Do you struggle to develop loyal employees? Do people leave after just a few months or years of being in your organization? Do you struggle to identify what your business stands for? If you find yourself nodding along, you might have a culture problem. 

What Makes a Culture Toxic?

Every culture is unique. However, organizations with toxic cultures often exhibit some of the same symptoms and traits. They include things like:

Frequent interpersonal conflict between coworkers
Lack of communication among employees
An abundance of office gossip
Overall tension in your company
High employee turnover
Lack of collaboration between different departments
A decrease in performance levels between when a person is hired and when they leave
Overall dissatisfaction throughout the company
Resentment between management and lower-level employees

If any or all of these factors sound familiar, you may have a toxic culture on your hands. But the good news is that toxicity can be diluted and (eventually) overcome. You’ll have to act fast, though.

How to Quickly Improve Your Culture 

Want to rapidly improve your culture and make it a place where people want to work? There are some very specific steps you should take to jumpstart this process:

1. Address Core Values

Most businesses have a list of core values, but few companies actually take the time to make sure they’re living them out. If your entire team can’t cite the company’s core values without looking, it’s a sign that you aren’t living them out. It’s also possible that you have the wrong core values. Take some time to flesh this out and determine if changes need to be made. 

2. Think About Employee Experience

The overall employee experience in your organization plays a direct role in the company culture. According to Qualtrics, there are five stages of employee experience: recruitment, onboarding, development, retention, and exit. Proactively think about how you can address each of these to cultivate a cohesive and positive experience for all team members throughout their time with the company. 

3. Hire the Right Soft Skills

Hard skills and impressive resumes with lots of work experience matter. But if you’re only hiring based on technical accomplishments, you’re missing the point. Hard skills can be taught. It’s much harder to teach someone soft skills - like discipline, motivation, organization, and drive. So, as a general rule of thumb, hire people who have the right soft skills and then aggressively train them to acquire the hard skills. (Obviously, it’s even better if they have both to begin with. But this is rare.)

4. Hire Slow, Fire Fast

When you have a job opening in your company, there’s an urge to hire quickly so that you can get back to maximum productivity. But remember that an employee is an investment. And the salary you’re paying this employee is just a fraction of the overall cost. You need to get this right!

As a general rule of thumb, always hire slow and fire fast. Give applicants test projects and trial runs. Slowly immerse them into the company to see if they’re a good fit. And only after you’ve built some initial trust should you hire.

On the flip side of the coin, if an employee ends up not being what you expected, don’t linger. Firing fast (with cause, of course) is a necessary skill to acquire. It protects your company and shows the other team members that you care about them. 

Look 5 Years Down the Road

It’s easy to become overwhelmed with all of the work that’s required to totally gut your culture and rebuild it from the ground up. And when you realize that it’s going to take longer than a few weeks to turn things around, it becomes even more daunting. Is it even worth it, you might ask?

While it’s true that reshaping your company culture takes a lot of work and effort, you need to cast some long-term vision. Ask yourself one simple question: In five years, will I regret not having done something about the culture I have today?

Regret is a powerful emotion - and you can bet that you’ll have remorse in three, five, or 10 years from now if you don’t do the hard work to make a change. And if you do invest the time and energy into it, you’ll be rewarded with a much stronger company - one that people enjoy working for and are willing to embrace with open arms.