Company culture drives individual performance. At the same time, leaders must meet employee needs to create the most productive environment.
That's from Richard Barrett, author of "The Values-Driven Organization: Cultural Health and Employee Well-Being as a Pathway to Sustainable Performance." He's also the founder of the Barrett Values Center, which says its Cultural Transformation Tools have been utilized by more than 6,000 organizations.
The culture of an organization is a reflection of the values and beliefs of the leaders and how they communicate them to employees, Barrett says. "Organizational transformation begins with the personal transformation of the leaders."
Tips on creating a culture that communicates to employees what your company stands for and how you value them:
Commit to what matters. Perks like food and entertainment aren't unique offerings from your company; they're not enough to keep people around long-term, and they're certainly not a substitute for a culture, says Piyush Patel, author of "Lead Your Tribe, Love Your Work: An Entrepreneur's Guide to Creating a Culture that Matters."
The game-changer is: "When you can offer your employees B.A.M.- belonging, affirmation and meaning - that's when you can see your culture skyrocket to success," he says.
Set the example . Core values are more than words. "Are you living your core values?" Patel asks.
He says to keep in mind that as a leader, "your smallest actions matter to your team. Your people need to see you as the shining example of what it means to follow your core values."
Engage with employees . As the leader of a growing company, it's easy to get disconnected from reality, Patel says.
Patel is also the founder of Digital-Tutors, an online training company that boasts clients such as Pixar (PIXR), Apple ( AAPL ) and NASA.
"The process of building and maintaining a successful culture means having some uncomfortable conversations along the way," he says. "That means an honest willingness to hear the truth - no matter what it is."
Highlight advancement . Ger Doyle, president of enterprise solutions at Modis, an information-technology staffing company, says its recent survey of decision-makers in the science, technology, engineering and medical fields found that opportunity for professional growth and a career pathway are the top benefits to attract candidates and keep the best talent engaged.
"Especially in highly competitive fields, leaders and managers need to regularly communicate potential opportunities," he says. "Most people don't want to wait until their annual review to hear that they're on the right track. Regular feedback and on-the-job coaching are vital for success and help improve engagement and commitment."
Also keep in mind that today workers have much greater access to compensation information than ever before, Doyle says. "Employers need to clearly communicate compensation structures and opportunity for wage and professional growth to candidates."
Clarify direction. Effective communicators always explain what's driving their decisions, says Mark Goodman, chief marketing officer of Vistage, a global executive coaching organization.
He says, "When people know the 'why' it's easier for them to understand the 'what' and the 'how.' "
Strive for inclusion . Consider using messaging apps for company group discussions because it "lets everyone see what you're doing, and what documents you're working on," suggests Rurik Bradbury, global head of communications and research at LivePerson ( LPSN ), which provides companies with mobile and online messaging solutions for their customers.
He says the payoff is huge: "fewer misunderstandings, less duplicated effort and much faster results."
Pay attention . "One of the greatest tools every leader should learn for effective communication is to learn how to listen," Patel says
Most important, Patel states: Listening is "an act of affirmation."
"You'd be surprised how obvious it is when someone is actually listening or when someone is just waiting for you to be quiet so they can start talking," he says. "Left unchecked, this can lead to massive productivity loss, mismatched expectations and a deteriorating culture."
In addition to better communication and productivity, listening as an act of affirmation helps build a strong culture by giving people the "A" in B.A.M. - affirmation.