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5 ways to improve your workplace culture

5 ways to improve your workplace culture

Scott Snyder, CEO of Bad Ass Coffee of Hawaii, uses employee recognition as a powerful tool to inspire a strong and positive culture in his franchise

Since the pandemic, companies have adapted fast to multiple challenges, but the struggle to recruit and retain talent has continued to plague many businesses, particularly in sectors like hospitality, care and logistics. Workplace culture has therefore become a buzzword of 2022, as leaders focus on their brand values to improve staff morale and job satisfaction.

Scott Snyder, CEO of Bad Ass Coffee of Hawaii, a leading US coffee franchise, is a strong advocate for instilling a strong and supportive culture at work. Scott credits using employee recognition as a tool to drive engagement in the workforce, resulting in a 66 per cent increase in average unit volume compared to last year, up 76 per cent from 2019.

He believes that the simple steps of acknowledging and appreciating workers can go a long way towards inspiring a happy, healthy and engaged workforce – and the results speak for themselves.

We spoke to Scott about the ways he personally engages with his team, his franchisees, and importantly, those on the frontline serving customers and representing the brand. Here are his five key recommendations:

1. Connect recognition to the brand vision

Employees feel pride and accomplishment when they know their work is contributing to the greater good of the company. Recognition of their efforts helps employees see that their company values them and their contributions have a direct impact on the business.

“As a franchise organisation, we think it’s important to not only think in terms of our immediate ‘ohana (family) – the employees in the home office – but also our extended ‘ohana, who are our franchisees and their teams. It’s important that all individual accomplishments, company milestones, and franchisee successes are celebrated, as it instils a sense of purpose, accountability, and being a part of something bigger than just our own business or role within the company,” Scott explains. “We recently invested heavily into an online learning and communications forum that’s becoming the centrepiece of shared information, training and communication between the home office team and our franchisee community. Called Aloha U, the opening user page is a perfect way to highlight and reinforce the company’s mission, values and milestones and a platform to celebrate those franchisees and staff who are putting the pillars into action.”

Regularly share news about how the company is striving to reach the mission, and explain how individual employee goals relate to that vision. As a result, you’ll see increased motivation to continue producing great work versus joining the great resignation.

2. Build a culture of peer recognition

With a mix of virtual and in-person, it is important for peer-to-peer interaction to remain strong.

Scott says: “Like all things, there are various levels and means to recognise individuals and groups. Our leadership team believes in a culture of celebrating accomplishments large and small – this is especially true when building a brand from scratch, or rebuilding one like Bad Ass Coffee of Hawaii, where the ultimate goal or vision can seem so far away. We recognise individuals informally every day by all members of our team, but also share good news and accomplishments via company-wide emails and posting announcements on the “Bad Ass Bulletin Board” in the company kitchen.”

Promote a culture that encourages employees to value, acknowledge, and motivate their peers. Some employees may find recognition more motivating when it comes from their peers versus leadership, and this can result in improved team collaboration. “More formal, but less frequent recognition in front of employee peers is given at company meetings and gatherings,” explains Scott. “On a broader scale, individual and collective accomplishments are shared with the full franchise system.”

3. Recognise personal accomplishments

Now more than ever, hybrid work environments are resulting in a blended work and personal life. This requires your recognition to extend beyond the office to celebrate personal milestones and personal endeavours that reflect company values.

“In the spirit of fun and coworker appreciation, one of our marketing team members created an appreciation ‘Spin the Wheel’ game at the end of the year and populated the wheel with her own prizes and gifts of thanks to be shared with each employee, who took a turn to spin the wheel and receive their prize. The prizes were fun – small in nature, but big with intent, sincerity and appreciation – revealing the relationship that this team member had with her Bad Ass Coffee ohana,” says Scott.

4. Be specific and be timely

Recognition has a greater impact when it is tied to a specific accomplishment or business objective. Dig deep to go beyond a “great job” and explain what the recognition is for. This helps employees relate the recognition to their behaviour and will encourage continued strong performance. Make sure the recognition is done promptly. Gone are the days when you can regularly pop into an employee’s office and share praise. As a leader, you must make this a priority and have formal recognition systems in place. The longer it takes, the less likely employees will value the affirmation.

5. Get creative

It’s time to start thinking outside the box beyond verbal praise too. Understand that everyone has their own preference or style when it comes to receiving appreciation. This requires a more personalised and empathetic approach to recognition. Get to know your team and customize your appreciation – gifts, dinners, acts of kindness, PTO etc all count towards a warm, enriching workplace culture.

“Even before COVID changed the face of the work environment, we adopted a self-managed PTO approach rather than having set vacation schedules,” says Scott of the progressive approach his franchise has adopted. “Employees could basically take the personal time they needed at any time, so long as they cleared it with their direct report and were accountable for their responsibilities. We think this policy adoption somewhat set the tone for what would become a hybrid work environment. Today, the team is free to work from home when they want, but most only work from a home a few days per month… by choice!”

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