As the end of the year approaches water cooler conversation turns to Christmas lunches and end of year celebrations. Long boozy lunches, Kris Kringle and gift cards seem to be the norm, while some companies take it to the extreme with visits from Santa, scenic cruises and fancy-dress competitions.

While Christmas parties present a great opportunity to reward employees and celebrate achievements, it does little to improve workplace culture if such things are only expressed once a year. In fact, it could have the opposite effect. If employees feel overworked, undervalued, unheard and unappreciated for the remaining 364 days of the year, token celebrations will only foster resentment.

The benefits of a positive culture for employees, employers, and the bottom line are well documented. Huffington Post founder, Arianna Huffington, describes culture as an organisation’s immune system, ‘Leaders must realise that taking care of their human capital is as important as growth.’

And the reality is that growth won’t happen without a positive internal culture. Undervalued and under supported staff are unlikely to feel motivated to generate ideas for growth, and even if they do, in a negatively charged ecosystem it will be an uphill climb to nurture any ideas into fruition.

Only a culture that’s supportive, creative and autonomous 365 days of the year will consistently succeed at innovation.

Model: Lucy the pug  |  Model's outfit: KMart | Stylist: Emily

Model: Lucy the pug | Model's outfit: KMart | Stylist: Emily

Just as a pet is for life, not just for Christmas, culture also needs to be cultivated, prioritised and nurtured in order to thrive.

Here are three ways to help support your culture, so your culture can support innovation.

1.       Communicate…always!

Finding the sweet spot between telling and explaining, and explaining and patronising is what makes successful leaders.

When you’re pushing for a project to be delivered your team need to understand WHY the project is important, HOW it fits into the overall strategy for your organisation, WHAT is expected, such as the process to follow, the budget and the timeline.

All too often, we see great projects flounder due to a lack of communication. Words can demonstrate your trust in the team, your understanding of the users’ needs and marketplace, your faith in their ability and your preferred direction and process.  Words provide the security, knowledge and confidence team members require to achieve a goal.

2.       Don’t condemn or celebrate failure, just get on and run another test.

In recent years there’s been a movement to promote failure as a kind of superhero. Just like kids are told that mistakes are proof they are trying, we as adults are being told that failure is beneficial. Whilst the sentiment behind celebrating failure is correct, regardless of how you frame it, failure is not a positive word. It doesn’t send happy signals to our brain and it doesn’t make us want to do more of the same. If your company is using the word failure in any light, positive or negative, your culture could be suffering.

Great cultures don’t fail, they test and experiment. When a test tells them something didn’t work the way they expected, they try something else. Great cultures don’t sugar-coat failure as a step to success because they’re just too busy testing, analysing and iterating their way to improved versions. Failure is not in their vocabulary, and that’s the way it should be.

3.       Training isn’t important, it’s vital.

Workplace culture.jpg

Investing in professional development is vital to creating a great culture. The benefits of ongoing education and training for employees includes: improved performance, job satisfaction and productivity as well as reduced turnover, sick days and absenteeism.

A great option is looking for training programs between December and February. As these times are often quiet for many industries, training during these periods allow enterprises to take advantage of the loss of productivity while inspiring and motivating teams leading into 2018.

Just remember that such training shouldn’t just be one-off seasonal events. To genuinely support your culture, invest in team capability throughout the year.

Culture needs to be cultivated, prioritised and nurtured in order to thrive. Support your culture and your culture will support your innovation.

The Christmas break is a peak time for job search websites and it’s little wonder. New Year resolutions are coming thick and fast, families are thrown together with sibling comparisons made, crippling credit card bills arrive and people have some downtime to think and fill in application forms. Even if you do have Mick Jagger and Taylor Swift duet at your Christmas Party, without a great culture to match you could still lose great talent, face a year of low productivity, and little in the way of innovation.

Creating a positive culture inspires happiness, health, creativity and loyalty from your team. And as with most of the best things, it’s for life, not just for Christmas.

Take a look at G2's Innovation Training Workshops throughout the year, including December and January.

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