Want to Be a Healthy Nonprofit? Your Culture is Your Secret Weapon

By Lisa Hirst Carnes | March 2023

Illustration of professional pulling a rope to move needle on happiness scale.

Think about the last time you had a great day on the job. What were the circumstances? Chances are, it was a combination of supportive colleagues, an empathetic manager, reasonable workload, and meaningful work.

But there's another factor that's as important: your workplace culture. A healthy workplace is key to having a happy and productive team and retaining good people.

And as legendary consultant Peter Drucker famously said, "Team health will eat strategy for breakfast any day of the week." I couldn't agree more!

In this post, we'll discuss what makes a workplace culture strong. But first, let's start at with the basics.

What is Workplace Culture?

Workplace culture is the shared values and beliefs that drive behavior in an organization. It's the environment that you create for team members to do their best work. A strong culture can attract and retain talented people, encourage collaboration, and foster loyalty. Likewise, a toxic or "meh" workplace culture can send people packing.

Fumigate Toxic Cultures

A toxic workplace culture can affect both morale and performance. A toxic environment is one in which team members feel undervalued, bullied, or ignored. Do you know the old saying that one rotten apple spoils the whole barrel? It's especially true when it comes to workplace culture.
Signs of a toxic workplace include gossip, power struggles, and lack of recognition and trust. Toxic workplaces can result in absenteeism and high turnover, which cost organizations money. According to MIT Sloan Management Review, toxic workplaces were a driving factor in The Great Resignation.
If your organization has a toxic culture, assess what's causing the problem. It could be a lack of clear expectations or something more systemic. Talk to team members to identify solutions. It may be helpful to bring in an outside consultant to review your practices and suggest changes.
If you don't have a toxic culture but your workplace is a little "meh," what can you do to build a healthy culture?

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Understand that Core Values are Foundational

Creating a strong workplace culture starts with defining your core values. These underpin everything you do, from how you treat each other to how you conduct business. Your core values should show in your decisions and processes. Our core values: service, craftsmanship, evolution, harmony, and happiness, are our north star.

Set Clear Expectations

Set clear expectations for team members and provide them with necessary support. This includes resources such as training and development programs and incentives recognizing achievement. At ArcStone, we define roles and responsibilities using role cards. A role card includes the role's mission, role-based competencies, key performance indicators (KPIs), native genius statement, and qualifications.

Strive for Open Communication

Creating an environment that encourages open communication, and sharing ideas is essential. That means setting up regular feedback loops, both formal, such as performance reviews, and informal, such as one-on-one check-ins. It also involves creating a space for team members to share concerns without fear of reprisal.

Illustration of good work team.

Build a Diverse Team

Building a diverse team builds a strong team. Diverse teams help foster a sense of inclusion, as each member feels valued for their unique skills and perspectives. This can help foster an atmosphere of respect, trust, and understanding.
A diverse team has the potential to improve problem-solving capability, creativity and communication. With greater diversity, your team can better understand and meet the needs of those from different backgrounds.

Invest in Career Mapping and Upskilling

Career mapping and upskilling are essential for building a successful and healthy team. Investing in your employees will empower them to take ownership of their careers. According to LinkedIn, employees at organizations that promote from within stay twice as long.

Foster Team Building

When I think of team building exercises, trust falls come to mind. But, team building doesn't have to be cheesy. Team building exercises play an important role in creating a strong workplace culture. Whether it’s as simple as going out for lunch, fostering relationships outside of work creates stronger bonds within the team.
Other ideas include hosting happy hours, hosting guest speakers, or volunteering. These activities encourage team members to connect and build trust, which is essential for a successful team. Investing in your staff will not only boost morale, it will also increase loyalty and commitment.
Illustration of coworkers doing a high five.

Let Your Quirkiness Shine

I'm not going to lie. Team building is tough when you work remote. We're all still burnt out from Zoom happy hours. If your team is remote, you'll have to work extra hard to create a cohesive culture but it's possible! We've worked some quirky ideas into our routine to foster connections and build trust.
At ArcStone, Wednesdays aren't only the middle of the week hump day. Wednesdays are ✨Sparkle Wednesdays✨! Every Wednesday, we pose a question for everyone to answer. It usually elicits a sometimes deep, often hilarious response that leads to conversation. Side note - If you're interested in learning more about Sparkle Wednesday, sign up here.

Practice Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage emotions. It refers to the awareness of our own emotions, as well as the ability to control those emotions in a constructive way. Emotional intelligence plays an important role in creating a positive working environment.
When it comes to improving workplace culture, emotional intelligence is a helpful tool. People with high levels of emotional intelligence can interpret other's emotions. This helps them to identify issues and resolve misunderstandings. Also, people with strong emotional intelligence are more likely to foster positive relationships.
Creating a strong workplace culture isn't easy – but it's worth the effort. With the right approach, you can build a workplace culture that sets you apart from the rest.
Committing to building a healthy culture doesn’t happen overnight; it's like a garden that needs regular care. With the right strategies, you can create an environment where people feel valued, respected, and supported.

Topics: Culture

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