In today’s job market, company culture is one of the largest selling points for hiring. Whether positive or negative, every company has a culture. Simply hoping for a great culture to grow organically isn’t a reliable method; however, creating one can be daunting. To get insights on creating a healthy culture that benefits both the company and its employees, we spoke with Scott Burns of Structural, a people insights company based in St. Paul.

Why is fostering workplace culture important?

Culture needs to be an intentional decision within an organization from day one. When we talk about culture, we’re not talking about flashy perks or free food. We’re talking about the values, behaviors, and day-to-day interactions that define your organization. Investing in your culture early and leading with intention when it comes to the values, expectations and norms in your organization can save stress down the road when even large investments may be too little, too late.

What are some common pitfalls related to workplace culture?

Setting too many rules can make things seem forced and push employees further away. Additionally, while surveys can be useful to gauge culture, using them too much loses effectiveness and value, and can come across as unnecessary or insincere when feedback or scores are not handled appropriately.

Also, many companies make occasional grand gestures such as large parties or gifts for their staff. Generally, these gestures are sparse and usually used as damage control tools. Taking the time to make continual small gestures, like recognizing employees with feedback or highlighting contributions of a top-performing team goes a long way in maintaining morale through difficult times.

Lastly, and most important, a lack of transparency seriously harms culture. Management needs to be transparent and available to help a good culture thrive. When information is withheld, employees lose trust, but more importantly, they lose the information they need to be proactive and see hurdles coming.

How can leaders make sure they are being transparent? How can they know if the culture needs a change?

Meaningful listening. I know that company size can be restrictive but listening systems need to be in place. In small companies of less than 20 people, the leader should have a meaningful conversation with each person monthly.

Asking employees to tell you about their day-to-day job duties can clue you in to their struggles and successes. You should also look to your employees for feedback on large decisions, by asking what they would have done differently.

In the end, listening is key, but only if you act upon the information gained. Make sure you are hearing concerns and using the information to make informed future decisions.

How does a workplace culture help with the success of the company as a whole?

Culture can help with retention and attraction of talent. Employees want to work at a company that represents their values, and when organizations achieve this, employees become brand ambassadors.

Allowing for ad hoc teams and organic problem solving gives employees the freedom to innovate when they see opportunities. A culture that encourages thinking outside–of-the-box will foster and attract top talent.

Overall, culture is an important investment. Investing in transparency and open communication systems successfully is worth the cost to a growing organization. Your culture will happen whether you act or not, so be sure you are there early to guide growth and build for the future.

Structural is powered by people. Its People Insights Platform simplifies access to people data, helping companies identify and activate highly-skilled talent across their organizations, resulting in stronger teams, more effective communication, and higher growth. Structural integrates data from HR, business, and personal systems, enabling leaders to quickly find the right people with the right skills for sales pursuits, projects, and strategic initiatives. Learn more at www.structural.com.