Celebrating success in the workplace

A positive workplace culture improves teamwork, raises the morale, increases productivity and efficiency, and enhances retention of the workforce.

The Covid-19 pandemic has forever changed our workplaces. Understanding that ‘work’ can be performed at home, that working remotely can work better for some people and roles than others. The concept of hybrid working, with an employee’s time split between home and office can have better quality work outcomes, while also ticking an employee’s desire for a better work-life balance: being able to spend more time with family or outside of work pursuits.

As workforces become increasingly hybrid and people aren’t physically located together as often, workplace culture and the wider company culture becomes increasingly important. How can we build work environments that motivate our teams, engage them to do their best work, and prevent them from moving elsewhere? This is where small things like celebrating success in the workplace can help to foster a sense of team, belonging, inspiration and feeling like part of the positive impact or change that a company is making.

Developing a positive workplace culture

A workplace culture is a shared set of beliefs or values that are intrinsic to a company, obvious in an office context and clearly understood by everyone in your business. It’s “the way we do things round here” and can be as simple as having an understanding in place that no question is too simple or connecting as a full team every Friday afternoon to chat through what went well and what didn’t over the course of the week. Developing a positive workplace culture is the gold standard that all owners and senior managers want to ensure is in place.

A positive workplace culture improves teamwork, raises the morale, increases productivity and efficiency, and enhances retention of the workforce.

Why is a positive workplace culture important?

With employee stress a hot button topic, creating a positive workplace culture is a great way to reduce stress and burnout. By having an engaged team, that supports each other and works well together, you’ll also reduce employee churn, which is important at present with the Great Resignation threatening Kiwi companies. The Great Resignation is a Covid-19 pandemic outcome, where workers across the world, in many industries, have changed jobs at a higher than usual rate due to dissatisfaction with stress, flexibility or conditions of their pre-Covid-19 roles.

How to create a positive workplace culture

  • Develop or communicate the values of your business

There has never been a better time for companies to remind their employees of their values, or work with their employees to develop new values for the future. Your team should feel part of the journey, and that they can make a real impact on bringing these values to life in their day to day work.

If you’re hiring new employees, bring them in on your company mission and values from the beginning. For many companies, screening new applicants with value related questions will also ensure your new hires are on board with the way you want your business to operate before they even sign your contract.

Stressing the importance of working together to “live” your business values can help you achieve them, and also support a feeling of collective community and working towards a common goal.

  • Collaboration and communication are at the heart of good workplace culture

Does your team feel connected? Are they encouraged to ask questions of their colleagues and managers? Do you provide regular opportunities throughout the week to connect with your teams remotely or in person?

Collaboration can mean providing social opportunities outside work hours and ongoing learning and professional development. Encouraging the sharing of knowledge and ability to provide feedback are also important aspects to have in place to support positive culture. Having the tools in place to make this happen is also crucial – Slack or Teams to communicate amongst teams that aren’t physically located, or regular Zoom meetings to connect as a wider group and share ideas.

  • Is your workplace inclusive?

Do you provide equal opportunities for all your employees? Can your team provide feedback about any issue or idea? Do you provide support for all genders, races and sexual orientations within your team? Does your team operate in a flat or highly structured manner with multiple layers of management? How safe does your team feel to have open conversations about anything from starting a new office recycling programme, to reprioritising a project that would have huge customer impact?

  • Communicate clear goals and rewards

Does your team (including your junior staff or new recruits) clearly understand your goals for the quarter, the financial year, and the 3-5 year plan? Understanding what you’re working towards, and how you’re tracking towards that goal is hugely motivating for your team, especially if achievements are recognised and celebrated. If you can see a tangible reward for the extra hours worked on a project, or the extra responsibility you’ve taken on, that hard work can be seen by employees as “worth it”.

The power of celebrating success

We all know how easy it is to fall into the trap of getting things done, and moving onto the next project, without taking the time out of our usual busy work days to celebrate the important things. Success can mean different things to different people – it could be winning a new client, completing a project, or celebrating a personal milestone of an employee (say buying a first home).

Celebrating accomplishments has never been as important as when times are tough – sales may be slow, your business environment is more competitive, or people may have less disposable income to purchase the products or services you sell. In some cases, businesses may need to redefine what success looks like. In tough economic conditions, it could be as simple as not losing any clients that month, or maintaining sales volumes. Keeping your team involved in the health and overall prospects of the business can be useful too – if they see stagnant sales or a number of team members leave the business, they may want reassurance that the business is doing OK. Celebrating small successes, and normalising any change of direction for the business is important for leaders to communicate, and prevent losing key team members.

The importance of celebrating wins

Leaders can fall victim to only celebrating the big wins – hitting an annual sales goal, or assuming an annual office Christmas party can tick the box for team building. 12 months can be a long time for many employees though.

To maintain emotional wellbeing, it is important to celebrate small successes as we move towards a larger goal – as humans, we need small, regular dopamine hits to keep us motivated. It’s important to bear in mind that multiple small wins can lead to a big win too.

Small wins can also serve as important learning opportunities. They can be stepping stones to more important and larger successes, but also give people the confidence to continue what they’re doing, or prove that they’re making progress in a certain area.

We’ve all been guilty of procrastination before, and sometimes when presented with a significant goal, it can be difficult to understand how you can contribute an individual level to a large goal or vision. Breaking down a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) down into manageable steps or mini projects may be really useful to help get your team focused on how they can make an impact. Importantly, celebrate those smaller wins and demonstrate how each step is another important step in your overall journey to a BHAG.

Finally, consider what success looks like for your company – is it winning sales or more community or team based? Say, supporting team members, onboarding new people or being adaptable as the goalposts change. For some businesses, these acknowledgments are just as important, as there are likely key employees who support the Sales team to excel at their job.

Acknowledging failure

With success, comes failure. Sometimes you need to try something in a few different ways before you land the ideal process or system to achieve your goal. Failures are important to socialise with your team too. What went wrong and why? How might you approach that same issue next time? Did you manage to turn a failure into a success in the end, or is it still a work in progress?

A whiteboard tracking monthly wins, could be just as useful as a fail wall. Importantly, your team can see that you have a workplace culture that encourages openness and transparency, and opportunities for ongoing learning.

Ways to celebrate success at work

Let’s take a look at some practical ways to celebrate success in your workplace. Consider how you’ll celebrate the little and often moments, and the larger successes. Also think about the budget you have available for success celebration – not all celebrations have to have a monetary value. Simple acknowledgements can also work well to motivate teams and make sure they feel valued. Options that cater for face to face celebration and remote celebrations are also important considerations.

After all, four out of  five employees are motivated to work harder if their employer shows appreciation for their work.

Celebrate the small wins

  • Weekly/Monthly team meeting gratitude session
  • Weekly/Monthly sharing session where your team have the opportunity to share a win or a fail they’ve learned from with the wider team
  • Dedicated Slack or Teams channel to specifically thank team members for the help or support a team member has provided
  • Coffee or morning tea shout to acknowledge a project milestone or new client
  • Send a small gift basket to your employee’s home so their family and flatmates can see you value them too
  • Ring a physical bell in the office to indicate to the whole team that a sale/deadline has been reached
  • Visibility of successes through weekly/monthly teamwide email
  • Create an employee success spreadsheet that tracks small wins throughout the year and can be used for end of year performance conversations
  • Acknowledge hard work at special times of the year – a Christmas shopping half day or birthday leave can motivating for your team and make them feel valued
  • Share your valued employees on your social media channels so they can see how much you value the work they do
  • Ask your team for regular team building ideas – get togethers at the local pub or bowling alley can be important for teams to connect that don’t usually get to work together
  • Thank your team by supporting wellbeing – perhaps they can choose a gift from a selection of ‘thank you’ offerings: restaurant or massage gift voucher, an early finish on a Friday and so on

Celebrate the big wins

  • Turn the annual Christmas party into an awards ceremony to acknowledge your team who have performed above and beyond for you during the year. Your team could be involved in voting for their teammates
  • Acknowledge long term service with gifts or additional leave days (2, 5, 7 and 10 year anniversaries) and demonstrate to your wider team that you value loyal service
  • Team wide or individual bonus schemes to reward specific quarterly or annual goals being reached
  • Reward great work with more training and development opportunities in that area – allow your employee to become a specialist or knowledge expert for your team

Celebrating success in the workplace can take many forms, however it’s all about engagement and retention of your employees. Any celebrating success programmes should be introduced with employee wellbeing, performance and productivity in mind. They should be introduced by reminding or defining the company goals (short and long term) and encourage transparent communication and knowledge sharing.

The best celebrating success programmes will support high performing teams, the development of better products or services, and a workplace that attracts the best talent. It’s hard to put a value on that.



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