4 Ways Leaders Can Create Award-Winning Corporate Culture

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Everyone wants to build a strong company culture, and it’s easy to see why. Whether your goal is attracting new talent, increasing retention or simply improving the workplace to boost employee morale, building — and maintaining — a healthy is essential to both your employees’ well-being and that of your . However, it’s important for leaders to recognize that there’s a difference between communicating corporate culture and creating it.

So what’s the difference? It’s all about what you’re putting into practice. As the founder and managing partner of a seven-figure law firm that was recently named “Best Place to Work” by Business First magazine, I’ve learned that creating a corporate culture is more than just words:

1. Ask your employees what’s important to them

To build a positive corporate culture, it’s important to put your employees first. As leaders, we all have an idea of what kind of company culture we want to build, but it’s important that this vision is inclusive of what our employees want as well. After all, if your concept of corporate culture doesn’t match your employees, you will have difficulty attracting and retaining top talent.

The best way to create a healthy corporate culture that employees love is through communication. Ask employees what they want out of the workplace, and put those suggestions into practice. Do they want free lunches? Shorter Fridays? Morning huddles? Hybrid work options?

Your employees are one of your best learning resources for creating a stellar corporate culture. Asking questions and implementing their feedback is a great way to improve your company’s culture while making your employees feel valued and heard.

Related: What Makes a Great Company Culture (and Why It Matters)

2. Go deep with your employee relationships

Don’t be afraid to encourage relationship-building that fosters a healthy sense of community within the workplace. Studies show that friendships between coworkers offer a whole host of benefits, including increased job satisfaction, improved productivity and reduced turnover.

Related: How to Attract New Employees Who Want to Do Great Work

While you don’t want to force relationships that just aren’t there, don’t be afraid to create space for organic connections to happen in the workplace. Create time for employees to connect on a personal level, so they know you view them as more than just a cog in the machine.

Not sure how to make this happen? Don’t overthink it. Even a simple employee 1-on-1 program can do the trick. Match up employees for a short outing — maybe coffee, a walk or lunch (paid for by the company, of course) — so people can get to know each other better.

3. Foster healthy boundaries around work (and mirror them)

If you want to create a truly award-winning corporate culture, then it’s time to have a conversation about boundaries. Overwork isn’t healthy, and — while it can be tempting to put in a few extra hours for the sake of the grind — research shows that working more doesn’t actually make you more productive either.

What does help? Taking breaks, for starters. Not only are frequent breaks great for productivity and creativity, but they can also help boost motivation and even improve your physical and mental health.

Related: 3 Ways to Get Employees to Actually Take a Break

If you want your employees to actually take breaks, however, you’re going to need to do more than just encourage them. Mandate breaks for both you and your team members, and model the behavior you want to build into your company culture. If it’s nice out, for example, encourage your employees to take a 10-minute walk. If the weather’s not great, have a mandatory coffee break to encourage your employees to reset and refocus.

Other ways you can encourage healthy boundaries include things like mandatory vacation, no work emails on nights and/or weekends, time off for doctor’s appointments (with no questions asked) or no eating lunch at your desk. The possibilities are endless! Don’t be afraid to ask your employees what they value, and create a culture that actually allows for these things instead of just saying you do.

4. Don’t run your business by someone else’s rules

If you want your business to be unique, then don’t do what other businesses do. Creating a healthy corporate culture that stands out from the pack requires innovation and adaptability. It’s not enough to offer the “standard” company culture that everyone else is modeling. If you want to be the best, then it’s time to experiment.

Close early on Fridays, celebrate everything, utilize credit card points to pay for employees’ vacations. I’ve seen many businesses try many different things, and there aren’t many “wrong” answers. Just do what works for you and your employees!

The most important thing to remember is to keep innovating. Your corporate culture will change as your business does, as your employees do, and as you do — and that’s a good thing. Embrace those changes and lean into them if you want to thrive.