The words corporate culture have an uneasy ring to them. They might make you think of rigid rules, suits and ties, large corporations, and the soulless culture of cut-throat consumerism.

In reality, company culture should have less to do with corporations and much more to do with culture: what you want your company to feel like and be like, what it will stand for, how it will combat internal and external threats, what kind of talent it wants to attract, and how it will reward its staff for a job well done.

Which is what we are talking about here today.

Incentivizing your employees does not just equal Christmas bonuses and promotions – in fact, it can cost you very little, and usher in some amazing rewards.

Let’s explore what kinds of incentives can strengthen the corporate culture you are trying to nurture.

Eliminate blame culture

Failure is often seen as the absolute worst outcome – and anything less than success is scrutinized and vilified, providing ample ground for the growth of insecurities, blame, and discomfort.

This kind of thinking is forgetful of the fact that the road to success is paved with failure, and that the only way to get somewhere is to try. There is no such thing as getting everything right on the first go. If that were true, we’d all be billionaires.

If you want to work on this crucial aspect of success, failure, start by admiring and even rewarding failure – run a poll for the best worst idea, reward failed ideas, encourage your employees to speak out and utter the dumbest thing that comes to their mind.

That way, you will slowly but surely eliminate blame culture and the eternal rat race of intra-staff competition, setting the grounds for future success.

Encourage personal productivity

Productivity apps and productivity hacks go a long way in helping employees manage their time and space better. But the one crucial thing they can’t factor into their recommendations is personality.

Where one person will be driven by a deadline, another will break out in a sweat and completely shut down. Where someone will thrive on a challenge, someone else will prefer the safety of what they have already known.

To truly maximize productivity, encourage and enable each individual to find out what works for them and what keeps them motivated. Anything from making their workspace more productive, to figuring out the time of day when they work best, to the tools and tech they need to thrive – allow everyone the option of working it out for themselves.

Embrace learning

Getting stuck in a rut is only natural – and it will happen to anyone. And there is a certain sense of safety when we keep working on the same kinds of tasks over and over again.

However, in order to keep thriving and improving, we do sometimes need a challenge. In order to challenge your employees to keep learning, you can establish a reward (or an award) for the person who advances the most in a certain period of time.

In order to eliminate the learning for the reward’s sake element, make sure the reward is not a monetary one – and you don’t even need to announce it.

When you notice someone has been working on their skills and knowledge base consistently, when they are showing clear signs of improvement, reward them in front of the entire staff. This will provide a clear clue that you are proud of advancement, and welcome anyone who goes out of their way to become a better version of themselves.

Establish time frames instead of schedules

As we’ve already pointed out, not everyone will work their best at the same time – and the 9-to-5 may be a nightmare to many. Most people have never had the luxury of working on their own time, and many employers refuse to allow it as they instantly expect nothing but slacking off.

If you are looking to build a team built for success, a family of people working towards the same goal and one that constantly raises the bar for itself – flexible working hours are the way to go.

Establish a timeframe for each task – this needs to be done between so and so, this needs to be done by so and so, this is the window for so and so, and let your teams work it out themselves.

First of all, you will naturally be able to spot the ones who are slacking and skiving off – and can work with them individually to remedy the issue. As for the people who are actually driven by their work and truly want to be where you want them to be, they will thrive better than they would with imposed hours and schedules.

Offer unlimited time off

An idea similar to the one we’ve just discussed, unlimited time off is a true incentive for the best of your people. They’ll never have to worry about running an errand in the middle of the day, taking time off when they’re feeling unwell, or a day off when they just need to do nothing. 

Again, the best among your team will view this as an incredible luxury, and won’t use it to your detriment. Even if they take 15 days off in a month, they will make sure everything they need to do gets done.

This is also an excellent way for people to learn to manage their own time and workload.

You may want to start by offering this option to your most valued workers and those who have been with your company for a while. Provide it as a perk for loyalty and a job well done, as opposed to a company-wide policy.

Final thoughts

Corporate culture is what you make of it – Hawaiian shirts at meetings, flip flops in the summer, black tie and a rigid dress code, punching the clock and tracking every second of everyone’s day.

Depending on the kind of environment you want to foster, consider some of the incentives we have discussed, and explore how they might fit in with how you imagine your operation to run.