While money and other benefits are important, rarely is the decision to leave a company and join another based on compensation alone. Look beyond the surface and you’ll see it usually has something to do with workplace culture.

Employees spend the majority of their waking hours at work – who they approach, the way they interact, the way they react professionally to different problems or tasks, are all reflections of their respective organisation’s workplace culture. Culture is a key determinant in attracting and retaining talent.

In this week’s blog post we introduce  part 1 of our series on workplace culture. A broad topic, we believe by sharing our insights over a short series of articles will help you understand some of the key elements and issues in workplace culture.

What is workplace culture?

An organisation’s culture is composed of the values and behaviours practiced inside the organisation. The workplace culture defines what behaviours can be ‘expected’ in the workplace, and ‘accepted’ by the rest of the team – by both management and co-workers.

To get a feel for what your own company culture might be, think about how you would respond to  a prospective employee when asked the question, ‘Why would I want to come and work for you?’

Example answers that denote positive workplace culture could be ‘family-friendly’; ‘flexible to your needs’; ‘happy team environment’; ‘will be a valued member of our team’; ‘professional development support’; culturally inclusive workplace; ‘individually based training’; ‘well respected company’, etc.

Culture is strongly influenced by relationships, as well as formal policies and informal practices. A healthy culture can inspire individuals to bond together and weather difficult challenges in pursuit of a common goal. A weak culture can leave individuals and the organisation damaged and unsuccessful. Achieving a strong culture requires intention and commitment, but the investment can pay off: a strong organisational culture can be a competitive advantage that strengthens the organisation’s ability to achieve its mission and strategic goals. And, most of us find it much more pleasant to work in a positive work environment full of people who enjoy their work and their co-workers. In addition, their perceptions of the workplace may influence the public reputation of the organisation.

Supporting a positive workplace culture

As a manager, here are some ideas for supporting a positive work place culture:

  • Lead by example. Top executives and managers serve as role models and sources of guidance  and in positive and virtuous ethical cultures, they practice what they preach. Employees pay particularly close attention to these behaviours. Managers who are negative about work-life balance may send signals indicating that the use of flexible benefits is a problem for them and the organisation as a whole.

  • Physical spaces. In some cases it’s as simple as fostering a sense of community and friendship. Where do your employees eat? What kind of seating is involved in work areas?  Creating spaces that encourage social interaction and sharing can give them a greater sense of  communit.

  • Recognise that you have to manage people differently, depending on their age and circumstances. For example, the work / life balance expectations of a single, 25-year old  employee who is just starting a career, may be different than a 42-year old with two kids, a mortgage and a working partner. One size does not fit all. Treat your employees as people. Much the way you do, your employees have a life outside of work that involves family, fitness, clubs, education, or other interests. Flexibility around working hours, days off, or working from home, can go a long way to building loyalty.

How would you describe your workplace culture? Is your workplace culture driving improvement in your organisation’s performance?

Next Week:

We delve further into Workplace Culture, how to change it and the manager’s role in change management.

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