How to create the kind of company culture that generates motivation, attracts candidates and retains top talent
At times of high stress, it’s not unusual for people to get their head down and focus on the task at hand. However, when your workplace is a busy, fast-paced NHS surgery, continually operating in silos it can cause serious communications issues, as discovered by one of our clients. With many employees constantly overworked due to high demand and a fast-paced environment, a breakdown in communication ensued, and a general lack of respect was felt, impacting both staff morale and the level of care offered to customers.
How can a toxic culture be fixed? “The first thing you need to turn a workplace culture into a positive one,’ says Craig Howells, Director of Sales & Operations at Let’s Talk Talent, ‘is a firm commitment from the senior team to do everything necessary to address the issue.” Fortunately, this was the case for our client.
Armed with the support of the leadership’s team, we then put a strategy in place to turn this toxic culture around and create a climate of collaboration that would be conducive to high motivation, innovation, staff retention and talent attraction. Here’s what we did.
What is toxic workplace culture?
A toxic culture can manifest itself in many ways, and any negative, disrespectful or overly stressful work environment can lead to talent looking for alternative career options. This was very much the case with our client, and here are some of the signs LTT observed as we started to work with this client:
- Senior staff were often curt with junior employees
- A lack of respect was visible
- The business had a reputation for being a tough place to work
- There was a feeling of ‘us and them’ between the leadership team and the rest of the employees
- A very hierarchical structure was in place, generating a fear culture
- Staff were not feeling valued
- People did not feel psychologically safe
- Mistakes were not tolerated
- There was a high staff turnover
- Motivation was low
- Morale was low
For us, the challenge was clear. We needed to drastically improve communications and implement an open door culture, with the entire business working and operating as a unit.
Listen to our podcast on creating an amazing culture here.
Top strategies to create a positive culture of communication
Despite the many issues they had to overcome, the management team was clearly committed to growing and improving the business, which allowed LTT to design and implement an effective engagement campaign. Based on our analysis of the challenge, we focused on five key strategies, each of them working together towards a common goal: making the surgery an amazing place to work.
Strategy 1: running a culture audit
Before getting into the practical stuff, we needed to gain a real understanding of what’s happening. Only by getting to the root of the problem could we choose the most impactful tactics. LTT opted to run a company-wide survey and, once done, reported the findings back to management. The objective was to take them on a journey with us, showing them where they were, and where they were going.
Have a look at our culture audit service page for some free resources on creating a positive workplace culture.
Strategy 2: playing findings back to the team
Collecting data does tend to create expectations amongst staff, and in order to foster a culture of trust, we needed to be fully transparent. We therefore presented high-level results from the culture audit to the entire team, letting them know that they were heard, and that steps were being taken to address the situation.
Strategy 3: implementing an engagement campaign
After gaining an understanding of the situation and validating our findings with the business, we got to work and put a plan of action in place. Our campaign comprised three key steps, each focused on a particular team within the business and offering coaching, support and resources.
Our programme began with team coaching for senior partners. Group session was centred around themes such as effective communication, inclusive leadership, how to create a psychologically safe environment, and implementing a compelling vision.
If you’d like to know more about unlocking leadership’s potential, listen to our podcast here.
We then moved on to more personalised, targeted coaching with one-to-one sessions with executives. Our purpose was to build on their leadership style and abilities, and to help them increase their level of self-awareness. These coaching sessions were built around each partner’s needs in order to achieve maximum impact.
Getting managers on board was also crucial. To do this, LTT rolled out a management development programme designed to better support the surgery’s employees and unlock their full potential. The skills covered within the training course included effective team management, how to give good feedback, and how to have great career conversations.
Strategy 4: setting up a community of practice
To ensure our programme had a lasting impact, we needed to focus on longevity. A one-off engagement campaign is great, but turning a toxic workplace into a positive one requires long-term, sustained efforts. To this end, we set up a working committee composed of staff from all levels of the organisation and with one single task: to co-create the future of the business.
Strategy 5: benchmarking your efforts and to measure success
At LTT, we believe in being agile. One of the ways we do this is to set up key review points throughout our projects, which allows us to test ideas, and course correct along the way. For example, here we used the culture audit undertaken at the start of our programme to track the impact of the engagement initiative. We also set up psychometric leadership assessments at the beginning and at the end of the campaign to measure change in the executive team’s approach to leadership and their communication style. Lastly, we keep a close watch on employee recommendation rates, a crucial metric for this particular business.
The role of leadership in creating a positive workplace culture
What made this project a success? “The leadership team was willing to approach these issues with an open mind, and a growth mindset,” reflects Craig. This was a key success factor. “The behaviours you wish to encourage within an organisation do need to be role modelled by the team at the top,” adds Craig. And showing vulnerability as a leader can help form trusting relationships with your people.
But simply getting started on this culture journey can be a struggle. After all, holding up a mirror to the organisation and highlighting key issues can be scary, particularly for employees. Internal teams can also sometimes be blind to the problems at hand, particularly during busy or chaotic periods. This is where a third party can help, making sure your people have a voice and that the right issues are prioritised for visible results to be achieved. If your organisation could do with a culture transformation, don’t hesitate to book a call with us.