building culture

How to use meetings to build your workplace culture

Posted in Training Staff
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Once your organization reaches a certain size, building a strong workplace culture needs to become more organized and formalized. 

Certainly, the leadership of every organization should spend time thinking about and then developing a positive, healthy staff culture. I found that as an organization, we could get ahead of many problems by having several types of regular meetings.

In my view, developing a regular meeting schedule was the foundation for building the relationships we needed to head off issues before they became larger. And they provide the cornerstone for the culture-building that shapes who your organization becomes.

Here is the general pattern we eventually came to. It is organized by the week of the month. Different subgroups attended different meetings (see Categories of Staff below). On a monthly basis the pattern looks like this:

First week of each month: Associate Staff and Leadership meetings

Monday, 10 am to noon—Associate Staff meeting

Thursday, 9 to 11:30 am—Leadership meeting followed by lunch for the leadership team

Second week: Site and Leadership meetings

Wednesday or Thursday, two-hour Site meeting—each office location meets as a group

Thursday 8:45 to 10 am—Leadership meeting

Third week: All Staff meeting

Thursday 9 to 11 am—All Staff meeting—we meet in a church to accommodate our large group

Fourth week: Site and Leadership meetings

Same as Week 2

5th Thursday of a month: Leadership Planning meeting

(happens 3 or 4 times a year)

9 am to 3 pm—Leadership Planning Day

Support Staff meet monthly, usually on a Monday morning. They do lots of training and sharing there. 

Retreats, Parties, and Off-site Get-together

We also have an annual retreat in September at an area retreat center. We truly make it a retreat. The goal is to not work together but to enjoy a different pace for a day.

In November we as a group do a service project with a not-for-profit where we spend a few hours packing food for children and/or adults facing food insecurity.

For many years we had an annual Christmas party, usually at someone’s home on a Saturday evening. Now we have migrated to having it in our largest office at our All Staff Meeting in December.

Of course, no one event or activity is a sure-fire way for building culture. But cumulatively, all the activities increase the richness. For more on how we did things see: Staff development: How to build excellence into your current staff.

Categories of Staff

Associate Staff—These are clinicians who have joined us within the last year or so. They have a monthly two-hour meeting where we go over many topics. I built a curriculum on how to be successful in our setting. That curriculum became the basis for much that is in this website.

Leadership—We have a Director who manages each of our locations. Additionally we have a Director of our Support Staff, and the owner (who was me for many years). This group meets to make the plans and decisions for the development of the organization, including the interviewing and hiring of staff.

Staff at each site—Each of our locations has clinical and support staff. The local site meetings are partly clinical supervision, partly administrative conversations, and partly personal support and team building. (For more on what those meeting looked like see: Staff development: How to build excellence into your current staff.) Interestingly the patterns of these meetings vary from site to site and have reshaped themselves as each site grew, changing in size and therefore structure. They now vary in size from six clinicians at one site to twenty-two at another.

Support Staff—We have support staff who take care of the administrative work needed to support our clients, clinical staff, and leaders. When I retired, we had ten support staff. Some move from office to office to maintain a broader knowledge of multiple sites and to develop consistency across office locations.

All Staff—This is an overlapping group. Always the clinical staff attends. Sometimes support staff do as well, depending on the topic. We will only have the clinical staff attend when the focus is on clinical training. When we are going over administrative changes, then we have everyone attend.

Why so many meetings? Building culture is an investment

Our meeting schedule allows us to have a balance of deliberation and responsiveness as things come along requiring change. And the variety of overlapping configurations allows people to get to know each other and the leadership to respond pretty deeply and quickly to most things that come along. We are actively building our culture this way.

Having these opportunities to interact creates the space for us to build a culture together that is less crisis-oriented and more relationally based. We see all meetings as a major opportunity for building a sense of community even as we have gotten larger and more spread out geographically.

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