Workplace culture is an ethereal thing. First, every company has one, whether they’ve consciously built it or not. Deliberate creation of corporate culture should stem from shared goals and values that everyone buys into. There are companies out there who claim their corporate culture is about skiing or the founder’s favorite movie, but that’s a theme.
Culture is deeper than that and certainly more nuanced. While workplace technology is not the same as culture, improving workplace culture aided by technology will put you on the right path.
Technology fosters inclusivity. Inclusivity makes it easier for employees to have a voice in the creation of company culture.
What is workplace culture, really?
Inc.com defines workplace culture as "the shared values, attitudes, standards, and beliefs that characterize members of an organization and define its nature. Workplace culture is rooted in an organization’s goals, strategies, structure, and approaches to labor, customers, investors, and the greater community." HR Daily Advisor breaks down four types of workplace cultures you’re likely to find in companies around the world, but these are by no means the only ones:
Clan cultures are friendly, collaborative, and inclusive, like a family or a clan, where people have a lot in common. In a workplace experience like this, employees form bonds with one another as they move toward common goals.
You’ll find this type of culture in many tech companies where innovation and risk-taking are not only encouraged, but needed. Here is where you’re most likely to hear, "it’s okay to fail." Companies like this are open to change, and move fast.
Achievement is the core value of Market Culture. The shared goals are making as much profit and capturing as much of the market share as possible. While that’s the goal of every company, a market culture is transparent about it.
If a company is dealing with life-or-death issues, like a government agency, healthcare, or aviation company, chances are excellent it’s a culture of hierarchy. Following a chain of command, governance, and a proven methodology are goals. It’s the way the military and police forces operate—and with good reason.
There are no judgment calls on any cultural workplace experience. You just need to find the type that’s right for you. When improving workplace culture, regardless of the kind of culture you’re trying to foster, technology is available to enable it.
Let’s take a look at some goals you might be looking to achieve and the workplace technology available to help:
1. Light their way with clear career paths
Workers today aren’t just in their jobs for the paychecks. They’re looking to make a contribution and a difference in the world. They need to know their lives have meaning. And they want to have some idea where all their work is leading them.
No matter which culture you’re in, workplace tech that helps employees along their paths shows that the company cares about the employees as people.
TalentGuard is a software solution for improving workplace culture by automating internal job vacancies, recommending career paths, and job rotations aligned to employees’ skills, goals, and aspirations. It also helps managers to coach employees with meaningful conversations about their careers. C2 Technologies offers a self-service career path guide that can be customized to your company. Employees need only enter their career goals and skills, and the software shows them potential jobs to strive for. The app gives them information about the skills, experience, and education they need to get there.
2. Improving workplace culture with flexibility—about everything
Not that long ago, workplace flexibility meant only one thing: working from home. But that was a highly simplistic viewpoint. Not everybody who requires flexibility necessarily wants to telecommute. But the reasons employees might have been asking for it might have something to do with their workplace experience.
Employees with sensitivities to noise, light, or temperature might do better in the office with accommodations to suit them, says Matt Harris, Head of Workplace Tech at Envoy. "This shift involves addressing the need for a variety of different working spaces: for example, soft seating and comfortable spaces, closed off dark places, warm and well-lit places," he explains.
Harris also envisions ways to use technology to personalize the workplace experience. He turns to smart devices for inspiration. "People have smart devices in their home, and they want to have that control in the office as well," he says. Some ideas include dynamic work environments that can be programmed for individual needs and preferences.
Still, some people do need to work remotely. Travelers, as well as employees in other countries and regions, need the flexibility of remote work. Cloud-based applications for collaboration like Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, and ShareFile offer low-cost, high-impact options. It’s also essential to have high-quality videoconferencing software, he says, where remote employees can be seen and heard equally with those in the office.
3. Break open communication barriers with technology
In any company, improving workplace culture is always about communication. Email once ruled the roost when it came to communication technology. Still, now, not even that is fast or effective enough. Email offers users no clue about whether an email is a direct message for them, was forwarded to them, or whether it’s an FYI until they open it.
Email isn’t a hindrance to communication, but it’s not great, either. In light of web-based products like Slack, Hipchat, and Jabber that allow real-time chat with one or many people at a time, it’s hard to think of email as relevant anymore.
CEO David Levin, of Four Winds Interactive, told Chief Executive.com that Slack is a great way to keep employees connected. It’s not only a fantastic communication enabler, but it brings people together who have shared passions outside of work. "We encourage employees to join Slack channels based on common interests like skiing, running," Levin said. "Today, we’ve got 30+ channels dedicated to various interests, and we can always add more whenever we need to. It’s amazing how many vibrant sub-communities we have, and how active these channels are."
In the office, this workplace technology has a bonus benefit. Open office plans encourage collaboration and conversation. Apps like Slack lets employees both in and out of the office to have lively discussions without the noise.
4. Make recognition a cornerstone of workplace culture
Employees today care about making a difference, as we mentioned above, but they also need recognition to feel fulfilled at work. Improving workplace culture by building in gratitude and appreciation can be built into any workplace culture type. According to employee recognition software company 15Five, companies that recognize employees are 12% more likely to impact engagement, and 35% more likely to help with staff retention.
There is no shortage of companies that offer cloud-based software to privately and publicly recognize employees. Some, like Kudos, Tap my Back, and Workhuman each provide different ways to show appreciation, and they tie in with existing systems and platforms.
5. Bake in sustainability
The environment is a priority for today’s workers, and they go so far as to choose where to work based on the company’s culture and attitude about environmental and sustainability issues. Technology offers enormous opportunities for companies to infuse sustainability goals into their workplace culture.
From digital whiteboards to collaboration software, workplace technology can help a company go paperless. Sensors and cameras, Matt Harris noted, can monitor the number of people in a room and adjust heat, light, and even C02 levels accordingly. Sensors already turn lights on and off when they detect movement, but the Internet of Things can take things so much further by adjusting HVAC automatically, monitor and control water use, and harness solar power.
Improving workplace culture is an exciting way to make real and lasting changes to a company that drives employee happiness, productivity, and retention. Shared goals and values are the principles behind families, teams, and even nations, and people naturally crave a sense of belonging with like-minded people. Workplace technology takes a corporate culture from a vapor-like concept to a concrete, measurable entity.
Read Matt Harris’ full interview (Part 1) and (Part 2). In it, he discusses office evolution, the balance between the Internet of Things and privacy, what to do if technology flops, and how to make work easier for remote employees.