8 Ways to be a Culture Contributor
If you are part of a team, relationship building amongst your peers and contributing to the team's overall success should be part of every job description, and a constant focus for everyone. Questions such as "Was this person a team player?" "How did this person contribute to the success of their whole team" or "How did this person help other team members?" are part of the list of questions most Recruiters, hiring Managers and/or HR Professionals ask on reference checks.
Many of our clients assess candidates in two major areas: are they a technical fit for what we need and are they a culture fit? Unfortunately, many individuals do not share the same mindset that being a team player and culture contributor is an important part of each person's job responsibilities, and also a key area to focus on to help them grow in their career.
"Sarah will go down as one of my all-time best employees and team members! Not only did she do excellent with her job duties, but she also was constantly helping her peers, doing things to bring smiles to everyone's faces, and she was always there to pick you up if you were having a bad day. She offered to help train new team members, pick up a cake if it was someone's birthday, and found funny memes and short video clips to share with the team during our annual high stress season! She's the ultimate description of a "glue girl," i.e. a team member who is part of the glue to mold a team together, and an incredible culture contributor."
Want to be viewed like Sarah and add more value to your team and really stand out to your boss, peers, etc. while positively impacting your job satisfaction and the satisfaction of those around you? If so, consider these 8 ways you can be a culture contributor! Identify specific things you can be doing on a daily, weekly, monthly, etc. basis to provide value to your team and/or enhance its culture.
1 - Welcome and orient new members.
When a new team member starts, take time to welcome them, introduce yourself, share key goals and functions you have, and learn a bit about their background, the responsibilities they'll have, and a few personal details (hobbies/interests, where they live, etc.). Starting a new job can be overwhelming, so do whatever you can to help them adjust and get them up and running as quickly as possible. Little things like offering to show them where the cafeteria is and joining them for lunch on their first day really goes a long way. Make it a goal to ask new team members 3+ questions, investing about 5 minutes in welcoming them and learning a bit about them!
2 - Take on the role of glue guy or glue girl.
Do you have people on your team who offer to grab you a drink or lunch while they're up? Who you catch cleaning the kitchen or the fridge out when it gets dirty? Who offer to plan a social/teambuilding or charity event? Who get birthday cards for the rest of you to sign? Who suggest a fun outing when the team needs a morale boost? Or who suggest an icebreaker to kick off a team meeting, especially if there's a new team member? Being a "glue guy/girl" means being one of the team members that holds all the pieces together, keeps things moving forward and constantly does everything in their power to contribute to the team's overall success. Take on the role of team player and promote cohesion, engagement, and collaboration. Be the person who is always there to listen, to offer assistance, and to get things back on track.
3 - Offer to be a tour guide, trainer and/or mentor.
In a lot of work environments, management is so busy and unfortunately there's often a lack of training and/or mentorship. It doesn't matter if you've been at your company 6 months or 16 years, you can likely offer training and mentorship to new teammates. Think about how things were when you started? When you moved into a new group? Got promoted? Was there someone there to guide you through the process? If not, and you know you can add value to one of those areas, offer to be a mentor or their tour guide for a quick walk through of the building/facility and touch on where all the important amenities and rooms are, such as bathrooms, training rooms, gym, cafeteria, conference rooms your team uses, etc. Simply saying "I've been there before and I know how it is when you start at a new company can be, so I'd love to sit down with you and share some advice" goes a long way. A lot of companies have formal mentor programs, but you don't need to be a part of that to share your knowledge and best practices! Additionally, employees typically have a better understanding of the big picture when they get exposure to different sides of the business, technologies, etc. Cross training is a great way to build team morale!
4 - Plan team building activities.
Team building is an essential part of building a strong team culture. You do not need a huge teambuilding budget to plan activities that will get your team working together and collaborating on a completely new level, while of course keeping everyone safe. We recommend planning something once a quarter and ideally getting away from your normal work environment. Team building can be great for team cohesion, trust, and communication. Recently, a few folks in our office were talking about how they loved volleyball. Two minutes later, we decided to plan an impromptu team volleyball outing Sunday afternoon for anyone who could make it, and threw out an Outlook appointment to the entire team! It doesn't take long, and it doesn't have to be formal.
5 - Schedule a philanthropy event.
It feels incredible when you achieve something as a team, right? Amplify that feeling when you achieve something that benefits a local nonprofit/charity! Get input on any charities people are already associated with or passionate about, call them up and see what sort of team volunteer opportunities exist, and get something planned! Many of our teams at our company plan 2-4 philanthropy team-building events a year and the feedback is always incredible. It simply feels good to serve, so find opportunities to make a positive impact to your community together!
6 - Keep a pulse on your attitude, and avoid being "toxic" to your team/culture.
In The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor, a 6:1 positive:constructive commentary ratio is recommended to help teams be the most productive! Therefore, if you do some self-reflection and notice you're being more on the negative or pessimistic side, take actions to give yourself an "attitude adjustment!" Here's an earlier tip we wrote on '15 Ways to Maintain a Positive Career Attitude' if you want more ideas.
7 - Help individuals stay positive and solution oriented when things get rough.
Be aware of the overall "vibe" of your team and recognize that one of the worst things for a team is a lot of negativity. If others are overly negative, perhaps you can take them aside and talk openly and tactfully about it. Most individuals simply don't realize they're contributing in a negative way. If a team member is having a problem, offer to talk to them about it and try to help them find a possible solution or perhaps a silver lining. If anything, just lending them your ear and truly listening to their problem will go such a long way.
8 - Design an official ‘Culture Plan.'
Want to really go above and beyond? Work with Management to create a plan for your target culture and how you'll get there. Include specific ideas that would positively influence the culture, discuss assigning ‘Culture Leaders,' pick a few specific actions to implement, and assign timeframes to the implementation of those actions. One company I worked at had one individual from each group that assigned to the corporate ‘Fun Committee,' who was responsible for planning a monthly event anyone at the company could enjoy. Some examples included the Company Birthday party, summer family-friendly BBQ, Halloween party, which took place from 3-5pm and included a Costume Competition.
Going forward, here are some quick and easy recommendations to implement for anyone working in a team environment:
- Have the mentality that being a "contributor to a positive team culture/environment" should be part of your job description.
- Help welcome, orient and acclimate others to the environment as they start. Spend at least 2-3 minutes introducing yourself and asking them a couple questions. A little "Welcome, we're so excited to have you on the team!" can help get them excited and ease some of their anxiety.
- Offer to be a mentor or the designated ‘Tour Guide' for new individuals, giving them a 10 to 15 minute tour of the facility and where the key groups and facility aspects are, like the cafeteria, bathrooms, conference rooms, etc.
- Be engaged during key team meetings and events. Don't allow yourself to be distracted by your phone. This is a great way to "lead by example," i.e. being fully tuned in and contributing to discussions, asking questions, ensuring there's relevant take-a-ways and/or action items for the attendees.
- Share ideas you have to improve the team dynamics/culture with your Manager. If you notice a dip in morale or just overall "team energy," suggest some fun components to add to your next team meeting (such as an icebreaker), team building, group training, etc.
- Be aware of your own attitude and adjust as needed. If you're being negative, catch yourself and remind yourself of the positive things happening personally or professionally to try to positively impact your mood.
- Do not shy away from having a quick "heart to heart" with a co-worker if they are being overly negative and it is affecting the culture.
- Offer to plan a training session, team building or philanthropy team building! Even if it's setting up a couple hours one evening to sort food at your local food bank or using one of your lunch breaks to go walk dogs at the local animal shelter, there's no shortage of ways you can contribute to your community, and these small informal team buildings help you bond and usually result in good moods!
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