More than two-thirds of C-suite executives surveyed by Deloitte said they believe workplace culture plays a critical role in whether an organization can achieve its objectives.
The demand for healthy workplace culture isn’t just a trend that will pass. New generations joining the workforce are driving a fundamental shift in expectations among all workers. Employees expect to work for organizations that prioritize well-being, flexibility, professional development, and diversity and inclusion. They’re ready to leave jobs if their employers don’t meet their expectations.
Improving workplace culture is a long-term investment. Organizations can’t roll out one culture initiative and call it done, because workplace culture is fluid and changes frequently. We recommend taking these five steps to improve workplace culture continually:
1. Start with purpose, mission and values
An organization should align its workplace culture with its values and purpose or mission. These statements articulate the organization’s reason for existing and how it expects employees to behave when interacting with customers, colleagues, partners and the community. Organizations that shape their workplace culture around these elements are more likely to create a culture that’s empowered to fulfill the organization’s purpose or mission.
Let’s consider a healthcare technology company with a mission to make healthcare more accessible to rural communities through innovative consumer products. The workplace culture at an innovation-driven organization must inspire creativity and empower employees to take risks without fear of repercussions.
Organizations that shape workplace culture around their purpose or mission and values are well-equipped to:
- Attract employees who believe in the company’s purpose or mission
- Engage and motivate employees
- Differentiate themselves from competitors
- Provide clarity on employee expectations
2. Evaluate existing culture
Organizations need to understand their existing strengths and weaknesses to identify areas for workplace culture improvement. There are a variety of ways to evaluate the current culture, including:
- Digging into cross-functional metrics like absenteeism, PTO and sick time usage, realization reporting, and recruitment and retention metrics. Learning how to read these numbers can help the organization identify issues often caused by unhealthy workplace culture, including burn-out, low employee engagement, decreasing tenure length and difficulty filling open positions.
- Surveying employees. Organizations can better understand how employees are feeling and where there are opportunities to support them by listening to them using a variety of survey methods like engagement studies, eNPS® and pulse surveys.
- Looking at external indicators. Employee review sites like Glassdoor and Indeed give former and current employees a platform to share honest feedback about the organization. These can be powerful sources of information that uncover insights about the culture that employee reviews or exit interviews didn’t reveal.
Organizations can compile findings from these sources into a SWOT analysis to help identify where the culture excels and where it needs to improve. A SWOT analysis is a valuable tool for leaders to identify opportunities and threats and thoughtfully navigate both.
3. Align leadership and communication
Traditional workplace culture relied on top-down, hierarchical leadership and indirect communication. Today’s modern workplace culture requires collaboration and transparency. Employees want accessible and authentic leadership that asks for their feedback and considers it when making business decisions.
Two-way communication between employees and leadership encourages connection and engagement. Employees feel trusted when they’re asked to contribute, and they’re more likely to participate when they notice leadership listens. Engaged employees are more invested in the organization’s success and are inspired to do their part to help the organization achieve it.
Organizations that effectively leverage two-way communication channels create a feedback loop between employees and leadership, which enhances the employee experience and improves workplace culture.
4. Engage employees
Organizations play a significant role in shaping workplace culture, but employees are ultimately responsible for bringing it to life. Engaging employees in improving workplace culture increases the likelihood of successful culture-shaping initiatives.
Collecting informal feedback can uncover insights about the culture that formal methods can’t. Organizations can engage employees by collecting informal feedback from managers and influencers and then demonstrating how they are incorporating or responding to it. Influencers are those employees with the power to positively affect other employees.
Organizations can then engage these influencers as ambassadors for change when launching culture initiatives. Culture ambassadors work closely with leadership to brainstorm ways they can model desired behaviors and motivate other employees to act the same.
The organization should also recognize and reward employees who embody the key elements of workplace culture. This recognition reinforces the desired behaviors and signals to employees how seriously the organization is taking the culture initiative.
5. Measure and plan for future initiatives
Ongoing measurement and benchmarking are essential for nurturing sustained, healthy workplace culture. Organizations should continue to use the assessment methods outlined in step three to keep tabs on the health of the organization’s culture and identify opportunities for improvement.
An organization’s workplace culture evolves continually as employees and the marketplace change, which means culture work doesn’t end when one initiative is complete. Workplace culture is built and nurtured over time, with values and purpose or mission always at the center.
Culture initiatives are significant and complex. Organizations that make it a priority and take steps to improve workplace culture will reap the rewards of healthy workplace culture.
About Ayme Zemke, SVP, Client Services
Ayme Zemke leads Beehive Client Service. She has nearly twenty-four years of strategic communication experience at Twin Cities PR agencies. Ayme has led many client organizations through culture transformations with an employee-focused strategy that empowers growth from the inside out. She has the unique gift of seeing and understanding people’s needs and making meaningful connections that build trust. But that’s just part of what makes her a master of client service. Ayme’s clients and teams quickly learn that her insights get to the heart of what really matters to move businesses forward with purpose.