Team culture is defined as the values, goals, and ways of working of a team of people in the workplace. If employees cooperate, share knowledge, and support one another, they likely have a strong team culture.
Different teams in an organization can have entirely different cultures from one another. The nature of the department that the team is in can often influence this. For example, teams in the marketing department may have a more relaxed culture than teams in the finance department.
The cultures of different teams will impact the broader organizational culture.
The Difference Between Team Culture and Organizational Culture
While team culture often contributes to organizational culture, it can be different.
Team culture is concerned with how employees in a team share knowledge and how team members support one another. The attitudes of the manager or team leader often govern team culture.
Organizational culture is described as an organization’s personality. It’s usually set by the attitudes and expectations of board members. An organization’s mission, goals, and ethics all contribute to organizational culture.
Why Is Team Culture Important?
A study from Forbes found that a workplace with a strong culture will increase employees’ productivity. The study also found that a positive culture can boost morale and increase employee engagement. Following this, Gallup found that businesses with high employee engagement had a 20% increase in sales year on year.
A strong workplace culture can positively influence team culture. Getting workplace and team culture right could result in higher sales and an overall more profitable business.
Here are some examples of positive qualities in a strong workplace and team culture.
- A collaborative workforce means that employees can communicate freely with each other. This facilitates strong teamwork skills and allows employees to bond with colleagues. Gallup found that employees who form friendships at work are more productive and recommend their workplace to others.
- Improved conflict resolution. In a team of people, it is natural to experience occasional disagreements. What’s essential is that conflict is resolved quickly and effectively. A strong team culture can support this. A foundation of mutual trust and respect makes it easier to resolve workplace disagreements.
- Improved adaptability. Change is a natural part of life, so adaptability is crucial in the business world. A team with a strong culture will support one another through a changing environment. Encouraging adaptability allows your business to thrive long-term. It can also help your team to be more resilient in their personal lives.
- A feeling of unity. Your team must feel unified in their group to accomplish its common goals. The importance of a strong team culture shouldn’t be underestimated when it comes to fostering this feeling of unity.
Measuring and Creating Team Culture
Team culture can be difficult to define and hard to measure. Each employee is likely to experience team culture differently. They may have different opinions about what a good culture looks like.
The best way to build a strong team culture is to measure and understand the culture that you currently have. Once you’ve done this, you can look at how you can create your desired culture.
The fairest way to measure culture is to collect as much data as possible about it. This will help you to measure team values, vision, and ways of working. You will then be able to understand how strong your current culture is and what areas you can improve.
Consider the below when trying to build team culture.
Decide what culture you would like to have
Your first step should be deciding what culture you want your team to have. Think about some teams you’ve been part of in the past that you admire or the qualities of other successful teams in your workplace. Try writing down a list of the qualities of those teams. For example, are they hard-working, empathic, committed, etc.?
Once you have collated a list of the qualities of different teams, try comparing them. Are there any similarities in their actions or behaviors? Are the traits you’re describing action-based—like competitiveness—or are they soft skills, like empathy? Once you have a list of characteristics you’d like to emulate, this will indicate the type of team culture you’d like to have.
Here are some more pointers on what to consider t when deciding your team culture.
- Do these qualities align with your business’s mission statement? For example, if your mission statement is “to support the best low-cost veterinary services”, you should have a team culture that’s dedicated to empathy and compassion.
- Do these qualities align with your company’s values? For example, a relaxed working culture wouldn’t align with the values of highly regulated industries such as banking and finance.
- Are these qualities ethical and aligned with your industry standard? For example, working in a public health care setting or childcare facility does not align with a competitive team culture.
What is your current culture, and how can you measure it?
Once you’ve decided on what you’d like your culture to be, you should focus on your current team culture. Understanding what it’s currently like will help you to decide what steps to take to get closer to your desired culture.
There is no best way to measure your team’s culture. However, if you have access to key performance indicators (KPIs), this may be a good place to start. A team that consistently doesn’t hit its KPIs may be working in a stressful or uncollaborative team culture. This is something you will need to address.
Here are some examples of questions you could also ask to help you measure your current team culture.
- Do you feel empowered to solve problems?
- Do you socialize during lunch or outside of work?
- Do you often work unpaid overtime?
- Do you feel guilty taking PTO or absence leave?
- What are some common issues you experience?
- How diverse is the team?
- How would you describe the team’s current culture?
- How would you describe the organization’s current culture?
- Do you notice any toxic cultural habits?
- What is the team’s turnover rate?
- When was the last time someone on the team was promoted?
- How stressed do you feel on an average day?
- How stressed do you feel on a Sunday evening?
- Do you feel recognized?
- Do you feel appreciated?
You could ask any combination of these questions, or any other questions you feel will give insight into your team’s culture. Be aware that if you’re trying to fix the culture of a team that has been mismanaged in the past, they may be reluctant to give honest answers.
Employees may worry that they’ll be punished for providing negative responses. It’s important to explain that you’re trying to get a measure of the current culture to fix it. You should also confirm that nothing they tell you will be used against them at any point.
Trying to fix a bad culture takes time and honesty, so take the first step by creating a trusted space with your team members.
Once you have measured your current employee culture, you need to decide what changes you will make to work towards your desired culture. It may be beneficial to work backward and break each goal down into measurable steps to help you achieve them.
For example, if one of your goals is to have a more collaborative workforce. You won’t be able to change your employee’s mindset overnight. However, you can schedule a weekly meeting for all employees to discuss their current workload.
If they have too much work, you can encourage other team members to support them. If they’re light on work, you can encourage them to take on tasks from other team members.
You should split your actions into long-term goals and smaller “quick-win” style tasks that can happen immediately. Say you’d like to build a culture of trust amongst your team, a long-term goal may be to send them on a team-building exercise or weekend away. A short-term goal could be an after-work, company-funded pizza party.
You won’t be able to change a culture overnight, but you can take short-term and long-term steps to help you and your team achieve this common goal.
Create focus groups
Once you have implemented changes, you should consider running focus groups with your team. A focus group is a selection of representatives from your team who all come together regularly—for example, once a month—to talk about specific topics. Focus groups can be used to initially measure your company’s culture by gathering information on teams.
In this instance, you could use a focus group to measure how your team is adapting to the changes. This can give you insight into whether the changes are working and what further action could be taken. If your culture was already strong, your focus group could be tasked with maintaining your current culture or offering ways to improve it.
Your employees must know that a focus group is a safe space. They should not be punished or mistreated for voicing their opinion in these groups. You should encourage colleagues to share their authentic feelings and use those feelings to shape your team’s culture.
Your team members will give you valuable insight into how other employees feel, so actively listen and take notes on their findings. Try asking probing questions to delve deeper into how others are feeling.
Asking your employees to complete regular surveys can also help you understand how your employees are feeling.
Some workplaces host smaller, regular surveys to understand how employees feel. Other businesses hold large-scale, annual surveys called ‘listening surveys.’
In listening surveys, employees can voice their opinion on all types of things. This can include pay, culture, and the business environment. The scope of your survey will depend on the scale of change you are trying to make.
For example, a short, regular survey may be more beneficial if you are implementing small changes. However, if you’re trying to maintain a strong culture, consider something on a larger scale.
The key to these surveys is that they are anonymized. If employees feel their answers can be linked back to them, they may be reluctant to give honest feedback.
An employee survey is a great source of information. It can provide you with first-hand, quantitative data which you can use to measure employee culture. The data from an anonymized survey will be completely objective, which will help you understand how your employees feel.
Conduct exit interviews
Holding exit interviews with team members is another great way to measure your company’s culture. Employees are usually completely candid in exit interviews because they feel they have nothing to lose.
Exit interviews are a great way to understand what went wrong in an employee’s tenure that you can fix. You may also be able to establish whether a competitor has tempted them away from your organization. Keep thorough notes of any exit interviews you conduct and take action based on your findings.
If multiple employees leave your team or business citing a lack of opportunity, that may be related to a culture problem. If employees are leaving your business citing bullying or micromanaging, that may be related to a culture problem. You should ask lots of probing questions during an exit interview to understand why an employee is leaving.
Top Tips for Maintaining Great Team Culture
Once you’ve created a great team culture, it will need to be nurtured and developed over time. Your team will change significantly over the years, meaning the culture will also change. Below are some tips to help you maintain and develop a great team culture.
Develop your managers
It is often said that employees don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad managers. Your leaders will make or break your team’s culture, so ensure they’re trained and developed to be the best they can be. Ensure they tackle challenges with enthusiasm and positivity to nurture the same feelings within your team.
Focus on well-being
Maintaining your employees’ well-being should be a consistent part of your working day. Ensure that your team has access to the right benefits and resources to do their job well, and that feel supported by their teammates and manager. You should check in with your employees regularly to ensure they are not exhibiting symptoms of employee burnout or stress.
Hire the right people
Developing a strong culture starts on day 1, and you must hire the right people for your team to maintain its culture. To ensure an employee will be a good culture fit, you should ask questions that are specifically related to culture and team working in their interview. This will allow you to measure how they respond against your hiring manager checklist.
Work on your policies
Ensure your policies are written from the perspective of support. Include information about all the benefits and resources employees can access. Often, your workplace policies are an employee’s first reference point for simple queries, so your policies need to be clear.
The culture of your team will be determined by how well your employees work together. It will also depend on how effectively they share knowledge and their general attitude toward the workplace.
As an employer, you will need to nurture your team’s culture to ensure it is a strong and positive one. You can do this by developing your managers, getting your policies right, and hiring the correct people.
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