How to improve workplace culture with 6 questions

The greatest brand ambassadors a business has is their staff. This is why workplace culture is one of the most important components of building a remarkable brand.

If you’ve ever stepped foot in an Apple store and spoken to a team member, you probably noticed they absolutely love Apple and all of their products. Richard Branson said something similar.

“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” 

If, like me, your team culture is a bit ad hoc and without formal structures for huddles, check-ins and weekly or monthly reviews, then this article should provide some helpful thought starters and quick wins to improve your workplace culture. Especially given the current climate (sorry, COVID-19 reference #1).

The catalyst for this article was a recent phone survey I did for a friend of mine.

I’m in a leadership and peer mentoring program called The Executive Connection (TEC). One of the really valuable initiatives our group does is a “Member Walkthrough”, where 2-3 other group members review your business.

We do this so that the visiting members can get a feel for the office culture and any potential issues firsthand, without it being filtered by the member who owns the business. The visiting members then report back to the business owner, awarding both praise and constructive feedback where appropriate.

If you can get someone who is happy to help you out, a phone survey to your team by a friend or mentor is fast, free and superbly effective to gauge the current qualitative sentiment of your team.

While a phone survey is preferable in its capacity to capture context and tone, if you’ve got 25 or more people in the team an online version may be more practical!

Each survey took 10-15min and I was massively impressed with the takeouts and excited to share the findings with the owner. There was a longer list of questions but in the interest of brevity and a catchier blog title, I’ve focused on the six that delivered quite compelling responses.

I’ve listed them below, plus gone into further detail on why each one is important.

1. Can you tell me the strategic direction or vision of the business? 

This is a critical question and something Managers should ensure everyone in the business has a deep understanding of.

Great employees leave when they’re not engaged (source). Millennials are even more likely to feel uninspired or unmotivated if the vision and mission aren’t clearly defined.

These things can be really hard to articulate but once it’s defined, it needs to be front and centre. A guiding light.

There’s a quote I love by Antoine de Saint-Exupery:

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

2. What should the business be doing more of?

I think you’ll be surprised with some of the answers here. Often your staff will have an entirely different perspective than you. If they’re recent employees, they’ll have an even fresher perspective. Plus some of them may have more customer interactions than you, and great suggestions on things that could enhance the client experience.

You may get suggestions like reducing inefficiencies, more activity in terms of client notices or educating the clients on who’s who in the business to help improve their credibility amongst the customers they’re serving.

3. What should the business be doing less of? 

The same vein as the question above. Except this is where the experts all come out! I’m kidding, sort of… but expect to get plenty of feedback here. It’s far easier to critique systems and processes than it is to generate new ones. Still, it’s valuable information and while some suggestions may sting, listen with an open mind.

4. What should the business stop doing? 

If the responses stung from the last question, the pain from this one may linger! ​

But, again, valuable insights can be gained here!

5. What should the business start doing?

This is a great question for the fresh ideas it can generate. Plus, if you do implement these new things, getting team buy-in is always much easier given the initiative came from them.

6. How’s the culture of the business? 

This one is a bit of a safety net to ensure that nothing is missed or skipped over in the questions above, particularly if the person being interviewed doesn’t mention much around culture or team building in previous questions.

Optional: What do you think about working from home?

If your staff have been working from home, it’s a great opportunity to learn about their experience and find out if they enjoyed it, or perhaps preferred it. Their feedback may have big implications on your decisions around your office lease. You may find the flexibility works better for some staff and they are more productive. Offering increased flexibility could help you attract new quality talent to your business.

There is no need asking this if work-from-home isn’t a viable option for your business.

How do you use these answers to improve your workplace culture? 

So you’ve got the questions, you’ve got the rationale. You’ve bought into the concept that culture matters. How do you do it?

If you’ve got a team of under 10 people, you may be able to convince a friend to do this for you.

Otherwise you’ll probably need to engage a supplier.

We like to do these questionnaires at the start of any brand refresh or rebrand project, as well as one-off projects for existing clients.

Here’s the most important part, which I cannot stress enough — SHARE THE RESULTS INTERNALLY!

If you’re going to ask your staff to do a phone survey, book time together to discuss the findings and more importantly, what you heard. It’s vital they feel listened to, and that they are contributing to the direction of the business. Then you can also go through what things you would like to implement or things that were good suggestions that can’t be implemented for various reasons.

So what are you waiting for?! You may be thinking “but my culture rocks, our people love it.”

Fair enough, then this exercise should be a breeze.

If you’d like to learn more about turning your employees into loyal brand ambassadors, or help with an employee survey, please get in touch.