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  • Writer's pictureKate Bradshaw

Improving Workplace Culture

Culture is the environment that surrounds us all the time. A workplace culture is the shared values, belief systems, attitudes and the set of assumptions that people in a workplace share.

It is the character and personality of your company and It's what makes your business unique. Culture is the sum of your company’s values, traditions, beliefs, interactions, behaviours, and attitudes.

In a workplace, the leadership and the strategic organisational directions and management can have a significant influence on workplace culture. A positive workplace culture improves teamwork, raises the morale, increases productivity and efficiency, and enhances retention of the workforce. Job satisfaction, collaboration, and work performance are all enhanced, and, most importantly, a positive workplace environment reduces stress in employees.

Research by Deloitte has shown that 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct corporate culture is important to a business’ success. Deloitte’s survey also found that 76% of these employees believed that a "clearly defined business strategy" helped create a positive culture.

Positive workplace culture attracts talent, drives engagement, impacts happiness and satisfaction, and affects performance. The personality of your business is influenced by everything. Leadership, management, workplace practices, policies, people, and more impact culture significantly. The biggest mistake organisations make is letting their workplace culture form naturally without first defining what they want it to be. Most organisations let our workplace culture form naturally without defining what we want it to be, and that’s a mistake. For example:

  • We create policies and workplace programs based on what other employers do versus whether they fit our work environment.

  • We hire employees who don't fit.

  • We tolerate management styles that threaten employee engagement and retention.

  • We don't create and communicate a clear and inspiring mission, vision, and set of values.

  • Our work environments are lacklustre.

  • We don’t consider how our everyday actions (or inactions) as leaders are affecting the formation of our culture.

For these reasons, it’s important to step back, evaluate, and define your workplace culture—both what it is now and what you want it to be in the future — and how all of these factors either contribute or take away from your desired culture. Although it can be very difficult to define, assessment tools and surveys can help you gauge your culture. They may reveal gaps between the culture you want to attain and the culture you currently have.

Culture is as important as your business strategy because it either strengthens or undermines your objectives. Positive culture is significant, especially because:

  • It attracts talent. Job candidates evaluate your organisation and its climate. A strong, positive, clearly defined and well-communicated culture attracts talent that fits.

  • It drives engagement and retention. Culture impacts how employees interact with their work and your organisation.

  • It impacts happiness and satisfaction. Research shows that employee happiness and satisfaction are linked to strong workplace culture (Source: Deloitte).

  • It affects performance. Organisations with stronger cultures outperform their competitors financially and are generally more successful.

What Impacts Culture in the Workplace-The short answer is everything. A multitude of factors play a role in developing workplace culture, including:


The way your leaders communicate and interact with employees, what they communicate and emphasize, their vision for the future, what they celebrate and recognise, what they expect, the stories they tell, how they make decisions, the extent to which they are trusted, and the beliefs and perceptions they reinforce.


How your organisation is managed—its systems, procedures, structure, hierarchy, controls, and goals. The degree to which managers empower employees to make decisions, support and interact with them, and act consistently.

Workplace Practices

Practices related to recruiting, selection, on-boarding, compensation and benefits, rewards and recognition, training and development, advancement/promotion, performance management, wellness, and work/life balance (paid time off, leave, etc.), as well as workplace traditions.

Policies and Philosophies Employment policies including, but not limited to, attendance, dress code, code of conduct, and scheduling, in addition to organisational philosophies such as hiring, compensation, pay for performance, and internal transfer and promotion.

People The people you hire — their personalities, beliefs, values, diverse skills and experiences, and everyday behaviours. The types of interactions that occur between employees (collaborative versus confrontational, supportive versus non-supportive, social versus task-oriented, etc.).

Mission, Vision, and Values Clarity of mission, vision, and values and whether they honestly reflect the beliefs and philosophies of your organisation, how inspiring they are to your employees, and the extent to which the mission, vision, and values are stable, widely communicated, and continuously emphasised.

Communications The manner in which communication occurs in your workplace. Importantly, the degree, type, and frequency of interaction and communication between leaders and employees, and managers and employees, including the extent of transparency in sharing information and making decisions.

Keep in mind that culture is always a work in progress. It can and will change. Make culture as important as your business strategy. It’s too significant to ignore, and shaping it is one of your most important responsibilities as leaders and HR professionals.

How can organisations create a positive workplace culture?

Establish clear ethos and values for the organization:

It is important to have a set of clear organisational core values that are communicated effectively and discussed with the employees so that they feel part of it. It is the commitment that an organisation or a company makes to certain policies and actions, such as "going green" or "social change".

It is not enough to state this in the mission statement, brand story or in marketing and promotional material. It is crucial that demonstrable actions are taken regularly so that the employees feel an individual and personal responsibility towards these values. This will ensure that they can evaluate their own attitudes towards these positive core values, and take pride in them. Positive attitudes and positive actions make for a positive workplace culture.

Foster collaboration and communication:

Leadership and management style that encourages teamwork, open and honest communication is vital to creating a positive feeling in the workplace. Open and honest communication also means that regular audits are taken to evaluate how people are interacting with each other, feedback is welcomed and taken on board, and opportunities for social interaction are enabled. These can include coffee mornings, team getaways and family weekends.

This gives an opportunity for team members to nurture and foster connections outside of work. Continued learning opportunities enabling team members to assess their inherent unconscious and implicit biases that can impact their interactions with other employees are crucial. Also, strict no tolerance open door policies and complaint procedure for workplace bullying is crucial for creating a positive collaborative environment.

Create an inclusive work environment:

A positive workplace is one where all the employees are valued, supported and nurtured irrespective of gender, sexual orientation or colour. All employees should have equal opportunities to progress and equal access to all the perks and rewards on offer.

An inclusive workplace is one that values individual differences in the workforce and makes them feel welcome and accepted. Include signage that supports inclusivity, is clear and positive. Language can create confusion and miscommunication. Careful use of language that reinforces the gender-conscious and inclusive ethos, such as that emphasising the function of space rather than the gender identity of users is important.

Create clear goals and rewards for the employees:

The survey by Deloitte showed that 83% of executives and 84% of employees rank having engaged and motivated employees as the top factor that substantially contributes to a company’s success. Motivated and engaged employees can be created if they are treated equally and have clear goals that they can work towards.

Having a transparent policy for progression and promotion offers the staff an opportunity to measure their performance. Measurable performance indicators will mean that there would be healthy competition, but this kind of honest policy statement would help avoid negative feelings and resentment amongst the team members towards each other. When goals are positively reinforced, and achievements are recognised and celebrated, it leads to employees feeling valued which in turn creates a positive feeling in the workplace.

A positive culture in the workplace is essential for fostering a sense of pride and ownership amongst the employees. When people take pride, they invest their future in the organisation and work hard to create opportunities that will benefit the organisation. By identifying and rewarding those who are actively striving towards creating a positive work culture, and supporting others around them, companies can encourage others to do the same. Positive attitudes and behaviour in the workplace are the direct results of effective leadership and a positive management style.

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