Every business organization has a culture — the positive productive one you want or the one that just happens to develop. A workplace culture makes a difference — the effective and efficient one with a hefty return on your investment or the one consuming all your energy and resources. To optimize your business performance, you must build, monitor, and sustain a positive workplace culture. You start by asking, “What is workplace culture?”
A workplace culture definition starts with the spirit demonstrated by the business’s employees. It’s a feeling, a buzz felt when employees are committed and excited about their work and company. Culture arises from the beliefs and actions of managers and employees, and it shows up in the way people interact, complete work together, engage with customers, and show respect and gratitude for each other.
How you can build a positive workplace culture
Understanding the culture takes you deeper into employee attitudes and demonstrated commitment to the organization’s core values and objectives. Businesses can operate without a strong positive workplace culture, but only a strong cultural spirit adds value to operations and business futures.
Choose good leaders
The best way to retain the right talent is to provide talented management – including organization development, leadership development, and executive coaching. Leaders do not treat employees as functionaries, human capital to be processed and consumed as a necessary or sunk cost.
Leaders understand workers as individuals, each worth a relationship. They respect staff for their practice and potential, and they demonstrate that respect in various but consistent ways. As leading models, they develop and encourage others to value and manifest mutual respect.
Recruit style as well as talent
Leadership must acquire talent before skills. Recruiting and interviewing must move beyond skills identification. A resume lists skills, and pre-qualification will test them. But because a positive culture is built on behavior, the hiring process must drill down into their workplace behavior.
Every job description and posting should contain three to five behaviors you value. All interviews should delve into the behavioral patterns and profiles you want to institutionalize as your workplace character and personality.
Provide an open opportunity
You can create an environment ensuring a workplace culture that is open, collaborative, and results-driven. In small processes and large projects leaders encourage, enable, and facilitate exchange where there is no fault and no fear.
When workers feel free to make suggestions, correct processes, or provide advice without criticism or dismissal, trust and transparency become the currency of transactions between leaders and labor, between workers, and across functional silos.
Make things simple
Making work simple, preparing clear policies, and communicating with intention and clarity are the hallmarks of great cultural leadership. Simplifying means reducing complicated messages to its least common denominator. You should be able to explain the big picture as well as short term vision.
Only when you can put paint to canvas — showing various career paths and aligning behaviors to purpose — can you understand what your business is doing. If people want to know what role they play, leadership must have the answer.
Give workers ownership
Enthusiastic and engaged workers improve operations and processes quantitatively and qualitatively. They have a stake in the outcomes because the business has given them a role in customer relations. Worker ownership does not have to be financial because equity comes in many forms.
Attitudes, beliefs, ideologies, principles, and values contribute to culture. The best leadership practices work conscientiously to respect and integrate the contributions and rhythms of individuals. Leaders provide ownership through partnerships and show respect in small and large gestures.
How do you want customers to see you?
If you’re not clear on your workplace culture, social media may be your first clue. Employees won’t hesitate to rate your workplace on Facebook, GlassDoor, Indeed, and other rating sites. Your workplace rating is a good place from which you can work backward to root causes.
Entrepreneurs often assume their workforce shares their passionate multidimensional view of their future. But it’s a mistake to assume everyone’s on the same page. First stage businesses may energize their workforce with the excitement of doing something new, participating in innovation, or introducing a new product.
However, the early phase business struggles quickly test and burn up those energies. It remains a crucial opportunity for leaders to develop a sustainable workplace culture, a climate of mutual respect and positive psychology. Human Resources can drive corporate culture, but business leaders should not leave it to one function.
Design it or eat it!
What is workplace culture? It is a workplace’s footprint. It is evidence of its inspiration, commitment, and fellowship. A culture will develop quickly and naturally. However, unless the culture is designed, supported, and rewarded from the top down, it will not fulfill employee or owner expectations.
Many businesses do function amidst threats and risks reacting here and there to put out fires among their workforce. It’s a daily reactive behavior, but little is learned about fire control and risk management as the fires are repeatedly extinguished.
Other companies lose their bearings as hostile, negative, or disinterested cultures threaten their organizations with extinction. Faulty cultures demand attention and corrective action. But they also distract leadership from purposeful values.
Great companies promote, feed, and institutionalize positive cultures. They value culture as a strategic and operational asset. Culture is the means and method for a better future for all organizational stakeholders. And, high-performing leaders shape and invest in their workplace culture banking on its direct and indirect contributions to business success. It’s these leaders who make a difference, who bring dimension, energy, and value to workplace fortune and future, and who make a transformative difference with their personal, passionate, and positive vision.
One of the Top 100 Coaches, and Founder and CEO of Best Practice Institute, partner to Newsweek on America’s Most Loved Workplaces, and the author of more than 10 books on best practices in leadership and management, including Change Champion’s Field Guide, In Great Company, and Best Practices in Talent Management. Thought leaders and executives voted him as one of Global Gurus Top 10 Organizational Culture thinkers worldwide.