4 Indicators of a Strong Workplace Culture and 5 Ways to Create One

workplace culture

Workplace culture refers to the values, behaviors and daily experience of a company’s everyday work environment. Workplace culture emerges from company values, but it’s defined by every company employee. To maintain a healthy and consistent culture, a company’s stated values must direct its practices. And, beyond that, employees must feel compelled to put those values into action.

Of course, many businesses publicly espouse a similar set of core values. What sets some companies apart is how they help employees understand their roles within that framework.

It sounds like a lot of work. So why bother?

In fact, a strong workplace culture measurably improves productivity, employee retention and long-term growth. A strong culture is the key to making sure business operates at its highest possible capacity.

Here are four key indicators of a strong workplace culture:

Workplace Culture Indicator #1: Clear Company Vision and Focus

By defining professional expectations, employees are able to see an end goal and strive consistently towards it. By eliminating ambiguity, a deliberate and well-communicated culture improves decision-making abilities and increases efficiency and productivity.

Workplace Culture Indicator #2: Well-Defined Accountabilities

When employees understand how their actions impact the goals and wellbeing of their entire team—and company—they feel driven to succeed. Accountability fosters a sense of ownership. This improves proactive behavior and productivity. As a byproduct, communication becomes more effective.

Workplace Culture Indicator #3: Established Control Mechanisms

Measuring progress is easier with a set of well-defined metrics in place. This arms leaders with the ability to oversee, gauge and even adjust employee performance and the overall effectiveness of current operations.

Workplace Culture Indicator #4: Employee Retention

A well-defined culture helps employees understand the company’s expectations and feel they fit in. Happy employees equal successful employees, which means lower turnover. Not only is this a huge cost-saver, but it also serves to support every aspect of your company’s culture and ensure it continues to thrive through focus, teamwork and a healthy sense of control.

Strengthening Your Workplace Culture

Better communication, increased productivity and happy employees who stick around and save the company money—that all sounds great. So, how can your company go about implementing culture in the workplace in a way that’s clear, sustainable and effective in fostering the aforementioned outcomes?

Step 1: Decide what’s important

The first step is sitting down with leadership and working to determine the organization’s values—what drives the company? Consult executive leadership to identify the company’s top goals. Understand the goal roadmap. Those goals should direct everything the company does. How will you apply those goals to everyday operations?

Step 2: Hire accordingly

When you hire a new employee, there are a number of qualifications you look for—education, experience and work ethic. But it’s also important to gauge a prospective employee’s alignment with the company’s values. The wrong hire can be detrimental to the culture that your team has worked long and hard to create.

Step 3: Onboarding

Effective onboarding procedures help employees understand the company’s goals and roadmap forward. Onboarding should also clarify an employee’s points of accountability. Defining the culture and how individuals can directly support it will ensure the culture flourishes from the front of the company all the way to the back.

Step 4: Communication

What you’ve heard is true—communication really is key. There are many modes of communication, and it’s probably best to employ several of them simultaneously to convey your message. Email, newsletters, meetings, events and day-to-day conversations are all ways you can reinforce your company’s culture. While the information will be fresh in new hires’ minds, employees who have been around for years will benefit from ongoing reinforcement of these ideals.

Step 5: Reward and Incentive Programs

In a 2018 Cornell University study people who received immediate rewards demonstrated higher work investment and motivation. But, in an interesting twist, those rewards did not need to be constant or ongoing. The rewarded individuals maintained higher interest and engagement levels even after the rewards phase ended.

Incentive programs also help with staff recruitment, retention and engagement, according to the Incentive Research Foundation. By rewarding employees who actively engage in workplace culture—i.e., events, activities, etc.—companies encourage them to repeat those behaviors. That repeated behavior encourages others to engage in a similar way.

Values Matter to Workplace Culture

According to the O.C. Tanner Institute, companies that focus on values like purpose, opportunity and appreciation are:

  • 27% more likely to increase revenue last year
  • 22% less likely to have experienced layoffs in the last year
  • 25% more likely to have teams growing in size instead of stagnating or decreasing

Consider viewing your workplace as a living space. Ideally, we design our living spaces with intention. We design living spaces with the goal of nurturing those ideals we consider most important. Trouble occurs when those who occupy a living space aren’t on the same page regarding procedures, atmosphere and expectations. This strains communication, raises stress levels and blocks the path to success.

But companies can reap real and practical dividends by taking the time to consider their work environment goals, by communicating those goals in a transparent way, and by taking conscious steps to create and maintain a strong workplace culture.

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