Is Your Culture Toxic? Tell-Tale Signs That Your Company Culture Needs a Re-Boot

Business.com / Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

If you see these signs, it may be time to take a step back and evaluate your company culture. What to look for, plus how to fix it.

If you own a business, you might be inclined to think that your company culture is totally awesome.You love this fledgling thing that you’ve built from the ground up. It’s your baby.

But you know those parents who convinced themselves that their alien-looking baby is just the cutest little being in the entire world? Yea, that might be you.

Small business owners can wear those same rose-colored glasses that allow parents to overlook their child’s flaws.

According to The 2014 TINYpulse Employee Engagement and Organizational Culture Report, 64 percent of all employees surveyed feel that they do not have a strong work culture. That’s not a feathery stat. Studies upon studies show that company culture- what a business stands for and how it interacts both internally and with customers- directly relates to productivity and revenue. In fact, companies with engaged employees outperform those without engaged employees by 202 percent.

So if you think you might be looking at your company's morale, here are the ways to tell if you if you’ve been looking at the glass a little too full and you just might need a company culture jump-start.

Related Article: How to Change Your Company Culture Mid-Stream

Your Employee Turnover Rate Is Way Too High

If you’re hiring and losing employees left and right (and you’re not a retail or restaurant manager) then you should revisit your company culture. In 2014, the average voluntary turnover rate clocked in at 11 percent, so if you’re experiencing annual mass exoduses, something might be broken.

An analysis by RoundPegg found that new employees with a strong cultural fit were 27.2 percent less likely to leave within their first 18-months after being hired. When you’re hiring new people, make sure you’re choosing the ones with the personalities and tendencies that best fit your company. Skills can be learned, but if you hire a square peg and force him into the round hole of your company, the entire company can shift out of place.

Your Employees Are Constantly Cough, Cough “Sick”

This should be obvious. Sure, sometimes the flu can spread like wildfire in office settings, but unhappy employees (who become so unhappy because of poor company culture) will be absent from work more often than those who are satisfied with their current position. Like 15 days more often.

Your Mission Statement Is Super Vague

Instituting a strong, specific mission statement rallies employees, boosts productivity and retains customers. If your mission statement sounds something like “Company X aims to be the best we can be, day in and day out, based on a strategy that just works”, then your company culture is built on ambiguity, an employee should be able to look at a non-ambiguous, tangible mission and ask themselves, “Do I belong here? Do I contribute to the purpose of this company?” Gallup found that emphasizing a concrete mission statement was one of the strongest factors for retaining employees. Unfortunately, only 41 percent of employees actually know what their company stands for.

A solid mission statement is also important for the sake of consumer retention (a.k.a returning revenue). Vanilla-bland statements do nothing for brand differentiation, and if your employees aren’t entirely sure what the hell they’re doing for your specific industry, your customers don’t either.

Your Employees Hate Each Other

Okay, maybe hate is a strong word. But if none of your employees hang outside of work or they all bolt before happy hour each Friday, then maybe you should start hiring personality first, skills second. Companies like Zappos analyze job applicants based on a good cultural fit and even offer candidates 2,000 dollars to quit if they feel they aren’t a right fit for the company. That technique might be out of your budget, but you can implement hiring processes that are more cost efficient and effective.

Related Article: Creating An Employee-Centric Company Culture Will Not Be The Death Of Your Business

When You Have Strategy Sessions, No One Speaks

During meetings, do you often find it difficult to get employees to come forth with ideas, concepts or designs? Are you starting to feel like you hired a bunch of shy risk-adverse employees? You didn’t (hopefully). Your company culture just might need a bit of flattening out. A very top-down management can create a toxic environment if employees feel that their voices aren’t being heard– or that their failures are punished.

Allow your employees or management staff to take time and come up with new, innovative ideas and then reward them for it. The managers at General Electric, for example, are tasked with bringing three pioneering business ideas to the executive level each year. Similarly, employees at 3M can allocate 15 percent of their workweek to brainstorming and developing new notions. You too can easily create a similar structure.

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