15 Ways Leaders Can Foster a Supportive Company Culture

Originally published by Newsweek.com

Loren Margolis, Founder & Managing Director, Training & Leadership Success

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The role of company culture in many businesses has changed in recent years. This has meant moving away from traditional power structures where leaders decided the business path forward to systems that focus on intentionally giving employees a seat at the decision-making table.

While these efforts have proved fruitful for attracting and retaining employees, fostering a supportive internal culture is an ongoing undertaking that must regularly be assessed.

As experts, the members of Newsweek Expert Forum understand the key role that leaders play in maintaining company culture. Below, 15 of them share their best advice on how leaders can create and sustain a supportive internal culture.

1. Empower Curiosity and Creativity
As proclaimed by management consultant Peter Drucker, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” meaning that without the right culture, the best plans are unlikely to succeed. A culture that welcomes curiosity and creativity—fueled by a sense of empowerment and accountability in line with company objectives—will attract and engage a purpose-driven organization to achieve the otherwise unachievable. – Margie Kiesel, Avaneer Health

2. Encourage Open Communication
Communication is paramount to a supportive culture. Every employee is unique and motivated by different things. It’s important to have an open door-culture where leaders can get to know their team and what drives each member to be their best, both personally and professionally. Communication also fosters trust and an understanding of each member’s strengths so the team can work together smoothly. – Sandra Cho, Pointwealth Capital Management

3. Prioritize Employee Wellness
It’s imperative that leaders ask new or prospective hires how they destress, what they value outside of their professional roles and what boundaries they need to set in order to maintain productivity without feeling constantly overwhelmed. Fueling a culture that values collaboration, authenticity and innovation begins with prioritizing wellness. – Leah Marone, Corporate Wellness Consultant

4. Actively Listen to Employee Feedback
One effective way leaders can foster a supportive culture is by actively listening to and addressing employee concerns and suggestions. This shows that the organization values and prioritizes employee well-being while also creating a sense of trust and mutual respect between employees and leadership. – Joseph DeWoody, Valor

5. Focus on Psychological Safety
Psychological safety, the shared belief that your culture is safe for interpersonal risk-taking, is key to attracting and retaining talent. The first step is to build a habit of nonjudgemental listening so employees feel heard. Don’t listen for data that reinforces your view, but do listen without interrupting. Ask questions to understand their view. A culture where people feel heard is one that thrives. – Loren Margolis, Training & Leadership Success LLC

6. Cater to the Individual Needs of Employees
Everyone wants to feel appreciated and valued. Recognizing that everyone is different and designing programs that reach out to meet people where they perceive their needs are is critical. You can get some of this information from surveys. The key is to react quickly to the information to make sure people know you are responding to what they have articulated. – Alexa Kimball, Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians at Beth Israel Deaconess

7. Invest in Employee Development from the Start
When hiring, it is important to understand whether an employee fits the company beyond their role. If you can only imagine them serving in that one role, they may not be the right choice. Hire people because you see their potential to fit into roles that don’t even exist yet, and then promote from within. This shows the team that they are more than just today’s needed skill. – Brian Katz, Safer School Solutions

8. Implement Job Shadowing Programs
What works for our company is offering job shadowing. We put all newly hired employees with highly motivated and professionally experienced employees for two weeks. This gets them off to a great start by having them to train one-on-one with someone who also does the job well. – Tammy Sons, Tn Nursery

9. Discover What Employees Want for Their Career
Employees all have career goals and dreams, and sometimes they are not fully defined. Taking the time to talk with team members about what they would like out of their career (not what the company wants out of them) creates a bond and a longer term view of their current employer. Promoting from within whenever practical is a companion strategy to supporting team members’ career goals. – Eric Bing, The College of Healthcare Professions

10. Create a Meritocracy
One way to foster employee support is to create a meritocracy in your culture. Employees feel supported when they are encouraged to bring their ideas to the table. Encourage open dialogue with all employees. Recognize them for bringing their best ideas forward and judge them based on the merit and data they use to support their point of view, not who brought them forward. – Matt Domo, FifthVantage

11. Make Space for Diverse Opinions and Voices
A culture that supports employees starts with inclusivity. Leaders need to set the precedent that all opinions should be considered in the decision-making process. Invite others to participate in larger discussions and create space for them to build trust and show that everyone’s opinions are valued. More voices mean new ideas and greater opportunities for companies to succeed. – Faisal Pandit, Panasonic Connect North America

12. Walk the Walk
Improve your “say:do” ratio. Employees notice how often what leaders say matches what leaders do. A high “say:do” ratio leads to employee engagement and leadership trust while a low “say:do” ratio leads to employee turnover and quiet quitting. If you say what you will do and then do what you said, your talent will respond in kind because as goes the leadership, so goes the team. – Karen Mangia, Salesforce

13. Be a Role Model
The best way a leader can foster a positive, supporting culture is to exhibit it themselves. That means that leaders should look at their own policies to assess the chain of command and how well they know employees. They should show employees how they expect them to act by treating others that way whenever they encounter workers, mid-management leaders or even the custodial staff. – Baruch Labunski, Rank Secure

14. Equip Management With Needed Interpersonal and Leadership Skills
In the ongoing war for human talent, attrition can be a company’s undoing. Gallup polls show that many people leave companies because of negative relationships with direct managers along with negative cultures. One effective way leaders can foster supportive internal cultures is to equip managers with critical skills like coaching and empathy to nurture and grow talent for the long haul. – Lillian Gregory, The 4D Unicorn

15. Align Around Company Values
A culture is built from the top down through values. A congruent leader embodies the values to which the company aspires and also ensures employees are hired based on their alignment with these values. When everyone at a company represents the brand’s values, it’s much easier to find and keep like-minded employees who are working together for the same goal and can firmly stand behind the company. – April White, Trust Relations