Your Guide to Enhancing Your Workplace Culture

By Steve Graham on December 6, 2018

A workplace culture is unique.

While there are similar cultures, each one has individual attributes that make a statement—great, good, bad or horrible—about your organization.

In today's highly connected society, word spreads fast about your values, mission and the way you treat the people who work with you. Your workplace dynamics show a lot about your organization. Even the worst workplaces have a culture, which are often classified as "toxic workplaces." This culture, whether good or bad, communicates something about what kind of organization you are and how you treat customers, vendors, partners and other business relationships.

There is no shortage of literature about great workplaces, work culture and even the toxic places. Leaders and influencers want to know how to make their organization a better place to work. Here, we share common attributes that contribute to the best work cultures and ideas to help you enhance your workplace environment and culture.

Building Culture

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Culture is not a one-size-fits-all concept. If you are trying to be Google, please stop. Your industry sector, available talent and even the geographic location are all influencers that help shape culture. And your unique culture is vital to your success as an organization.

Building culture must be intentional. According to ERC, an HR consulting firm, allowing your culture to develop naturally is one of the biggest mistakes organizations make.

Leaders are the bedrock in shaping workplace cultures. They set the tone for how culture is created and grown. This tone is vital as people need to feel connected in their workplace. On average, most of us spend more time at work than at home. That's a lot of time in the workplace. The culture is what can encourage employees in their everyday life or leave them feeling disengaged in their 9-to-5. To help create that connection for employees in their work, the workplace culture can meet the employee where they're at.

Culture Meets Universal Human Needs

Organizational psychologists agree that workplace culture must provide the six universal human needs to thrive: respect, recognition, belonging, autonomy, personal growth and meaning. In his book, "Connection Culture," Michael Lee Stallard says, "An organization's culture reflects the predominant ways of thinking, behaving and working."

As you think about these six universal human needs, reflect on how each connects to workplace culture:

  1. Respect: An environment that encourages open communication.
  2. Recognition: An environment that values accomplishments.
  3. Belonging: An environment that cultivates engagement.
  4. Autonomy: An environment that is free of micro-management.
  5. Personal Growth: An environment that promotes career development.
  6. Meaning: An environment that allows the expression of purpose.

Whether in a business, religious institution, nonprofit or other organization the culture of such gathering of people has the potential to meet these essential needs for people to thrive.

Characteristics of Successful Organizational Cultures

When exploring the attributes of enhancing culture in the workplace, organizations known for being great places to work show certain commonalities. In a recent article from Huffington Post, Dr. Michelle Rozen, identifies seven characteristics of successful company cultures. She starts the list of characteristics with purpose. Having a sense of why you do what you do is essential in a successful culture. Here's what she said about the importance of incorporating purpose into your workplace culture:

"Purpose is an inspirational driver for engaging employees and communities. When a leader establishes a clear purpose for the organization, it will become the inspirational driver for engaging employees and so provide them with a concrete source for motivation."

Her list of characteristics of great organizations to work for also includes:

If the workplace has a focus on these characteristics, it has the foundation for a successful culture.

Workplace Culture Influences Organizational Success

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A workplace culture has the opportunity to improve engagement and success for your employees. But what does it have to do with organizational success?

The organization Great Place To Work recently published a book titled "A Great Place to Work For All." Their book illustrates the connection between great cultures and the impact on their bottom line as well as the importance of leadership in shaping culture. They emphasize how every employee should experience positive company culture. This "for all" mentality of involving everyone is fundamental for building a workplace culture that can thrive. Here's what the authors said about the leader's role in building culture:

"In the emerging economy, leaders have to create an outstanding culture for everyone, no matter who they are or what they do for the organization. They have to build Great Places to Work For All."

Creating a culture that maximizes the human potential accelerates performance.

In an article from 15Five by David Mizne, the research from the creators of Great Place to Work found "companies that rate most highly according to our new 'For All' standard grow revenue three times faster than their less-inclusive rivals. In other words, while trust fuels business performance at great workplaces, 'For All' accelerates it."

The research compiled by Great Place To Work is a powerful resource for creating an exceptional work culture and demonstrating how it is worth the investment.

Another study by Great Place To Work, found that "For All" cultures outpace their competition. The core reason is that, "business success relies on developing all your human potential. Every employee matters in an economy that is about connectivity, innovation, and human qualities like passion, character, and collaboration."

When each and every employee feels supported in their work, there is more opportunity to grow as a successful organization.

Steps To Enhance Your Workplace Culture

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Enhancing workplace culture takes time. It also takes a commitment to prioritizing resources to achieve your desired outcomes. If you as a leader keep your people central to the mission, you will design a culture that works best for your organization.

There is nothing wrong with borrowing ideas from other organizations that have an exceptional culture. Borrow those ideas, but customize your characteristics to fit your environment. A workplace culture is like a personality, where authenticity is essential. A "one-size-fits-all" or "cut and paste" approach will not work in the long run for your organization.

The first step in enhancing your workplace culture is evaluating what you are doing and not doing. In order to improve, you must know where you are currently at.

Also, observe your competitors. What can you learn from them? Do they seem to have better talent? Do they experience lower turnover? Do they have a better public perception? Resist the temptation to be something your organization is not. A great culture is not about the perks.

Here's what Annette Ferrara from IDEO, an international design and consulting firm founded in Palo Alto, Calif., said about creating the right workplace culture:

"Often, people want to write culture off as a slew of perks you might find at tech companies. But really, culture is about creating an environment that makes it possible for people to work together to come up with innovative products and ideas—the same products and ideas that drive revenue.

What steps can you take to enhancing your culture?

Here is a suggested path to follow if you want a better workplace culture:

  1. Define who your organization is and live it every day!
  2. Establish an environment built on trust. If trust is not a core ingredient nothing else matters.
  3. Encourage open communications—break down barriers that impede progress.
  4. Develop peopleHave a strategic focus on talent development.
  5. Offer flexibility. Offer an environment that meets the needs of your people.
  6. Recognize people the way they want to be recognized. Be consistent.
  7. Celebrate successes and support your people in failures.

How will you enhance your workplace culture?

Workplace culture is important and takes time to develop. Approach the process of enhancing workplace culture as ongoing. It is never a completed task. Cultures must also evolve. Keep the six universal human needs at the heart of your design. Leaders are curators of culture.

Be authentic. What works in Silicon Valley does not translate everywhere. Workplace culture has a real connection to the bottom line, so treat it with the importance it deserves. Observe your direct competitors. There is value in understanding what works and does not within your competitive set. Define your authentic self as an organization. Keep trust as a key element in designing the right culture. This will lead to innovation and a holistic relationship between your people and revenue.

Are you interested in learning how furthering your education can help you lead your organizational well? Check out our degree programs to discover how you can be better equipped to be a positive influence.

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Category: Leadership