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How to Improve Workplace Culture?

Published August 22, 2022 (last updated on February 27, 2024) | Adam Wyatt - Content Writer


‘Company culture’, ‘workplace culture’, ‘organisational culture’ are buzz words used interchangeably that you may have heard of. What do they mean? How can they impact you? A poor workplace culture can cause stress and anxiety among your employees. So, how can you ensure your workplace is a safe and supportive environment?

Read below to find out how we define organisational culture, why it is important in the workplace, what are the types of organisational culture and how to improve organisational or workplace culture.

What is workplace culture?

Culture in its core is how organisations do things. It is consistent and observable patterns of behaviour. Organisational or workplace culture tells a story about the people in the organisation, the values they share and promote, and focuses attention on their actions and words.

It can differ from industry to industry. However, an underlying similarity all industries have is that organisational culture is dynamic and shifts in response to external and internal changes.

Why is culture important in the workplace?

Organisational or workplace culture is valued because it fosters employee engagement, retains loyalty, improves productivity. According to a Glassdoor study, 56% adults rank organisational culture as a more important consideration than compensation. It is essential for the workplace as it helps employees develop a sense of pride, commitment, and purpose. By creating a positive workplace culture, you ensure you attract quality talent and more important, retain that talent.

Studies show that employees in a toxic workplace can feel disengaged. Disengaged workers have 37% higher absenteeism, 49% more accidents and 60% more errors and mistakes. On the flip side, a positive workplace culture ensures reduced absenteeism, improved productivity, and increased retention of talent.

Types of workplace culture

There is no one size fits all approach in organisational culture. Every employee, every employer introduces another variable and a new set of beliefs that can cause your culture to adapt. However, research has narrowed down few types of organisational culture. These types can help you define your workplace culture effectively:

  • Adhocracy- Adhocracy cultures are rooted in innovation and adaptability. Their primary focus is risk-taking. Cutting edge companies and employers are always looking for the next big thing. These companies and cultures value innovation, individuality, creativity, and passion. Think of the innovators, Google for example, going where others have not gone before. Commonly found within the tech industry, these cultures foster competition, thinking out of the box, and pushing your limits. The downside is that not all risks can lead to success so there is always a chance that the business may suffer.

  • Clan- Often seen in start-ups and smaller companies, clan cultures are people-focused and collaborative. The company feels family-like and has a horizontal structure to improve communication. Clan cultures have high rates of employee engagement and retention. They are also highly adaptable and empathetic. The drawback for these types of workplace cultures is they are difficult to maintain as the organisation grows rapidly in size.

  • Hierarchy- Hierarchy cultures follow the traditional corporate model. They revolve around a central chain of command. There are management tiers and roles to distinguish employees from management and leadership. Well-defined processes allow for clear direction and quick responses to every situation. A common concern for many is this can easily become a negative workplace culture with rigid rules about everything from dress codes to appearances to ways of communication. It also can impact creativity as they are slow to adapt and change. The company takes preference over the employee and there is often no room for change or feedback.

  • Market- Everything in a market culture is about profit. Each project, position, employee must meet a particular goal. These cultures are result-oriented, looking towards external results and have targets and quotas that need to be met. They are fast paced, driven, don’t waste time, and incentivised through growth. Financial firms, retail, and sales companies usually follow this culture. The negative aspect is there are reportedly high rates of employee burnout. It can also be difficult to sustain your position if external factors don’t support you. The culture can also be cut-throat and aggressive.

How to improve organisational culture?

Now that you know what is workplace culture and what are the basic types, let’s see how to improve workplace culture:

  • Building strong employee relationships- This is a simple fact that most employers lose sight of. Your employees are the people creating your products and services. You must build strong and engaging employee relationships. What do they need from you? How can you support them? Think of hosting regular feedback sessions or one on ones with your team to allow them the chance to voice their concerns.

  • Creating transparency- Can your employees trust your leadership? Cultivate an environment of trust and transparency. Use emails, monthly meetings, or social posts as a means of sharing updates and information. Establish a communication policy or send a company wide survey to find out their views and emotions. Check in with your team or message them to offer support, coaching, and mentorship.

  • Reward valuable contributions- By rewarding the efforts of dedicated employees, you reinforce a culture that is positive and encouraging. Rewarding and recognising efforts of employees helps reduce turnover. It pushes people to do their best, and it drives results. These rewards can be financial such as bonuses, gift cards, vouchers or symbolic such as a shout out during team meetings.

  • Connect people to a purpose- Most employees leave a company for new opportunities or purpose. How can you help them achieve their purpose? Outline their roles and show how invested you are in them. Mentoring, training opportunities or providing them financial reimbursement for professional development can be a great way of connecting them to a purpose.

Benefits of a positive work culture

A positive workplace culture has several benefits that can help you in the long run.

  • Strong purpose- If employees feel supported then they develop a strong purpose. This leads to improved productivity, focus, and eventually motivation. Happier employees also tend to be loyal and hence spend their time creating value for the company.

  • Honest communication- Honest and open communication can solve all issues at a workplace. By having a positive workplace culture, you encourage honest communication between employees and leadership.

  • Productive atmosphere- A negative or toxic workplace culture causes employees to feel stressed and unappreciated. A positive workplace culture will make people feel happy and motivated. They are eager to work and hence, end up creating effective results. This leads to a productive and ultimately, a conducive atmosphere.

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