How to Create Team Culture in a New Environment
Leaders often wonder how to create team culture, and the simple answer is: you can’t. Culture is something that emerges naturally from within an organization. You can guide cultural development and try to nudge it in the right direction, but you can’t just build a new culture from scratch.
Unless you’re building a brand new team.
If you ever need to build an entirely new team—perhaps to support a new product or to open a new location—you'll find that you're starting with a blank slate. You can create a new cultural framework that will encourage a new type of culture to emerge.
With 51% of companies planning to expand in the next six months, there are new teams springing up everywhere. Let’s take a look at how to make the most of this rare opportunity.
What is team culture?
Organizational culture is the sum total of all beliefs and behaviors that define a typical day in your office. Culture defines the way people communicate, their attitude to innovation, and the way they prioritize goals.
Every organization has a dominant culture, which usually extends from the C-suite downwards. But each organization also has local team cultures – think about how finance and sales have a different culture, for example. Or consider how regional offices often have their own way of doing things.
These local cultures are known as subcultures. A subculture can be a positive thing. It shows that this team has adapted to their environment and found a way of doing business that works for them.
However, sometimes a subculture can become a counter-culture. A counter-culture is one that works in opposition to the dominant culture. At best, this could lead to employees not being aligned with organizational goals. At worst, you’ll see a toxic culture emerge that causes stress and ultimately leads to staff turnover.
Recommended reading: How To Build A Thriving Organizational Culture
How to create team culture for a new team
Imagine this: you have a new, empty office, and you have the budget to recruit an entirely new team.
Soon, this office will be a hive of activity. Your new team will figure out how to talk to each other, how to implement processes, and how to prioritize goals. This will be the new team culture.
Right now, you have the chance to make decisions that will shape this team culture for years to come. Here’s how to create team culture in a positive way:
1. Put your values at the heart of everything
Culture is driven by values, often in unexpected ways. Often, a company will have one set of written values in their corporate documents – your core values. But their day-to-day activity might demonstrate a very different set of values, which are your lived values.
For example, imagine a company that has innovation as a core value. Now, imagine that this company does not give employees time to study, research or brainstorm new ideas. Does this company’s core values match its lived values?
You’ll need to ponder questions like this when you’re thinking about how to create team culture in the new office. What are your core values? How do you make them part of everyday life, so they become your lived values?
2. Align all leaders with your ideal culture
Leaders don’t control culture, but they do have a substantial influence over how culture develops. They set priorities, they organize communication, and they make decisions about new priorities.
This means that any leaders involved with the new team must be aligned with your plans for the new team culture. Sit down with all leaders, including those who will only have intermittent interaction with the new team. Talk to them about things like:
- How this team’s work aligns with core values and strategic goals
- The type of culture required to deliver success, including the communication and collaboration styles
- How the team will interact with other teams within the organization
- What kind of day-to-day goals will align with the team culture
Make sure everyone understands their role in creating the new team culture.
3. Create a suitable hiring process
Next, you’ll need some team members. Hiring for culture fit is easier when you know the fundamentals of your culture. Remember, the essential elements of team culture include things like:
- Communication style
- Attitude to change or risk
- Internal vs. External focus
- Preferred leadership style
Your goal is to create a hiring process that identifies candidates that fit with your desired cultural values.
Remember to also think about diversity, equality and inclusion when hiring. Discrimination and bias are problems that compound over time. If you can start off with a diverse team structure, you’ll see a diverse culture emerge over time.
4. Set goals that align with your values
When it comes to shaping team culture, managers have two very important roles. One is hiring the right people. The other is setting goals.
Your goals define your culture. Goals tell people what they need to focus on, whether that’s hitting revenue targets, meeting customer satisfaction KPIs, or avoiding compliance breaches.
And the way you reward those goals also matters. For instance, if you award a bonus to the top performer, you’ll inspire a competitive, independent culture. That’s ideal in some situations. But in others, you need to drive people towards a more collaborative and communicative culture.
The best way to get this right is to ensure that your goals align with your core values. If they don’t, then it’s time to take a step back and ask why you’ve set those particular goals. Are you helping to deliver the company’s long-term strategic goals?
5. Give your new team a chance to bond
You’ve established your new team and given them meaningful goals. Now, you have to let them get to know each other.
This is slightly more challenging in an age of hybrid work and remote teams. You may not be able to organize a social event, or simply gather everyone in a meeting room.
Instead, you might have to think about:
- Virtual happy hours over video chat
- A social channel on your communication platform, such as Teams or Slack
- Regular in-person meetings for all staff
Culture emerges from the day-to-day chats that people have with their colleagues. Give everyone a chance to talk, share tips, and get to know their new teammates.
Get expert help with your team culture
The key to a great team culture? Great HR processes. You HR team play a vital role in the fundamentals of the employee experience, such as recruitment, onboarding, and Total Rewards.
If you need some help with your core HR functions, why not speak to a Helios HR consultant? Book a no-obligation consultation call today and find out how you can create a thriving team culture.