Culture affects every aspect of your organization’s functioning – from individual employee engagement to teamwork to program management to overall results.

Unfortunately, as leaders we get so caught up in meetings, daily operations, and short-term firefighting it’s easy to forget that all these actions are wrapped up in our organization’s culture.

In his article Closing the Massive Gaps between Culture Awareness, Education and Action, Tim Kuppler notes that most organizations fail to connect culture and strategy. He says most strategies are predetermined by culture in ways leaders don’t realize. Excellent strategies can be torpedoed by culture, yet leaders usually don’t realize the saboteur, and may instead blame others, or circumstances.

“If you get the values and culture right, success will happen.” –Tony Hsieh, CEO, Zappos

Successful Company Culture

So how do we ensure our workplace culture supports our organization’s success? In the TEDx presentation Creating Organizational Cultures Based on Values, Ann Rhoades, a leading expert on building values-based organizations, identifies what high-performing, values-based organizations do very well:

  • Define their values precisely, including supporting behaviors
  • Maintain a continuous improvement discipline
  • Understand that their people are their brand
  • Maintain strong models of accountability and rewards

Observe what tops her list—defining values and their associated behaviors. From this wellspring emanates your organization’s culture.

As an example, Rhoades shares a story from Southwest Airlines. A man books a last-minute, urgent trip to visit his dying grandson. He arrives at the gate just as the plane is about to depart. The flight attendant reaches for her phone. Given that he’s sure he’s missed the flight he assumes she’s making arrangements for another flight, and that he has lost the chance to see his grandson one last time. But instead, within a few minutes, the plane’s captain arrives from down the jetway to personally escort him on to the plane.

Southwest’s values were so well defined and so well embedded in its culture that its employees instinctively knew how to behave in this situation.

According to Bill Howatt, Chief Research and Development Officer of Work Force Productivity with Morneau Shepell, culture begins with senior leadership who, with their people, define parameters with respect to vision and values. He says culture shapes the story for how people are expected to behave within a workplace. This impacts their workplace experience.


How to Improve Workplace Culture

Let’s take a look at Howatt’s advice on actions leadership can take to shape culture:

Define the ideal state

    • What kind of culture do the senior leaders and work force want, and how will this benefit employees, management, and customers?

Regularly and objectively measure the culture

    • This does not need to be an ordeal. There are different tactics (for example, surveys that measure culture perceptions, employees’ stress) that can analyze the consequences on their health, engagement, and productivity.

Culture shaping

    • The data unpacks the culture story. To have an impact, senior leaders need to mandate culture shaping as a core objective and put this measure on a corporate scorecard.

The influence of workplace culture on your organization’s success is irrefutable. Leaders must play a seminal role in defining, shaping and maintaining it.


Fostering Engagement Through Community Building

Enhancing workplace culture isn’t only about setting strategic objectives or defining values; it’s equally about fostering a sense of community among employees. When people feel connected and part of a cohesive group, their engagement and productivity often increase, directly influencing the overall success of the organization. Here are some practical tips for leaders aiming to build a stronger community within their workplace:

Promote Open Communication:

    • Create an environment where employees feel safe to express their thoughts, ideas, and concerns without fear of judgment. Encourage open forums, regular team meetings, and anonymous feedback tools to ensure every voice can be heard.

Encourage Social Interactions:

    • Organize regular social events, both formal and informal, to help break down barriers between departments and hierarchical levels. Events such as team lunches, after-work gatherings, and team-building exercises can foster personal connections that translate into professional cooperation.

Implement Mentorship Programs:

    • Pairing less experienced workers with seasoned employees can facilitate personal and professional growth, as well as strengthen bonds within the team. These relationships often lead to improved skills, higher morale, and a deeper understanding of the company’s culture.

Recognize and Celebrate Success:

    • Public acknowledgment of employees’ achievements can have a profound effect on morale. Whether it’s a project completion, work anniversary, or personal milestone, celebrating these moments can reinforce a positive culture and show that the organization values its people.

Invest in Community Service:

    • Engage employees in community service projects that reflect your organization’s values. Volunteering not only builds team spirit but also positions your company as a responsible community member, enhancing your brand from the inside out.

Support Professional Development Goals:

    • Allocate resources and time for employees to pursue certifications, degrees, or other professional qualifications. Supporting their goals shows that the company is invested in their personal and professional growth, which can enhance loyalty and job satisfaction.

Create a Learning-Focused Environment:

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