel included on their first day.
It gets new employees actively involved in the onboarding process and it eases the anxiety of the first day of work, since all the introductions have been prepped. And it enables new team members to choose what they highlight about themselves and showcase their personality.
Additionally, you can send a video introducing the team to new hires before their first day of work.
Just adding a couple of videos to your onboarding process will make the onboarding experience leaps and bounds better. And it’s the best way to start the working relationship by being inclusive, rather than just saying it.
2. Make icebreakers the norm
Icebreakers might seem silly on the surface, but they have more utility than people give them credit for. You definitely need a few go-to icebreaker games to get everyone acquainted and on speaking terms when they need to work together for the first time.
Try one of these two classic icebreakers at your next meeting:
A scavenger hunt is a great icebreaker because it subtly helps team members get to know each other. And believe it or not, a scavenger hunt works for remote teams as well as in-person teams.
For remote teams, send everyone to find things around their house. You can get creative with this and send people to find things that show a little bit of what they’re like outside of work.
Unique and shared
This is a remarkably simple but effective get-to-know-each-other icebreaker. Start with groups of two or three. Give each group a few minutes to find something that everyone has in common, then get all the groups together to share.
Continue the activity by increasing the size of the groups and having them do the same thing. As the groups get larger, they’ll have to share more and more information to find things in common.
Keep in mind that teams can find anything in common. Something as simple as that everyone works on the same floor counts. But shared traits can only be used once.
Finish off with a final round involving the entire team.
3. Add team games to your toolbox
Games can make great icebreakers. However, games are more reusable than icebreakers, so they’re more useful for fostering ongoing team cohesion or kicking off collaboration between teams who know each other but don’t often work together directly.
Two Truths and a Lie
This is a classic game that most people know where each person makes three statements about themselves. Two of the statements must be true and one must be false. The rest of the group then guesses which statement is the lie.
Two Truths and Lie is a great way for everyone to share a little bit about themselves in a low-stakes situation.
An old-fashioned trivia game is a solid team-building activity, but you can add even more utility for team building by using trivia questions about people on the team.
Think of trivia questions like, “Which team member eats the same thing for lunch every day?” or “Who on the team has been with the company the longest?”
These sorts of questions are also a fun follow-up to Two Truths and a Lie and the icebreakers in the previous section, because you can use your team trivia to see who remembers the most about their teammates.
4. Place a high value on team-building activities
Team-building activities have been a staple in company culture building for quite some time because they work well. But if your goal is to foster a more inclusive company culture, it’s important to use team-building exercises that focus on getting everyone to contribute.
To this end, team building activities that prompt teams to work together and get input from everyone are better than more social team building events.
Lateral thinking challenges
Lateral thinking challenges are better known as riddles. No matter what you call them, they’re great for demonstrating the power of varied perspectives, because they almost always require a unique approach to solve the problem.
Consider this lateral thinking question: A boat has a ten-foot ladder that hangs off the side so that the last two feet of the ladder are submerged in the water. If the water level rises five feet, how much of the ladder will be underwater?
It’s a deceptively simple question. But you’ll find that everyone on your team will have a different approach to solving the riddle. And, even with this simple lateral thinking challenge, you’ll find that it takes the whole team to arrive at the correct answer.
Problem-solving exercises are another common team building and collaboration exercise. The way to turn this into a better culture-building activity is to use problems which are complex enough that there is no definitive correct solution.
The problems can be directly related to your company’s work, used as exercises to get the team thinking together and soliciting thoughts from everyone. Or you can also present more general problems.
Either way, be mindful that completely solving the problem isn’t the goal. The value comes from getting the team to think about as many different approaches as possible and consider the potential outcomes and side effects of each approach.
5. Build comprehensive recognition and reward programs
Recognition and incentive programs are valuable. But some programs are too limited to deliver the maximum potential benefit.
Look beyond KPIs
Most companies intuitively build their recognition programs around key performance indicators and metrics. However, key performance indicators don’t always tell the whole story.
Performance metrics often focus on the end of the process, where it’s relatively easy to quantify things. This is where the sales are made and the widgets are produced. This is where things get counted.
But there are plenty of intermediate steps that are not as well-quantified. Additionally, you’re always going to have a handful or team members who perform exceptionally well along certain performance metrics.
Incentives cease to motivate employees if the same few people get the recognition every time.
Recognize supporting roles
Incentive programs are also ineffective if they’re not structured to recognize employees who perform best in supporting roles or at intermediate stages of work processes.
You may have to get creative with your incentive programs so that there’s room for everyone to earn official recognition for doing what they do best.
Examine your incentive programs and work processes, and make sure that you have incentive programs in place that account for performance at every stage, for every position. Also create incentives that recognize employees for multiple aspects of performance.
6. Develop mentorship programs
Mentoring relationships are one of the best ways to increase the proficiency of your entire team and help everyone perform their best.
Mentoring is a long-term relationship, where a mentee has a dedicated resource that they can tap for advice on an ongoing basis. These relationships often develop on their own, but it’s a slow process. And it’s not guaranteed to happen.
A much faster and more reliable approach is to establish formal mentor-mentee relationships during the onboarding process. Obviously, don’t force things. But make it clear to each new hire who they should turn to for help when they have questions, even after their initial training is complete.
Also, coach the more experienced employees on their role as mentors and make sure they understand the role. Let them know that working as a mentor is important, and that they’ll never be penalized if helping their mentee takes some time away from their regularly assigned duties.
Give your company culture a boost with video and Biteable
Fostering a company culture that makes everyone feel included just takes adding a few work activities and making a few tweaks to internal programs.
However, even the simplest of these culture-building efforts requires strong internal communication. None of these ideas work if nobody knows about them.
Biteable Teams solves the communication side of the culture-building equation. Biteable Teams gives you the ability to build your company culture with the power of video.
Biteable Teams comes with a huge library of brandable scenes and customizable video templates, all in an easy-to-use, collaborative platform. Trackable video analytics give you greater visibility over your internal comms.
And all of this can be accomplished in a matter of minutes, not hours — without any previous video-making experience.
Biteable Teams is everything you need to implement video as part of your internal communication and company culture creation strategies.