HR · 23 July 2018

How to improve company culture and attract the best candidates

Company culture is becoming increasingly important in smaller businesses.

Improving company culture is at the top of the agenda for most modern day businesses, as more employers are coming to appreciate the role it plays in attracting prospective employees.

However it is not as simple as placing a ping-pong table in the staff room; a company culture needs to be fostered over time.

Businesses are advised to take a multifaceted approach that demonstrates their commitment to equality, transparency and valuing employees. It should be noted that a company culture is not exclusive to multinational organisations, small businesses are equally able to benefit from the existence of a positive company culture.

Addressing working hours

Burnout and work-related stress represents one of the biggest threats to achieving a positive company culture. It is vital that small businesses look to reduce this in their workplace.

To achieve a positive company culture you should avoid glorifying the “staying late” mentality. It is a commonly accepted that most employees operate from a work to live? mentality. Sometimes as a small business owner this may be hard to accept, however you should make an effort to ensure employees stick to designated working times, have proper rest periods and leave the office on time.

If employees are having to work through lunch breaks or stay late to complete work then you need to investigate this. Although it is expected that on occasion employees may need to stay late to complete certain tasks, you should keep a close eye on this to ensure it is not excessive.

Improving communication

You should encourage staff to communicate with you if there are any problems with their ability to complete work on time, so you may accurately distribute work to balance out the workloads. If you become aware that employees are struggling it is important to take reactionary measures to reduce this. These efforts will increase the overall mood and productivity of your workforce, as employees will feel valued and cared for, which is integral in building an improved company culture.

Businesses should also look to increase communication with employees on business decisions when looking to foster an improved company culture. You should inform employees of decisions which will impact the working environment, explaining the reasoning behind them.

Provided the reasons behind the business decisions are rational and justifiable, employees are more likely to be receptive to them. Good communication methods will leave employees feeling like an important part of the business and will generate a sense of goodwill.

Supportive diversity

All businesses are legally required to prevent discrimination in the workplace under the Equality Act 2010. Businesses should have carefully constructed workplace policies which do not discriminate against any protected characteristic under the Act. It is also vital to ensure any hiring or promotion decisions are based entirely on suitability and performance.

Businesses that go the extra mile to further increase diversity and inclusiveness will be rewarded with an altogether more positive company culture. You should consider how everyday practices such as work socialising events can be improved to increase diversity and inclusiveness.

The Friday evening post-work drink is a time-honoured tradition for many workplaces, however you should consider how inclusive this practice really is. Evening drinks could prevent parents with childcare commitments or individuals of certain religions from attending, leaving them feeling alienated and unable to participate in an important bonding activity.

Handling conflict

Businesses should handle workplace conflicts immediately when they occur, as addressing any issues in a clear and fair manner is important in creating a positive company culture. It is vital high performers and senior staff do not receive any preferable treatment when it comes to misconduct as this could jeopardise the trust of your workforce. Instead, by treating all instances of misconduct and unrest in a serious and dedicated manner, employees will have increased confidence in the business.

Celebrate and review performance

It is also important that businesses celebrate employees? success wherever possible. Having a positive approach to performance reviews will reassure employees that they are an integral part of the growth and development of the business. Whilst it is not always economically possible for small businesses to issue monetary bonuses for high performing employees you should look to acknowledge their performance in some way.

Performance reviews also allow underperforming employees a chance to see where they can improve. You should also take this opportunity to provide any additional support or training as required. Demonstrating a commitment to helping employees will reaffirm how much you value their involvement, in turn the employees are likely to have a greater commitment to the business and this will inevitably lead to an improved company culture.

Organisational support

To ensure all employees feel valued you should consider how everyday practices could be altered to improve equality and inclusiveness. Businesses that do will be rewarded with a content and close-knit workforce.

It should be noted that a true company culture only works when it is encompassed by all of the individuals from top to bottom, therefore businesses that truly wish to improve their company culture must ensure their managers and senior employees lead by example.

In addition, it is essential to listen to the concerns and ideas of the workforce; being open to suggestions will create a more harmonious workplace and improve the company culture of the business.



Kate Palmer CIPD is the head of advisory at law firm Peninsula and is a member of its senior leadership team. She joined in 2009 having held a senior HR manager's role in another large company. With a specialist background in facilities management in the NHS, Kate offers a wealth of employment law experience. She's an expert negotiator - one notable case was with the NHS's trade unions over terms and conditions in the Agenda for Change pay system.

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