What is Workplace Culture?

By: Updated: February 5, 2020

What is workplace culture? What impact does workplace culture have on productivity? And, how can you create a strong workplace culture? In this article, we will explain what workplace culture is, why it is important, what factors impact it, and how you can create a positive workplace environment.

What Is Workplace Culture?

"Culture is the character and personality of your organization." (source)

Your workplace culture is what makes working at your business unique. It's the values, beliefs, traditions, and attitudes expressed every day through management, workplace policies, and employees' behaviour. Many businesses fall into the trap of letting the workplace culture form organically, however companies with successful and positive cultures define their cultural goals in advance and take steps toward achieving them. 


Why Is Workplace Culture Important?

Having a good workplace culture is a driver in many important aspects of your company:

  • It helps you hire and retain top talent: Having a well defined workplace culture allows you to get a clear picture of who you should be hiring. As well, it helps you attract qualified candidates. Companies with the strongest cultures tend to attract and keep talent better than those without (source). 
  • It drives engagement: Employees spend a large portion of their week at your company. If they enjoy being there, and feel supported, they're more likely to be engaged with their tasks and projects. 
  • It allows for career and personal development: If employees understand the company's vision, it becomes easier to see how they can grow within the company instead of looking for work elsewhere. A good culture provides employees with the opportunity to grow either in their career, or personal goals. For example, some companies offer employees financing to take relevant courses. Others offer benefits to help employees pursue personal passions, like a Wellness Spending Account
  • It increases productivity and financial performance: One study found that happy employees are up to 20% more productive than unhappy employees. Financially, companies that rank in the "100 Best Companies to Work for" have seen higher stock prices than those who do not. How can you make employees happy? Make them feel like they matter, have an impact, and are making progress. (source)


What Impacts Workplace Culture?

  • Leadership: How leaders communicate and interact with employees emphasizes the company's values and expectation. 
  • Management: The systems, procedures, structure, hierarchy, controls, and goals of a company influence its culture.
  • Workplace Practices: Recruiting, selection, on-boarding, compensation and benefits offered, rewards, recognition, training, promoting, work/life balance, and so on shape how your team will feel.
  • Policies: Consider what the policies about attendance, dress code, code of conduct, internal transfer, and so on say about your company's values.
  • People: Who is hired, including their beliefs, values, skills, and experience play a key role in creating your culture. 
  • Mission, Vision, and Values: Is the mission clear? Are the values of the company communicated to employees? Is there a common vision?
  • Work Environment: Consider layout, artwork, plants, break areas, colours used, and so on.
  • Communications: The way communication occurs in the workplace, including the degree, the type, and the frequency of interaction and communication between the leaders and employees. Is there transparency? Do employees feel like they are "in the loop" with changes in the company?


How Can You Define Your Workplace Culture?

Do any of the following apply to your business?

  • We hire employees who aren't a good fit. 
  • We create policies based on what employees do instead of if they fit our workplace cultural goals.
  • We don't have, or don't communicate, a clear mission and set of values.
  • Our work environment is pretty lackluster.
  • Culture isn't considered in our everyday actions.

If so, you may be allowing a workplace culture to form organically instead of creating one with purpose. This can inhibit future business goals.

So how can you define your workplace culture?

  1. Step back and evaluate what you want your workplace culture to be.
  2. Gauge your current culture and acknowledge any gaps. Using assessment tools and surveys can help.
  3. Become aware of how the various factors (listed under "What Impacts Workplace Culture" above) currently contribute or take away from your desired culture.
  4. Examine workplace behaviour during meetings, discussions, and interviews. Is your team aware of the culture you are trying to build?
  5. Talk to your team. Discuss your mission, vision, and values for the company. Explain any new procedures or policies. Re-visit the discussion in a couple weeks to make sure employees understand why changes are being made. 
  6. Continually re-visit your cultural goals and make changes based on the needs of your unique business and employees.

How Can You Create a Good Workplace Culture?

  • Cultivate employee relationships: Strong relationships in the workplace have been shown to lead to an increase in effective communication. 
  • Build universal traits employees seek from employers: According to one study, collaboration, support, and respect are the universal traits that employees look for from their employers (source). 
  • Make the workplace comfortable: An inviting space makes employees feel appreciated and comfortable. It allows for social interaction and collaboration among employees.
  • Allow for career development: One reason employees leave companies is feeling like they have no more room to grow. Allowing for career development gives employees a reason to stay.
  • Keep your eye on burnout: A burned-out employee can seem disengaged, tired, and be difficult to work with. By keeping an eye on the symptoms of burnout, you can help employees recover or prevent burnout entirely.
  • Offer a Wellness Spending Account: Offering incentives for employees to take care of themselves is one way to improve your workplace culture and show that you care. (Note: Olympia's Wellness Spending Account is only available for existing HSA Group employers, more details).


Want to learn more about Employee Wellness? Download our eBook:

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