Last updated 18 April, 2022

Building a positive workplace culture

Group of young people working collaboratively in funky office space

Workplace culture can be the difference between a thriving business that attracts top talent, and a failing one with a sky-high turnover rate. Employees who feel trusted, respected, challenged and appreciated are motivated to put forth their best work. They’re also more likely to stay loyal to — and speak highly of — the company they work for. 

If you want your company to thrive, its culture needs to be genuine and consistent. The values practised internally among employees must align with the mission and brand story that is presented to consumers. For example, if your company’s mission relates to sustainability, social justice or innovation, these values should be evident in workplace policies and day to day operations. 

Workplace culture is the standard of thought, speech, behaviour, and habits that are encouraged (or in a toxic workplace — tolerated) by leadership. It can excite and motivate employees, or it can frustrate and drain them. So how can you encourage a positive culture within your organisation?

5 Ways to Craft a Winning Culture

In a positive workplace culture, employees all feel like they have an equal opportunity to be successful. It’s a healthy environment where teamwork is supported, performance is high, stress is low, and employees are happy. To create an environment where a positive workplace culture can flourish, start by implementing these five strategies:

1. Set clear values that define the company’s culture

Can your employees easily articulate to their friends and family what your company’s values are? Do those in leadership positions perceive the company’s values in the same way as entry-level employees? Are public perceptions of the company’s values in line with employee perceptions?

The core values of your organisation should be communicated clearly and often, and easily articulated in short, simple terms. They should not just be a top-down directive either, but a dialogue held with employees so that they can help to define and shape what those values look like in action. 

One of the easiest ways to embed core values into an organisation’s culture is by recognising employees who embody them. When employees are recognised by management or their peers for behaviours in line with the organisation’s values, they are more likely to repeat them. 

2. Set goals that promote fairness and accountability

Some of the traits of a toxic workplace include favouritism, a lack of rewards or recognition for hard work, or a lack of consequences for those who put forth minimal effort. To ensure fairness, it’s important to set goals with objective outcomes that give all employees an equal chance of success. For example, management could establish performance benchmarks or clear policies for receiving a promotion. Straightforward guidelines ensure that motivation stays high, and company practices are perceived as being transparent and fair. 

3. Manage with trust and respect

Do you trust your employees to do their best work during unsupervised periods, or are you constantly micro-managing them? Do you trust them to have a flexible schedule or work from home? By empowering employees to manage themselves, you are showing trust in their creativity, intelligence, problem-solving, and time management skills. Having control over their workload allows employees to remain intrinsically motivated to meet their goals, instead of working from a place of fear or resentment. This will lead to happier, more positive employees, a higher retention rate, and improved productivity and performance.  

4. Build a diverse team with a shared mission

It’s important that company culture isn’t confused with one’s personal culture. Even if it’s only due to unconscious bias, it can be easy to fall into the trap of hiring people that look, behave, and think as you do. Not only does this perpetuate inequitable hiring practices, but it can hurt the organisation and prevent growth among the employees. With diversity in life experiences comes diversity in thought and perspectives, which leads to innovation. 

When deciding if a prospective employee is a good “cultural fit,” the focus should be on if they are aligned with the organisation’s values and purpose. Are they committed to working towards the same mission? And if they aren’t, take some time to reflect: do they lack the values your organisation needs, or could it be that your organisation’s values are outdated, inequitable, or discriminatory? Hiring employees who accurately represent (and who can speak up for) the diversity of the world in which your organisation operates will only help you in the long run. 

5. Clearly communicate the reasons for change

When there are major shake-ups in policies, roles, operations, or products, do your employees know and understand why? Keeping employees informed about your decisions helps them to feel more connected and responsible for big-picture outcomes. Wherever possible, give employees ample notice of upcoming changes, and be open to hearing and applying their feedback. Communicating with employees instead of suddenly imposing changes helps to maintain trust, and will shape a culture where all voices matter and employees feel empowered. 

Today’s action steps:

  • Review your company’s core values. Are the values truly aligned with your company’s mission and goals? If they are outdated or simply a poor fit for the culture you would like to nurture, how might they be revised? Write down any values that should be updated. PS- It’s okay to make changes. Even Google frequently revisits its values to make sure they continue to hold true. 

  • Think of something an employee or team of employees has recently done that exemplifies the company’s core values. Maybe they organised a fundraiser, reduced office waste by 30 percent, helped mentor a colleague, or made everyone laugh during a difficult meeting. Which company values did their actions embody? Write this down along with any other reasons you appreciate them. 

  • Take steps to recognise that person or team for their value-aligned actions and share why you appreciate them. You may choose to send them an email, speak with them face-to-face, acknowledge them in a meeting, or give some other form of recognition that they’d find meaningful. 

Need help improving your workplace culture? Get Hello Coach for your team!

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