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How to build a great workplace culture

When we talk about workplace culture first thing that comes to mind is actually what workplace culture is. Is it a set of values, beliefs, communication, collaboration, or attitudes? When you dig deep, it is a subject that is much more complex than what appears. There are many more factors involved and great workplace culture is not easy to build.

Forbes says workplace culture is, “the environment that surrounds us all the time." The Indeed Career Guide says it’s a "collection of attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that make up the regular atmosphere in a work environment."

Simply put, workplace culture is a collection of shared values, beliefs, behaviors, and practices that characterize an organization and the people in it. It is the way things are done, people interact and operate in an organization. It encompasses the company's mission, vision, and goals, as well as the attitudes and behaviors of employees toward each other and the organization. Culture is what we do when nobody is watching.

In the book The Best Place to Work, Ron Friedman writes, “The secret to happy workplaces isn’t spending more money. It’s about creating the conditions that allow employees to do their best work.”

This is where the ultimate relevance of culture lies. A good culture empowers people and supports them to thrive.

Workplace culture is shaped by various factors, including leadership style, communication, work environment, employee engagement, and diversity and inclusion efforts. A positive workplace culture is one that fosters trust, respect, collaboration, and innovation.

Workplace culture can have a significant impact on employee satisfaction, retention, and performance, as well as the overall success and reputation of the organization.

When the workplace culture is positive, it can lead to improved collaboration, higher employee morale, increased productivity, and efficiency.

A Deloitte research finds, 94% of executives and 88% of employees consider a well-defined workplace culture crucial for a company's success. The study also revealed that 76% of employees believed that a positive workplace culture could be established with the help of a clearly articulated business strategy.

Building a great workplace culture is an ongoing process that requires continuous effort and commitment. Often it is about consistently doing the right thing and reinforcing the right behavior. Building a desired organizational culture is a complex process and depends on a lot of emergent factors. It is often hard to choreograph a culture because many of these factors are organic and happen through mimetism. However, we can still influence the emergent nature of culture building by being intentional. Followings are a set of steps that organizations can use to create a work environment that fosters engagement, productivity, and employee satisfaction.

Organizational values

Having a well-defined set of core values that accurately reflect the principles and beliefs of your organization is essential. Organizational values are often reflected in a company's mission statement, vision, and code of ethics. They can also be communicated through regular training, town halls, meetings, employee feedback, and recognition programs. When organizational values are consistently demonstrated and reinforced, they can help create a positive workplace culture that fosters trust, respect, and collaboration.

Communicate effectively, and communicate often

Effective communication is essential for creating a positive workplace culture. It enables employees to share their ideas, concerns, and feedback, promotes collaboration, and helps to build trust and transparency.

As they say, “No matter what job you have in life, your success will be determined 5% by your academic credentials, 15% by your professional experiences, and 80% by your communication skills."

And to communicate effectively, organizations should encourage open and honest communication between employees, managers, and leaders. This includes actively listening to what others have to say, being clear and concise when speaking, and asking questions to clarify any misunderstandings.

Leaders should also communicate the organization's goals and objectives clearly to employees. This helps to align everyone's efforts towards a common purpose and empowers employees to contribute to the success of the organization.

Communication should be regular and ongoing, rather than just occurring during formal meetings. This includes providing feedback and recognition to employees, sharing updates on company initiatives and progress, and encouraging regular check-ins between managers and employees.

Effective communication is critical to building a positive workplace culture.

Create an inclusive work environment

Creating an inclusive work environment means creating a positive and vibrant workplace culture where everyone, regardless of their race, gender, age, religion, or any other characteristic, feels valued, respected, and included. It involves promoting diversity and ensuring that all employees feel welcome and able to contribute their unique perspectives and talents to the organization.

An inclusive work environment goes beyond simply complying with anti-discrimination laws and policies. In an inclusive work environment, employees feel comfortable expressing themselves and their ideas and are free from fear of discrimination or prejudice. This, in turn, can lead to increased collaboration, creativity, and innovation, as well as higher employee engagement and retention.

As Alan Joyce says, “We have a very diverse environment and a very inclusive culture, and those characteristics got us through the tough times. Diversity generated a better strategy, better risk management, better debates, and better outcomes.”

Establish specific goals and rewards for the employees

The previously cited survey by Deloitte showed that 83% of executives and 84% of employees rank having engaged and motivated employees as the top factor that substantially contributes to a company’s success. Motivated and engaged employees can be created if they are treated equally and have clear goals that they can work towards.

When employees have specific goals to work towards, they are more likely to be motivated, engaged, and focused on achieving their targets. Goals should be clear, achievable, and aligned with the overall objectives of the organization.

Rewards can come in various forms such as monetary compensation, bonuses, promotions, or non-monetary rewards such as recognition, awards, and public acknowledgment. The rewards must be appropriate and meaningful to the employee and should be commensurate with the level of effort and achievement demonstrated.

Having specific goals and rewards in the workplace helps to create a sense of purpose and direction for employees, encourages them to improve their performance, and ultimately leads to improved productivity and job satisfaction.

Create a supportive environment

Creating a supportive environment means fostering a workplace culture where employees feel valued, appreciated, and cared for. It involves providing resources, tools, and opportunities that enable employees to perform their best work, while also promoting their well-being and personal growth.

Creating a supportive environment requires a commitment from leadership to prioritize employee well-being and personal growth. By promoting a supportive environment, organizations can foster a positive workplace culture that benefits both employees and the organization as a whole.

Provide growth opportunities

Providing growth opportunities means creating a workplace culture where employees have access to resources, support, and opportunities to develop their skills, knowledge, and career paths. This includes opportunities for professional development, mentorship, and promotion.

When employees feel they have opportunities to grow and advance in their careers, they are more engaged and motivated to do their best work. They also tend to stay with their employers for longer, reducing turnover and related costs.

Lead by example

As a leader, you set the tone for the organization's culture and can have a significant impact on how employees behave and interact with each other. When you lead by example, you demonstrate the values, attitudes, and behaviors that you want to see in your team. This can include being respectful, honest, and transparent, as well as showing a willingness to learn and grow. It can also include setting high standards for quality work, collaboration, and innovation.

Leading by example can be particularly effective in building a positive workplace culture because it fosters trust and respect among employees. When employees see that their leaders are committed to the same values and behaviors that they are being asked to uphold, they are more likely to embrace them as well.

In addition, leading by example can create a sense of accountability within the organization. When leaders hold themselves to high standards and are willing to be transparent about their own mistakes and shortcomings, they create an environment where everyone is expected to take responsibility for their actions and work to improve.

Finally, creating a positive workplace culture requires a commitment from leaders to invest in their employees' well-being and to create a supportive environment where everyone can thrive. It requires ongoing effort to maintain and improve the culture, but the rewards are well worth it in terms of employee satisfaction, retention, and organizational success.

Ayrin Saleha Ria works at Future Startup as a full-time Research Associate. She has a background in Applied Sociology. Before joining the FS team, she worked and volunteered with a number of social organizations. As someone who comes from a social science background, she takes a deep interest in research around important social-economic challenges in our society. A voracious reader, Ayrin is passionate about working for the betterment of society, takes a deep interest in human society and behavioral science, and loves books.

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