The Strategic Business Blog

Company Culture: 13 Keys to Inspiring & Not Obligating Your Employees

Posted by Chris Nesbitt

One of the keys to any business or organization’s success is having employees that are inspired to achieve instead of just doing enough to get by because it’s their job. How is the employee morale at your business? Does it seem that many of the employees are just doing their jobs out of obligation? Have you noticed that some of the most productive employees are ones who are actually inspired in some way?

Inspired employees produce at a much higher level and typically require less supervision. Inspiring employees (and people in general) does not have to do with being able to stand on a stage somewhere and give a charismatic speech. When we look back in history, we see that some of the most inspiring people were unassuming and were never born with some special “inspiration” gene. They did however follow certain keys or principles that caused others around them to be inspired.

Some of the most successful businesses are continually figuring out if there are ways that they can make the most of the resources that they have. In the last 4-5 years as America has experienced an economic downturn, this has made the difference in some businesses closing, surviving or even thriving. Any business’ greatest resource is its employees. How are you making sure your employees are in a company culture that inspires them to produce at a high level?

Today, we will discuss ways to develop a company culture that inspires employees. As you read through these 13 Keys, ask yourself if your company culture inspires the employees to achieve at a high level?

13 Keys to Developing a Company Culture that Inspires Employees:

  1. Company Culture Keys to Inspiring EmployeesCompany Vision – Any company culture starts with a company vision. Regularly cast the vision to let everyone know where the company is going. People want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Take time to let each employee know how vital their role is in accomplishing the company vision.
  2. Be Strategic by Design – Once you have a company vision, it is important to strategically design a plan to use as a guide for your company to accomplish its vision and goals. Too many small to mid-sized businesses evolve over time instead of being designed strategically toward a purpose or goal. The strategic plan puts some substance behind your company vision. It lets the employees know not only where the company is going but how it will get there. Employees want to know that the business owner(s) and management are taking the responsibility of to actually come up with a plan and do something about what they’re saying they’re going to do. The company vision does not mean anything until there is a strategic plan to follow.
  3. Lead by Example – So, once you create the company vision and a strategic plan, now it’s time to back it up with action. John C. Maxwell, in The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, discusses the Law of Buy-In which states people buy into the leader first, then the vision. Show your employees that you are willing to do anything you are asking them to do. Look for opportunities to do something your employees are afraid to do. Courage (acting in spite of fear) inspires. When your employees buy-in to you, you will rarely hear complaints about your decisions. Do your employees buy into you as a leader?
  4. Be Transparent – Share information with your organization to keep them informed about company decisions. Be real with your employees. Employees want to be informed and want to know that their management really knows what is going on in the organization.
  5. Collaborate – Value collaboration and let your employees know that everyone is working together. Encouraging a team approach will improve company culture.
  6. Encourage Innovation – Implement a way for employees to submit ideas/suggestions to improve the company and company culture. Encourage everyone to think creatively about ways to improve the overall success of the organization. implement the good ideas and recognize the people who thought of the good ideas.
  7. Fail Forward – In another one of his books, Failing Forward, John C. Maxwell discusses the importance of turning mistakes into stepping stones. While expecting the best (discussed below in Key #10) and encouraging innovation, it is vital to have an environment that allows for occasional mistakes. When handled correctly, mistakes and failures are often our greatest teachers.
  8. Care – Take time to listen to each of your employees to learn what they want to achieve in their job. If what they want is achievable at your company, work with them to develop a plan to achieve what they want. You may even find that there is another position greater suited for your employee and they will produce much better results that other position. If you do not take the time to care and listen you may never figure out that they could better be served and better serve the company in another position. A company culture made up of people that care for each other’s individual success inspires.
  9. Do Whatever It Takes to Show Each Employee Success – Make sure that each employee succeeds in their individual role. When you take your time to help an employee achieve some level of success, they are inspired to achieve more. It is worth additional time invested with an employee to get them to the point that they are succeeding and they truly believe they can accomplish their assigned tasks.
  10. Expect the Best - Expect the best from each employee and they will be more likely to do their best…to rise to the level of your expectations. Let them know that you believe in their capability to achieve more than they are currently achieving. Then, back up your expectation with some of the above keys to assist them in achieving more.
  11. Recognize Success – Improve your company culture by talking about the success people are having as often as possible. This is a form of non-cash compensation that will often have a much greater effect than a financial bonus. Most people crave recognition. Use examples of individual’s success to inspire other’s success. Use examples of other organization’s success and your own company’s success to inspire further achievement from your organization. Success breeds success.
  12. Reward with Incentives – Reward employees with incentives based on the individual employee’s output and cost of output. People are inspired to work at a higher level when they are financially compensated for doing so.
  13. Support a Cause Outside of Your Company – When your company sponsors a fundraiser or worthy cause, your employees are inspired. The employees’ individual success not only benefits themselves and their company, but now they are also benefiting a worthy cause by succeeding in their job.

And, by the way, when you as the business owner or manager are focusing your efforts on creating a company culture that inspires it’s employees, you will most likely be greatly impacted and become inspired yourself. Making a positive difference is a source of great satisfaction and is extremely contagious. Of course, it is up to you if you want to be the kind of person that inspires others and empowers your business to reach higher levels of success. However, I highly recommend it. You won’t regret it.

What are some examples of how you and your company culture inspire your employees?

If you enjoyed this article, you might be interested in our "Strategic by Design Guide: How to Eliminate Over 80% of All Management Problems."


Chris Nesbitt is a small business consultant and managing partner of Strategic Business Directs. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Google+.

Topics: Inspiring Employees, Company Culture