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Insight Culture

February 24, 2017

What does it mean to have a workplace culture?

“In the 1990s, with the whole technology explosion in Silicon Valley, it became popular to have ‘great culture,’” says Culture Counts president and CEO Whitney Walpole. “What that meant was ping-pong tables and great snacks and having slides in the workplace. It was really all about creating a place where happy employees could come to work.”

However, says Whitney, having a workplace culture is about more than just fun workspaces where pets and beverages are allowed.

“That’s really not what culture is all about, that’s just one expression of it,” she says.

Why is knowing your workplace culture so important?

Every organization, big or small, has a workplace culture. Whether you realize it or not, culture affects everything you do — from the big stuff like hiring employees, to the smaller details like how people have conversations at work.

So why is it important to start by knowing what your workplace culture is? Because…

  • It drives company performance. Businesses with highly engaged employees enjoy higher profits, increased productivity, and less employee turnover.
  • It attracts the best talent. According to the Employer’s Resource Council, “Highly skilled people, in particular, are attracted to new challenges, opportunities, and a rewarding work environment. A strong, positive, clearly defined and well-communicated culture attracts the right fit and talent.”
  • Strong culture drives employee engagement and retention. If your organization is cognizant of hard work and rewards those efforts, top employees are more likely to stick around — and attract other highly-regarded employees as well.
  • Employee happiness and job satisfaction improves when there is a strong workplace culture, according to this study by Deloitte. There is a strong correlation between employees who say they are “happy at work” and feel “valued by their company,” and those who say their organization has a clearly articulated and lived culture.

So what, exactly, is your workplace culture?

Culture is simply the consistent behaviors and beliefs in a group. Every group has a culture.

But the difficulty of observing culture is that it’s usually in the background.

“It’s the water that people swim in,” says Whitney. “People aren’t always aware of what their culture is, which is not a big deal when you’re the founder of a small company and the culture just kind of beams out of you.”

In the early stages of the company, when employee headcount is low and hierarchy is non-existent, managing your culture seems simple enough. You have a mission statement that you hang up in your office or garage or warehouse, and everyone knows what it is, and everyone in your organization can come to you or the other founders with problems. As CEO, you’re easily accessible and employees know that they can come to you at any time.

But what happens as you grow and hire more people and increase the size and scope of your organization? Managing your culture gets a lot more complicated.

“What we find is that leaders come to us and they say, ‘What’s happened to our culture?’ We’re losing what makes us great,’” says Whitney. “That’s actually normal, because no longer do the founders really have that type of influence that they did when the company was in its start-up phase.”

What affects your workplace culture the most, and what can you do to change it?

Leadership and management
Culture reflects the beliefs and behaviors of the leaders. When leadership prioritizes facilitating the best possible culture for the company, their attitudes trickle down and affect all employees. Founders especially have an opportunity to ensure that, as their organization grows and expands, so does the culture and philosophy on which the organization was founded.

When the CEO and management teams can lead from a creative rather than a reactive mindset, it changes the way their people work. By tapping into their potential to shift from drama to clarity, they are better able to manage and motivate others while fostering more collaboration and accountability.

Clear communication
Drama, lack of accountability, having a “silo mentality” and other challenges in the workplace are often due to a group’s inability to have clear and productive conversations.

Are you constantly frustrated by your employees’ inability to get things done on time? Or maybe, as an employee, you have trouble seeing why your boss doesn’t appreciate the sacrifices you make for your job.

Often, drama is created by either lack of clear communication, or because of stories that you tell yourself that may not be true. By prioritizing facts over stories and learning how to create clear agreements, you can significantly reduce the drama that prevents real work from getting done.

Through emphasizing accountable leadership and prioritizing clear communication, your organization can improve and strengthen its workplace culture.

“We’re really in the business of helping leaders identify and learn how to talk about those fundamentals that make their culture so great,” Whitney says. “That way, over time and as the company grows, they can continue to keep, and sustain, what makes them so strong and successful.”

How can your workplace culture improve? Whether it’s through our programs, coaching, or consulting, Culture Counts has helped hundreds of individuals improve their culture and their business results. Contact us to see how we can partner with you in your journey to create more wins!

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