Business meeting

Culture shows character

Being a great place to work plays a vital role in your success. That’s why workplace culture is so important. Your workplace culture is a combination of your values, beliefs, behaviors, attitudes and habits. It’s reflected in how people interact and treat each other, how well they work together toward a common goal, and how they feel about the work they do.

Having a positive workplace culture is part of being an employer of choice—of being perceived as a place where people actively want to work. It matters because a positive workplace culture can help you:

  • Attract and retain talent
  • Enhance teamwork and collaboration
  • Increase engagement and drive productivity
  • Spark innovation and creativity

Unfortunately, many organizations allow their workplace culture to form without clearly defining what it should be. Neutral or negative behaviors and attitudes can become ingrained. That’s when genuine change is needed. Culture change requires a long-term commitment from leadership and emotional buy-in from employees.

Here are some steps for getting started:

1. Assess your current culture. Closely observe your workplace and interview employees. Consider using a standardized or customized survey.

  • Walk around your workplace with the eyes of an impartial observer. Imagine you’re a new employee seeing things for the first time. What do you notice about the way space is arranged, people’s workstations, how people interact? Do people communicate more face-to-face or by emails or memos? What’s the tone of these communications?
  • Through small-group interviews, talk with employees about your workplace culture. Ask them how they’d describe the organization to a prospective employee or a friend. Find out what they like best about the organization and what they’d most like to see change. Ask what kinds of people they think are most—and least—successful there.
  • A survey can provide more information and can be customized with questions based on the observations and interviews. Taken together, these assessment tools can help identify strengths and support the culture work you’ve already done. It can also help close gaps and prompt change. If you ask employees to take a survey, be ready to act on the results.

2. Create a culture plan. Once you know where you are today, you can plan where you want to be tomorrow. Examine your organization’s mission, vision and values along with your strategic plan to make sure they all align. There are extensive online resources available to help develop these plans and to manage change.

3. Cultivate better communication. Open, honest and effective communication is key to developing a positive workplace culture. It starts with clarity and transparency from leaders and managers. People throughout the organization need to feel comfortable providing feedback and talking about their concerns. Opportunities for social exchange should be fostered. Policies and procedures for handling complaints—including no-tolerance policies for workplace bullying and harassment—may need to be updated and clearly communicated to all employees.

4. Ensure workplace inclusion. In a positive workplace, every employee feels welcome, valued and supported, regardless of race, age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, background, physical disability or mental illness. Being inclusive can impact choices around signage and building and workspace design, as well as equipment purchases. It can also involve training in cultural competency and implicit bias. CareerForce can help employers with information and resources.

5. Help employees learn and grow. A positive workplace is one that helps employees stretch their wings and develop their talents. Creating a development plan for each employee is a good place to start

6. Align rewards and recognition. Ensure that your pay practices, promotions, performance assessments, recognitions and hiring practices are all in sync with the culture you want to create. Develop systems that reward the behaviors you want to encourage, such as teamwork, respect, creativity and exceptional customer service.

Don’t underestimate the impact of having a positive workplace culture. It will help you attract, develop and retain talent. It will help you become an employer of choice.