Best Practices for Cultivating Company Culture and Employee Engagement

Small Business Canada

By Tiffani Martinez, Human Resource Director – Otter PR

Today’s employees don’t just want a positive company culture — they demand it. Studies show businesses that offer a healthy workplace culture retain talent and attract new recruits. Moreover, research demonstrates that healthy company cultures translate into higher profits.

That’s why entrepreneurs and business leaders at companies of all sizes are prioritizing the employee experience and nurturing positive workplace cultures. By adopting the following best practices, you can, too.

Creating psychological safety

Healthy workplace environments are characterized by a feeling of psychological safety. Team members need to feel like they belong and can communicate their perspectives honestly.

As a business owner or leader, you can do several things to create this sort of experience for your employees. First and foremost, provide your employees with transparency. Be as clear as possible about your expectations and the processes to follow.

Next, demonstrate empathy. Don’t forget that these are people working for you — not numbers. They have personalities and their fair share of both good and bad days. Showing empathy for your team on a personal level encourages loyalty and engagement, and studies have concluded that empathetic leaders enjoy greater organizational performance than other kinds.

Similarly, as a business owner or leader, one of the best messages you can communicate to staff is that you have confidence in them. You hired them because they were the best fit for the role, so make sure they understand that you are committed to them and will always have their back. In particular, don’t forget to communicate that no one is expected to be perfect, so your team is a safe place to ask questions or reach out for help.

Communication shouldn’t just go one way, however. For employees to feel comfortable on your team, they must also feel like they can express themselves honestly. Being an effective, empathetic business leader necessarily requires openness to employee feedback — even negative feedback.

Dealing with negative feedback

In my experience, obtaining negative feedback is one of the most critical but also difficult parts of a business leader’s job. Developing emotional intelligence (EQ) is the best way to get the feedback you need while taking care of yourself and handling it appropriately.

Therefore, when someone comes at you with something negative, don’t take it personally. Remember that they are having their own personal reaction to the situation. Indulging in pushback or defensiveness will only irritate the interaction.

Many times, the person is upset with another staff member or their own work, and they just need to share their experience with someone else, which is why I let them get everything off their chest before speaking. Once they have talked themselves out, I ask if they simply want to vent or would like me to act as HR. Half the time, they just wanted to be heard.

If you feel an emotional response rising in you while listening to the staff member, then it’s time to pause and take time to process the information. I learned this lesson myself eight years ago. As a young HR professional, I was passionate about fixing everyone’s problems, but my emotional responses tended to trigger emotional responses from others, and the situation would snowball.

One day, a situation arose with a staffer who was having serious performance issues and lying to us. During a discussion about the problem with one of my mentors, he raised his voice at me, and I almost started crying.

At that moment, I realized my emotions weren’t helping the situation, so I explained that I was having an emotional reaction and needed time to process what I was feeling. I would implement any strategy he wanted in the meantime, but I couldn’t continue discussing that topic. When I was ready three days later, we came back together. After we both apologized, we had an adult conversation, came up with a compromise, and executed it as a team. Any time I feel an emotional reaction arise in me now, I sit with it until it subsides.

I mention this example to highlight how adding your own emotional reaction can threaten to escalate the situation. To maximize the chances of a positive outcome, you may need to diffuse yourself first so that you can problem-solve from a place of stability and groundedness.

Grant flexibility, autonomy

Another best practice is to honor your employees’ requests for flexible schedules, hybrid or remote work, and time off. Of course, it’s necessary to make sure the necessary work gets done, so make sure other employees are available to cover any gaps. In my experience, however, too many employers assume that the longer employees are seated at their desks, the more work gets done.

Studies have actually questioned that idea. When employees have more control over when and how they work, their job satisfaction improves, along with their productivity.

Staff members are adults and deserve to be treated as such, which is why it’s wise to empower your employees to craft the most productive schedules for themselves. For instance, if one of your team members isn’t feeling 100 percent and goes home to finish working, refrain from micromanaging them and trust them to get their work done. In the vast majority of cases, they will.

This holds true on the executive level as well because business owners and leaders are sometimes at risk of burning out. That’s why I sometimes tell members of our leadership team that they should go home and take a break.

Grow your business with a positive culture

A company’s success is based on having a positive culture, which is why actively working to build and maintain one is in leaders’ best interests. By creating psychological safety for your team, cultivating emotional intelligence in yourself, and empowering your staff to work in the best ways for them, your venture will grow stronger and more profitable.

— Tiffani Martinez is the Human Resource Director at Otter PR. A native Floridian, she graduated Magna Cum Laude from Keiser University with a BA in Business Management and a focus in Human Resource Management. Tiffani excels at putting the “human” back into “Human Resources.” She comes from a non-profit and Property and Casualty insurance background with focused knowledge of the needs of Florida residents. Her tenure in the non-profit sector led her to manage one of the largest churches in the nation with more than 2,000 members. Conflict management is her passion. She strives to take in all perspectives, ensuring all parties are respected and heard with fairness and empathy.

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