If you’re asked how much you like your job today, your answer will depend on many factors. If your boss is breathing down your neck for a report, this is the day you’ll likely respond, “I hate my job!”

If you’re asked the same question tomorrow after the report is turned in, your response might be different. You might feel more positive about work, especially because your stress level is reduced and you feel more secure about your role.

Now, imagine your IT team members feel the same way from day to day. Their beliefs about their roles affect their perceptions of workplace culture. These perceptions influence the success or failure of the team.

Understand Your IT Team’s Needs

While you may have high empathy and feel able to place yourself in the shoes of team members, it’s impossible to understand their needs all the time. Whenever you get caught up in a difficult project, you may forget to discuss their assignments and how things are going in terms of work satisfaction, workload, and level of stress. You may forget to ask them about their families and their personal lives, but you should understand their beliefs about the team even when there’s no time.

Why are their beliefs important? These are the foundation of your team’s culture! However, you can also influence their beliefs to strengthen the team. It’s a general belief that, in order to build a strong team, especially in IT where people collaborate from multiple locations, you should give your team shared dramatic experiences. This means scheduling time for the team to leave the workplace and attend corporate retreats or team challenges.

What Workplace Culture Means is Subjective

Whether we’re content with the workplace culture or not, we should understand that the team’s wellbeing is a matter of perception. Bob in Project Management might conceive the state of wellbeing in the company to be vibrant, fast-paced, friendly, and supportive of diversity. Meanwhile, Maria, the coding team’s administrative assistant, might feel that her co-workers belong to cliques and don’t like her; she really wants to transfer to another project.

Workplace Culture Changes

Rajeev Bhardwaj writes: “Work culture is an intangible ecosystem that makes some places great to work and other places toxic. In a nutshell, the ideology of an organization is what constitutes its work culture.”

We also know workplace beliefs frequently change. Employees don’t develop or hold onto their beliefs in a vacuum. What’s more, employees view this ecosystem according to their own working conditions. A big factor impacting employees’ perceptions of culture lies in the relationships they maintain with colleagues. Even two people working on a year-long project hold different cultural views and feel it currently meets (or fails to meet) their needs. The question becomes what IT leaders should do to create a better workplace culture. First, let’s consider the rest of the definition of workplace culture.

How Culture Works

When we consider how to define an organization as having a good culture, such as one where people want to work, there are a number of factors to consider. Obviously, employees want to work for a company with a good reputation and competitive salaries/benefits. They also prefer a work schedule that fits their family’s needs. Some employees want opportunities for advancement and to receive benefits that help them prepare for future jobs, including management training programs and tuition reimbursement.

While these benefits may seem like enough to attract employees and keep them in the organization, they aren’t.

Set a Priority for Cultural Values

As leaders, we can introduce new benefits to the workplace that help employees feel healthier, more positive about their jobs, and able to maintain a work-life balance. If we want employees to be productive and to feel they belong to the culture, we must give them every opportunity to succeed.

They need to work in a positive ecosystem where they feel appreciated and that the level of benefits equals or exceeds what they invest themselves. How else will they feel valued and want to keep working for us? We can set a priority for employees to be well and to provide benefits that promote their wellbeing. This includes offering incentives for high performance, encouraging workers to take time off and rewarding them with flexible scheduling (even telecommuting), and offering a gym membership or gym reimbursement program.

Start With Small Changes

While we can add employee benefits in waves and try to change their working conditions, a word of caution is needed. If we believe there’s something wrong with our team’s culture, it doesn’t make sense to upset employees by introducing too many changes at once. Sometimes, employees respond better when their leaders attempt small changes. The mindset is that leaders should try to improve workplace ambience, which can be achieved without spending too much.

Over time, an organization’s leaders can also shape culture, through conscious and unconscious actions (sometimes with unintended consequences). The best leaders we have observed are fully aware of the multiple cultures within which they are embedded, they can sense when change is required, and can deftly influence the process.

Map It Out

Before you try to introduce changes to the team, make a diagram of all the cultures in which you’re embedded. Be sure to add the names of team members who are also in those cultures. If you value your employees and want them to stay, make it easy for them to believe they belong to the workplace team.

Make your meetings with the group and with the individual members a top priority. Do everything in your power to help them buy into the shared beliefs of the team, to contribute new ideas and values, and to increase their rapport with others. When you see problems with the culture, sit down and have an open discussion with all members about where to make improvements.

They should be part of the process of determining changes to make the workplace climate better. The result will be a more positive work atmosphere where people feel secure about their identity, or sense of belonging to the team.

To learn how ServiceTree enhances your business culture, aligns your team members and respects everyone’s unique talents and beliefs, click here.

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