Season 1: Finding and keeping great people

Phumzile Skosana

5 Tips for creating an effective workplace culture where high performers can thrive 

Growing up, I was fascinated by engineering – wanting to know and understand how things work. I pursued a career in engineering and later founded Balleo Engineering. In my first year of business I hired contractors for various projects but there wasn’t any synergy. Our values and vision weren’t aligned, which meant we couldn’t serve clients to the full extent of our abilities.

I realised when I hired my first employee that people are the heart and soul of a company. High performers are a competitive edge for any organisation, big or small. I also know that creating a positive, empowering culture is about investing in people and making them feel empowered to excel at what they do. People with freedom and control are more likely to be engaged in their work, confident in their decisions, and proactive in improving the organisation.

These 5 tips will help you set your company culture for success.

1. Aligned purpose, vision, and values

Purpose, mission, and values are strategic business elements that, when thoughtfully developed and effectively implemented, act as a roadmap, helping organisations stay on track and work toward achieving their ultimate goals. They help guide business decisions, inspire employees, and establish customer loyalty.

You wouldn’t want to be on a bus where there’s no clear vision of where we are going, where the driver just takes the easy way and keeps changing directions to no end. We need to know where we are going even if we don’t know how to get there yet.

When companies align employees with company purpose, vision, and values, the better they can see the connection between their work and the business strategy, the better they’ll be able to drive business results. A stronger sense of purpose can help employees remain engaged in their work.

2. Communicate to build trust

Communication has always been the key to building trust in any relationship. You don’t call a high school buddy that you haven’t spoken to in ages if you want to share good or even bad news. You call someone you regard as close to you, mainly because you are in touch, care for, and support each other. In business, it is no different.

To build an effective workplace culture, we will need to establish a high level of trust in our constant interaction with one another, where communication is consistent, truthful, and meaningful. Trust is one of the currencies of business and is often the most valuable. Some of the biggest deals in history have been done, based on trust, which shows how valuable it is.

Where there is no trust, naturally, only a few will voice their opinions or ideas, and there will be little or no team cohesion. Building trust is essential to forging meaningful working relationships. Trust will allow you to hold people accountable without having to micro-manage them. Ultimately, in an environment where trust is valued and encouraged, people can thrive.

3. Encourage innovation

Your business’s competitiveness and survival are directly linked to your ability to innovate. Give employees a reason to care. The fact is, if people aren’t feeling inspired and connected to your vision and mission, there’s little incentive for them to be innovative. I believe one of Steve Jobs’ greatest talents was to inspire his team to believe in Apple as much as he did; hence, he could create a brand that keeps innovating long after he is gone.

Innovation needs to be encouraged and supported. Don’t be too critical when things go wrong, because people will hold back on making suggestions if they’re worried about potential consequences. People who are trusted to take safe risks and attempt new ways of doing things just may stumble across that next innovative business solution.

4. Prioritise performance management

The ongoing process of improving performance by setting individual and team goals that are aligned with the organisation’s strategic goals is key.

Employees need to understand what we expect of them and the importance of their contribution toward organisational goals and objectives. It would inspire someone who supervises a production line at a box manufacturing company if they knew that the boxes they manufacture are packaging for children’s medication or for wedding cakes. It matters that they see their role in the bigger picture and their contribution to society. They will be more driven to achieve their set goals.

Keep reviewing and assessing progress. It’s true that what gets measured, gets done. Based on the output of the employee’s performance management system, you’ll discover the training and development needs of the employees. It also provides scope and opportunities for incentives, rewards, performance, and career development.

5. Reward and recognise high performance

An important element of any business culture is rewarding and recognising high performance. In a healthy organisation, employees know they will be rewarded and recognised for exemplary performance. This is one way that companies combine extrinsic to intrinsic motivation to drive employee engagement and productivity.

When employees are rewarded, recognised, and celebrated for high performance and exceptional contributions, they feel valued and are encouraged to work harder. Rewarding high performers is a great way to improve morale, increase production, and ultimately boost your bottom line.

It would demoralise for someone committed and reliable to realise that their efforts are ignored and not appreciated. An effective performance appraisal process helps businesses promote and develop the values, principles, and competencies that are required to ensure optimal outcomes.

In conclusion..

Workplace culture is the most critical element to an organisation’s success. An effective workplace culture can lift a business to new heights and help it grow. Many of us have seen that a toxic workplace can quickly destroy a company from the inside out. In reality, most workplaces are somewhere in the middle. It takes a lot of hard work and creativity to create a workplace environment where high performers can thrive, but it’s worth it. Start with the intention to create a culture that develops, engages, and appreciates high performers. I believe that with these good intentions, we can achieve a lot.