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Open company culture

Strategies for a More Open Company Culture

By Sep Barkhodaee
Published on June 5, 2014

For many companies, it can be difficult to inspire engagement when workers’ desks are divided into cubicles and work is delegated in a way that emphasizes independence. Breaking down those barriers, however, is well worth the effort. By creating a culture of openness, firms can unlock new ideas and potentially even boost productivity from their staff.

Still, most businesses don’t know how to begin. Here are some strategies that can drive innovation and transform your company culture for the better.


Reconsider the layout
With traditional divided desks, employees may have a difficult time with collaboration. So depending on the industry and staff members’ day-to-day tasks, some companies may want to ditch the traditional cubicles for a different kind of office layout. Digiday explained that an open office, though a more extreme method, is one way to eliminate the physical silos and encourage communication among staff. Taking those walls down can have a significantly positive impact on workflow, particularly in agencies where creative brainstorming is crucial. However, in an interview with Forbes, Nigel Scott-Williams, a regional U.S. director for the furniture company Vitra, explained that it’s important for each team to feel like a separate unit with a specific semi-private zone so individuals don’t get constantly distracted. He stressed that both acoustics and sight lines should be taken into consideration. Firms may want to designate one zone for teamwork and another for individual, private tasks.


Start a dialogue
Inc. magazine pointed out that all company meetings can often feel like a monologue when they should feel like a dialogue. Starting a discussion with employees instead of simply spewing facts, figures and other information at them is more likely to keep them engaged and moreover – excited about the work that they do and their role in the company. The source advised always ending meetings with an open Q&A session so that every staff member has a chance to interact with managers and gain insight into different aspects of the business. Inc. pointed out that when employees leave, they are more likely to mimic that openness that was established in the meeting.


Manage like a mentor
According to Grey London CEO Chris Hirst, managers need to redefine their roles and become mentors. He told Fast Company that recasting higher-ups in this way is what enables employees to reach their full potential. When management is alienated from other staff, they are incapable of improving the company culture. London explained that a shift in the “emotional contract” can help build confidence and trust between workers, while also further motivating them to succeed. His company even offered junior executives a spot on the board to let them test their decision-making skills. What will come out of this approach? Hirst noted that businesses that disperse control and responsibilities in a nontraditional way may be surprised to find leaders at all levels. Another way to empower workers is by giving them the chance to acquire new skills and knowledge through online training software. Firms can create online courses about subject matter that relates to different areas of business to equip staff with cross-expertise.


Roll with the punches
Bad news is unavoidable in any business, and Inc. magazine emphasized that how management reacts to those challenges, mistakes and problems can have a major impact on the entire company’s attitude. Quickly launching blame, unleashing anger or just letting the situation affect your outlook too much may compromise staff morale. So Inc. recommended taking a totally different approach and thank the bearer of bad news. While it may be counterintuitive, the source noted that this will make employees more likely to share potential misfires and issues, thus allowing them to be resolved much faster and minimizing negative consequences.

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