Written By Chris Ihrig

Published on November 9, 2023

According to Indeed and Glassdoor’s Hiring and Workplace Trend Report for 2023, 46% of those surveyed said their expectation around happiness on the job went up over the past year. 

Additionally, 86% responded that how they feel at work has a major impact on how they feel at home.

Organizations need to invest more time and effort into building organizational culture if they want to keep team members around. And they need to invest not just in a culture that is strong, but also a culture of excellence.

Of course, knowing you have to do something is not the same as actually doing it. Far too often, organizational leadership looks to a glittering lure — perks, work outings, cool offices, etc. — as the first step toward building a culture that encourages employees to stick around. And sure, these types of things help. 

But building a culture of excellence requires much more. Leaders need to infuse the idea of excellence throughout their organization — from how they serve customers to how the organization operates and how their employees feel about their jobs when they complete a day’s work. 

Here are five keys to doing just that, beginning with:

  1. Develop a Compelling ‘How’ 

Your organization has a mission. It may be as simple as “earning a profit” or something bigger, but there’s a reason it exists. You know it, your team members know it, and your customers know it. This mission is often the ‘why’.

Less obvious, though, are your organization’s values. The how you do what you do and the promises you make to customers about your products and services. 

These two things are critical — not just to your bottom line, but also to the team members that help you fulfill your promises to customers. So let’s unpack them a bit.

In our Fired Up! Annual Culture Index™, we break down the how category into two parts:

  • Clarity of purpose and goals
  • Living out your values

The first part lets team members know why they are part of your organization. It gives them a target to hit, one they need to accomplish together. Challenging but achievable goals also ignite action and keep people focused on what’s most important to the organization as a whole.

The second part, living out values, is all about accountability — for your team members, for yourself, and for the entire organization.

On the customer front, the promise you made to them needs to be clear in every corner of your organization. That promise should be to deliver customer value and maintain their loyalty by actively listening, excelling at customer-focused communications, and staying committed to improving as an organization.

  1. Set Up Your Systems and Processes for Excellence

Just as important as having a shared purpose as an organization is providing your team members with the tools and processes they need to excel. 

When you don’t have systems that promote excellence, you risk frustrating your teams and encouraging them to disengage. In fact, according to LinkedIn’s 2022 Workplace Learning Report, employees who feel like their skills aren’t being put to good use are 10 times more likely to search for a new job. 

When that happens, it lands squarely on the shoulders of management for misusing a valuable resource.

As a leader, it’s your job to ensure that proper training, realistic expectations, and clear lines of communication are always in place. You need to recognize excellence in team members and place them in positions where they feel they can succeed.

  1. Focus on Collaboration and Relationship Building

Every organization with a culture of excellence has worked hard to create an atmosphere where collaboration and strong relationships — both internally and with customers — are not only encouraged but also expected.

When complementary skill sets and consistent team development are the norm in your organization, it’s much easier to focus on collective outcomes. 

You’re also in a better position to recognize exceptional talent and identify collaborations that are highly resilient and able to deliver positive results, even in the face of challenges.

In contrast, organizations that stifle or ignore the opportunities for collaboration and building relationships are much more likely to experience brain drain. 

Valuable and talented team members can come to feel unappreciated, ignored, and disrespected — a trifecta of unnecessary errors on the part of management that can hurt the organization as a whole.

  1. Make Expectations Clear

There’s a big difference between setting expectations for your teams and simply giving them orders.

Smart leaders understand this and cultivate an environment where every team member understands exactly what is expected of them and, collectively, what is expected of the organization as a whole.

When managers don’t set clear expectations, they assume that team members know what to do without clear guidance. That’s not a recipe for success. 

  1. Create an Environment Where Excellence Can Thrive

This last key is, in the end, the culmination of everything before it. 

All that time you spend investing in your organization’s purpose and vision, its promise to customers, and culture of collaboration — the end result is a workplace environment where excellence is at the forefront of everything you do.

It’s not easy to achieve, but when you’re able to reach a point where excellence is not just a goal but is infused throughout your organization, you’re in the best possible position to collectively succeed. Your business will thrive and your team members will be happier — and happy to stick around.