In the 20 years I’ve been leading teams, I’ve learned that a culture of continuous improvement is crucial if organizations are to continually evolve, improve and develop.
Our leadership team strives to weave continuous improvement into the culture at RelationEdge. We make efforts to get our employees directly involved in the growth and development of our company’s culture — this not only ensures our culture doesn’t become stale, but also helps our team members feel more invested in the company’s success, and that of our customers.
Like RelationEdge, many companies face challenges in developing and maintaining a cohesive culture across numerous locations. Here are some of the ways we cultivate a culture of continuous improvement across all RelationEdge locations and offices.
1. We Evaluate and Define Our Culture
The first step to creating a healthy culture is understanding the current culture. It requires an understanding of how people work best, what their skill sets are, and what helps and hinders them from working well together.
Formal evaluation can be helpful in defining the culture. At RelationEdge, we recently completed our first employee engagement survey, which provides us with a baseline as we go forward. It showed us, in part, what is working and what we need to adjust to create a culture that aligns with our business goals, and the needs of our employees and clients.
It’s also important to make sure all employees understand how they contribute to the culture — executives and non-executives alike. Their actions, their conversations, and how they deliver a product or service are all important.
Do leaders listen to employees’ concerns? Do employees act as individuals or as members of a team? Do leaders prioritize improvement opportunities and resource them accordingly? Dive into your current culture to find the answers to these questions, and your opportunities for continuous improvement will become clear.
2. We Bring People Together
At RelationEdge, we’ve decided to hire the best people we can find, wherever they are. This means we hire for skills and cultural fit over location, allowing employees to work remotely, which enables us to build teams of highly talented people. It also means we have to put in extra effort to engage employees who work all over the United States and the UK and make sure everyone’s voices are heard.
We accomplish this with a variety of strategies. We group our employees into teams, based on office locations and regions to ensure that employees meet each other and share ideas with others in their area. We arrange regional events to bring people together in person, whether they are volunteering together, playing dodgeball, or attending a company holiday party. Each year, we host multiple holiday parties in various cities to ensure everyone has a chance to celebrate with their co-workers.
We host company-wide meetings via video chat, to enable all remote employees to not only hear but also see the company leaders presenting. More importantly, we ensure that part of the time spent together in meetings and company events is dedicated to giving our teams the opportunity to share what they do. This provides recognition of their accomplishments, gives them a voice in front of their colleagues, and allows employees to learn from each other and be informed of progress across the company (not just on their own team). This kind of peer-to-peer learning is a key piece of our culture of continuous improvement.
3. We Invest in Employee Development
If a company is to continuously improve, its employees must be continuously learning. RelationEdge enables its employees to pursue certification options and build their skill sets, such as through Trailhead courses and other forms of online learning. We are conscientious about providing employees with the opportunity to study for new certifications and to practice their newfound skills on actual projects — employees need the chance to get hands-on experience.
When possible, we send employees to events where they can gain invaluable experience and knowledge in their field.
We’re also working on finding ways to better support our employees in defining and pursuing their career paths. We want to understand where our employees want to go and how we can help get them there. One program we’ve implemented for this is a peer-to-peer mentoring program, where any employee who wants to be mentored is paired with a colleague who has volunteered to be their mentor. This enables team members to gain professional advice, insight, and support from others who are passionate about their career.
4. We Understand What a Broken Culture Looks Like
As important as it is to define a healthy and strong culture, it’s equally important for leaders to understand signs that parts of your culture may be broken. A high attrition rate can be a sign of a culture of stagnation, as employees are more likely to leave workplaces were they feel they can’t grow. Poor communication is also a sign of a broken culture.
When you identify broken areas in your company culture, craft an action-oriented plan with your leadership team to address those areas. Understand that change won’t happen overnight, so it may take a few months to truly see the results of your efforts. Culture requires constant care and attention. It takes follow-through over months and years to make positive changes.
Perhaps most importantly, communicate your intended changes to your employees. If you’ve recently identified a broken area of your culture, I can promise you that your employees have known about it for months already. As a leader, it can be difficult to stay informed on what’s going on throughout all corners of the company — so once you do identify an area for improvement, it’s essential to communicate your intention to improve with all of your staff. This shows your employees that you are aware of a need for improvement and that you are taking steps to address it; in other words, it’s a way of showing your employees respect.
In healthy, productive companies, change never ends. Just as companies must continuously adapt to new market realities, they must also continuously adapt to new cultural realities to make their workplaces great. These are just some of the ways we cultivate a culture of continuous improvement at RelationEdge — of course, in the spirit of continuously improving, we are ever adjusting and tweaking these strategies to fit what our culture needs.