How to create a positive culture within your social enterprise

Employment is a rollercoaster. At some stage during our working lives, we all experience the following two feelings when heading into the office:

  1. Trepidation. Who will upset me today? What task am I going to be given from which I’d rather run a mile? Let’s just get this over and done with…
  2. Excitement. I can’t wait to see the team. I wonder what we’ll achieve today…

No matter your pay grade, position on the company tree or level of experience, feeling number one will rear its head one day. You’ll have a job which fails to provide you with any degree of motivation; it won’t inspire you to reach greater heights and the people you work with will do nothing more than bring you down even further.

Conversely, feeling number two will also arrive at some stage (providing you never settle). Find the right position, the right company and the best team, and you’ll practically skip into the office each day, eager to get on with the task in hand.

So, what separates these two jobs?

It’s simple: the company culture.

The culture within the four walls of a business is vital to its success. A happy workforce is a productive, inventive, inspired workforce, and nowhere is this more important than in the land of the social enterprise.

If you’re just starting up, or believe the culture within your social enterprise is failing to inspire your people to do their best work, we’ve got a few tips that will help you create a brilliant, positive culture.

Encourage mutual respect

Something that separates social enterprises from traditional businesses is their ability to dispense with hierarchy. As important as an organisational tree might be, its relevance in the day-to-day running of a social enterprise is diluted somewhat, thanks to an abundance of mutual respect.

This stands to reason, because as soon as the team loses respect for the founder, the enterprise is as good as finished.

By fostering a culture where everyone respects one another and in which no one is afraid to dispense with egos and dive into any task that needs a collaborative effort, a seriously productive social enterprise will arise.

Dispense with traditional working arrangements

A 2016 study found that 1.5 million people shunned the office for a more flexible working life, swapping traditional ‘9-5’ based working environments for their home, and irregular periods within the office.

While a workforce of homeworkers may not suit every social enterprise, the ability to dispense with traditional working arrangements and provide plenty of flexibility for staff to work hours that suit their lives and productivity will make for a modern, happy culture.

Many organisations approach this new way of working with a degree of trepidation, which is entirely understandable, but by embracing it, your social enterprise will demonstrate that it values staff happiness and the ability to be productive whenever inspiration strikes over garden-walled working arrangements.

Establish a layer of trust

Micro management and an ever-watchful eye over everything you do is no fun for anyone. Managers quickly tire of having to spend an inordinate amount of time overseeing the work of others and for employees, the ‘big brother’ treatment is completely demoralising.

Thankfully, establishing a layer of trust within a social enterprise is satisfyingly easy; embrace autonomy, encourage everyone to forge their own path and make it clear that each and every person plays an identically vital role in the enterprise. In return, you’ll gain deeper, more productive relationships with the team.

Show appreciation (every day)

Don’t save rewards for bonus day or pats on the back for the end of year personal review; reward the people within your social enterprise at every given opportunity.

When someone does something brilliant – no matter how small – reward them publicly, there and then.

Remove any examples of mood-hoovering

Positivity breeds productivity. Negativity brings everyone down – even if it originates from a single source.

Any bad vibes that enter the building each day put a sizeable barrier between your social enterprise and its success, therefore if someone is clearly hoovering up any positivity within your organisation, you need to stamp it out, quickly.

That doesn’t necessarily mean disciplinary action, either, because the source of the negative might be more complex than you think. Speak to the person (or people) involved and find out what’s wrong. They’re only human, and if you show you care and want them to be a part of a happy, positive team, they’ll likely open up.

Summary

Feeling inspired? Too right!

There’s lots more you can do to build a positive culture within your social enterprise, but the examples above can be acted upon immediately and without the need to dip into the bank balance.

Building a great culture shouldn’t cost anything but your time. Invest enough of it, and your social enterprise will go onto bigger and better things than you ever thought possible.

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