The concept of “culture in the workplace” has evolved from what we once thought to be another passing trend, into something businesses pour a healthy amount of time and money into. Why? Because the way a company is perceived in this light can make or break the talent it attracts and the workforce it retains.

In other words, culture is the underlying essence of an organization and the soul of a happy workforce.

Although many different factors can contribute to satisfaction in the workplace, the sense of belonging that comes from a strong company culture is what keeps your team coming back day after day. And while 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe that workplace culture is critical to success, only 19% of leaders think that they have the right culture in place, meaning most of us have some growing to do.

So, how can you build a culture in the workplace that’s attractive, transparent and conducive to a highly engaged workforce? This guide will give you all the tools needed to do just that.

Defining Culture in the Workplace: What it is & Why it Matters

Before you can make any sort of impact on workplace culture, it’s important to first understand exactly what this term entails.

Culture is the atmosphere you create for your employees, the concept that shapes workplace satisfaction and the backbone that supports the internal relationships built inside your business.

Many experts describe workplace culture as the “personality” of a business—which, when applied to a person, consists of characteristics, values and underlying behaviors on an individual level, whereas in a company, personality comes from the attitudes and assumptions of an entire group of people.

Your culture is how you attract and retain happy staff members by respecting their needs, supporting their ambitions and sharing their values. If employees feel as though they fit in a work environment, they’re naturally more likely to be happy at work. Given the average person spends 90,360 hours of their life working; it only makes sense that they’d want to feel satisfied in their job.

bain twitter example

Bain & Company, Glassdoor’s second “best place to work,” constantly celebrates their employees with Twitter posts, Instagram pictures, and interviews—proving that the more dedicated you are to your employees, the more committed they’ll be to you in return.

Building a world-class workplace culture starts with understanding your team and embracing the concepts at the heart of your workplace.

Culture is Learned

In your day-to-day life, you learn whether specific behaviors are right or wrong by paying attention to the consequences that follow. If you reward the positive behaviors in your workforce, then your employees are likely to repeat them.

On the other hand, if you ignore or even “punish” those behaviors, then they’ll be abandoned. Importantly, a single person cannot dictate an entire culture. Instead, the culture of your business is negotiated by the various employees on your team.

Interactions are Fundamental

Finally, your employees continuously learn and mold your company culture from their interactions with other people in your work environment. Even your prospective employees can begin to get a good sense of your company culture during the interview process, and when they’re connecting with your brand on social media.

However, because culture is so deeply embedded in the heart and soul of a company, it’s also incredibly difficult to change.

Culture requires a change in behavior, and that change is difficult to implement, as it requires patience and repetitive behavior.

Culture is Synonymous with Behavior

In the work environment, the word “culture” is often used to describe the activities that represent the day-to-day norms of your operating environment. The behaviors in your business directly reflect the kinds of values and ideals that matter to your business.

For instance, if your organization values engagement, then it’s safe to say that your employees will be more productive. If you value transparency and communication, your employees are more likely to feel included and supported.

8 Tips for Achieving the Best Workplace Culture

Achieving a great company culture is crucial because it sets your business up for success with things like employee happiness, productivity, engagement and more. Culture in the workplace has the power to make or break a business’ future because it’s often the determining factor in your ability to attract and retain the talent needed to serve and delight your customers.

In fact:

And yet, despite the power of culture in the workplace, only around 28% of top HR executives believe that they fully understand business culture.

There are many different ways that a business can improve workplace culture. Finding the right strategy is all about understanding your business, and the atmosphere you need to nurture. Here are our top tips to get you started.

1. Hire People Who Align with Your Values

While behaviors can be taught, it’s much harder to implement attitudes into people who don’t share your distinct values and business mission. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to figure out what’s essential to your business before you start hiring new members for your team.

Ask your current team to share the words that they feel are most descriptive of your corporate culture, and then take these terms with you into the interview and look for evidence of them in the things your candidates do and say. For instance, if teamwork is an integral part of your company culture, you can ask your would-be hires to describe previous cases in which they acted as part of a team.

If your candidates seem like they could be a good fit for your brand, consider bringing them in for a test-run to see how they meld with your current team.

2. Focus on Communication

As the workforce continues to evolve, communication is more critical than ever. Remote working and a demand for work/life balance means that your employees want a lot more from you than just a good salary. Indeed, 93% of millennials are on the hunt for a career where they can “be themselves” at work.

We mentioned culture is something your entire team negotiates among themselves within the actions they perform everyday. As such, it’s important to make sure that everyone can communicate seamlessly to keep your team on the same page. When effective employee communication strategies are in place, everyone shares the same goals and accesses the support of their teams.

Don’t underestimate the power of friendships at work, either—they have the power to increase engagement by 7x. When you know other teammates are relying on you to get something done, you’re more likely to push yourself to higher standards—particularly if you like those people on a personal level. This is why it’s so important to invest in bonding ideas and employee outings to facilitate those more profound connections.

Remember—it’s not just relationships between coworkers that play a part in workplace happiness. The connections between managers and employees carry an equal (if not more) weight. The result will be a company culture that not only retains existing talent but attracts new candidates on top of it.

3. Look for Ways to Empower

A great company culture is one that encourages staff to perform at their best. Unfortunately, it’s hard to feel confident in your decisions at work, when someone’s always hanging over your shoulder. Sometimes, if you want to cultivate better culture in the workplace, you need to give your team the freedom to make their own decisions – without your constant supervision.

To start empowering your staff members, make sure that everyone knows exactly what’s expected of them. Remember that lack of clarity can cause significant amounts of workplace stress – something that actively harms company culture.

Once your people understand the missions your company is trying to achieve, they’ll be able to make more effective decisions. The more your employees can make choices on their own, the more they’ll feel like well-respected and influential members of a team.

Just remember that empowerment often works better when small amounts of leadership responsibilities are doled out at a time. Remember to provide feedback to your employees too, so that they can learn as they go.

4. Facilitate Regular Feedback

We’ve already established that it’s hard for workplace culture to thrive without the right communication. Of course, there’s more to great communication than merely letting people chat over social media and company intranet tools.

Feedback is also valuable to make sure that your workplace culture is moving in the right direction. Consider the following ideas:

  • Conducting regular surveys to find out whether perceptions about your company are changing in the right direction
  • Asking your employees what kind of transformations they’d like to see in your business
  • Engaging in regular one-on-one meetings with employees where you can discuss personal issues
  • Hosting team sessions where the business can address complex problems with culture in the workplace

Make sure that everyone is involved in the decision-making process, too. Though management is there to steer the business in the right direction, your employees want to feel like they’re part of that decision making process.

5. Recognize Your Team

Recognition is one of the most important factors of excellent culture in the workplace, but surveys suggest that only 1 in 3 workers believe they’re regularly praised for good work.

At the end of the day, we all feel better when we get the approval we think we deserve. Letting your people know their efforts matter makes a big difference to the kind of culture you foster. The good news is that employee recognition doesn’t have to be difficult—it can be as simple as a shout-out on Slack or a quick acknowledgement at the next team meeting.

If you aren’t sure what kind of recognition strategy will resonate best, try some ideas out and learn as you go!

6. Offer Opportunities for Growth & Development

In a world where your employees want a lot more than just a salary, it’s important to make sure that you’re showing your staff that they have a potential future with your company. This means helping every person on your team to reach their full potential through development strategies and training opportunities.

Many candidates agree that development matters to creating a good culture in the workplace. After all, training ensures that your employees have the resources they need to perform at their best and accomplish incredible things as part of your workforce. A study by the Middlesex University discovered that 74% of employees felt they couldn’t achieve their real potential at work without development opportunities.

What’s more, not only does investing in training opportunities improve workplace culture and loyalty from your staff, but it could also boost company profits too. After all, the more skills your people have, the more you benefit. For instance, one study found that businesses with comprehensive training programs achieve a 24% higher profit margin than businesses without development strategies.

7. Demonstrate Complete Transparency

Workplace culture thrives when everyone feels supported and connected. Of course, if your employees are uncertain of your goals, or continually questioning your actions, it’s difficult to achieve that sense of great company culture.

One employee engagement study found that management transparency is one of the most important factors in ensuring employee happiness. Embedding transparency into your company culture is all about letting employees see where the company is going and how it’s going to grow. Some things you can do include:

  • Creating an employee newsletter that you can send out once a week to keep your people informed about the latest changes in your business.
  • Engaging in regular meetings and conferences to discuss transformations in the workplace.
  • Having an open-door policy for employees who need to ask questions about the company’s development

8. Lead by Example

Finally, if you want to build a great company culture, you need to be willing to demonstrate the behaviors that are important to your brand. The leaders in your business aren’t just there to tell other people what to do; they’re also a source of inspiration for your team and the people that keep them moving forward towards business goals.

Any changes to culture in the workplace need to be implemented and embraced from the top down. This means that if you want your company culture to revolve around proper scheduling and organization, your leaders need to demonstrate their commitment to deadlines. If you want your employees to display your company culture through employee advocacy, then your managers should be the people topping the leaderboard for employee advocacy.

A fantastic workplace culture cannot thrive on hypocrisy. If you want your team to be as capable as possible, then you need to help them embrace new strategies through great leadership.

Spread the Word About Your Culture

Once you have the right strategies to cultivate culture in the workplace, it’s time to think about how you’re going to demonstrate that culture in everything you do.

After all, workplace culture isn’t just about delighting and engaging your existing employees. Excellent company culture can also be the key to attracting new talent onto your team, but you’ll need to identify which methods you’ll use to showcase that fantastic brand and workplace culture to the rest of the world.

One of the most effective ways to show off culture in the workplace is through employee advocacy. When candidates start searching for information about what it’s like to work for your business, they’re more likely to trust the works of their potential coworkers, than the promises of a new boss.

Pull Back the Curtain

When top-tier talent is looking for a new employer, these people will often attempt to visualize themselves in a specific role. The easiest way to help hires figure out what it feels like to work with you is to help them see behind the curtain of your workplace.

For instance, Adobe created their “Adobe Life” platform to help candidates see what it’s like to work as part of their team. The site is dedicated to blogs and insights from staff members loving life with Adobe. You can also draw attention to culture in the workplace by demonstrating how you recognize and reward your employees as well as how you help them to develop their skills.

Be Loud About Benefits

Finally, remember that a great company culture isn’t just about posting pictures of happy employees on Instagram, it’s all about showing off the unique benefits you can offer your hires.

Salary might not be as important to your candidates today, but they still value great benefits and opportunities. In fact, 71% of employees who are satisfied with their benefits package say that they’re “loyal” to their employer.

The benefits you introduce for your employees should resonate with the image you’re trying to create for your brand. For instance, Twitter wants to embed a fun culture in the workplace, which is why they offer yoga classes, unlimited vacation days, and rooftop meetings.

Ready to Enhance Your Workplace Culture?

Culture in the workplace is a concept that almost every business has heard of today, but few understand. Your company culture needs to be at the heart of everything you do as a company if you want it to thrive. This means setting the right values in place from day one, taking steps to boost your company culture, and then showcasing that culture wherever you can.

The more you work on your company culture, the easier it will be for you to access an engaged, productive, and happier workforce.