Successful Company Culture at Work: What It Really Takes

StrategyDriven Corporate Cultures Article |Company Culture|Successful Company Culture at Work: What It Really TakesThe world of work has changed dramatically in the last eighteen months, and as we head into a new year, there will be many companies who are looking to bring their employees back to the office or at least look for ways to improve their working culture.

Building a good company culture is not as easy as ordering a bunch of dim sum and drinking green tea, so companies must ensure that they take steps to understand what type of culture they want to foster, and then make sure that they build a company culture that is suitable for the company.

Build Motivation

While many people think that money will motivate you to work harder, it is not just about cash; it is also about your career, fulfillment, and purpose.

When asking the question ‘What really motivates people?’ you would think that putting money first was the answer given by most people.

However, most business researchers will say that money is not the most important motivator, the top three motivators are usually

  1. Achievement and recognition – A large percentage of people say that they would work harder if they got recognition through a raise or bonus.
  2. Liking your job – making the job worthwhile or enjoyable to be in is almost as important as money.
  3. Recognition – from bosses, colleagues, or teammates for good performance and effort done in the job.

Why Is Company Culture Important?

So what is company culture? A culture is a set of values, norms, and behaviors that are widely shared and accepted by the people within the organization.

The old adage “culture eats strategy for breakfast” is never truer than when you look at some of today’s best-known companies.

They have been able to create dominant company cultures that are so strong that they can eat up many other aspects of an organization where there may be strategies or ideas that could be great on paper but end up being poor practice in execution.

However, when you have a great company culture, it is much easier to attract top talent and get people to stay with your company. Talented employees are attracted by a sense of purpose, feeling valued, and getting the support they need to do their job well.

With a great culture, employees are more likely to be engaged in their work, they will recommend your products or services to others, and they may even do some word-of-mouth marketing for free on social media which can be great for your business.

The Three Main Parts Of Company Culture At Work

A company’s culture can be broken down into three main groups: Customer Culture, Organizational Culture, and Corporate Culture.

Customer Culture

Great customer culture is important for any business that wants to ensure that it has happy customers and can give them excellent service. Customer culture is something that a company should concentrate on from day one.

If a company first concentrates on deeper relationships with its current customers, then it is much easier to attract new ones.

A bad customer experience tells the world not just about your products, service or brand, but also about the type of company you are as a whole if customers are not given the support they need.

A few ways that companies can improve customer culture include:

  1. Customer service training: Get everyone in the organization to take part in the same training so that they know how to have good customer service.
  2. Empowered employees: Ensure employees are empowered and are able to help customers when they need it, even if this means going beyond their job description.
  3. A strong brand image: Make sure that frontline staff are empowered and know how they should deliver excellent customer service within your culture and brand image. This is something that needs to be emphasized at every level within the company and to be regularly reinforced through all media communication channels.
  4. Findability: Make it easy for customers to find your business and use your website. For this, it’s best to find an affordable SEO services to handle your search engine optimization, and keep your website on top for search rankings so customers can find you easily.

Organizational Culture

This is the part of a company culture that is aimed at the employees. Organizational cultures are based on key elements which can be generally separated into behavioral and cognitive factors

For instance, behavioral factors are things like rewards and achievements which help to motivate and give employees a sense of belonging within the organization. They can include:

  1. Rewards – both internal and external rewards are important, along with bonuses, cash prizes, and gifts for achievers, but also training opportunities and promotions can be valued as an achievement.
  2. Recognition – ensuring that everyone is valued and gets recognized for their contribution to the company is vital to having a great organizational culture.
  3. Support – everyone needs a bit of emotional support and encouragement when they are working, so having a good support network within the company is vital to ensuring that employees want to work harder.

Corporate Culture

Corporate culture refers to the company as a whole, not to individual employees. Corporate culture can be about core values, beliefs, and attitudes which are shared by all the employees in an organization. It may be about how managers work with staff or other external parties, or it may also cover things like relationships with clients and suppliers.

A good corporate culture can help you sell your products more easily because it is based on the company’s values, beliefs, and attitudes.

Should You Focus on Positivity or Creativity?

This is an interesting question, and it is something that companies and managers will have to debate long into the future.

There is no doubt about it, increased employee happiness has a positive effect on economic returns. So has creativity been given short shrift? Or should managers focus only on creativity when it comes to motivating employees? Is positivity more important or should we just stick to business as usual?

We have all seen many examples where people have demonstrated creativity at work by coming up with new ideas, new products, or new services. They know how good their products are, they are confident that they can sell them, and they can get the funding they require to start their business. However, in today’s competitive world, it is not enough for your ideas or products to be great, they also have to be profitable or you will not make any money.

Creativity can be a barometer of employee engagement, but it is not the only thing that matters. It’s easy to come up with ideas and pitch them internally, but in order for your good idea to turn into a profitable product, you need to work hard at turning it into a reality that your customers can enjoy and use every day.

This will require a lot of hard work on every level of your business from the CEO down to the junior members of staff.

Leading From The Top Down

For many companies, their brand image and culture are based around the top management. It is often those at the top who are most effective at communicating to staff how company values and policies should be acted on by everyone.

The top managers must be seen to be leading from the front so that employees are inspired to do a good job, as well as being rewarded accordingly. This will make them better at their jobs and more satisfied which will, in turn, lead to a positive corporate culture that attracts talent into your business.

When it comes down to it, the best way for a business leader to motivate people through their values is by communicating them clearly with all members of staff. For this, it must be communicated through a good culture (as mentioned above) as well as through training courses and performance evaluations.

Statistics indicate that recognition and rewards based on performance can have a positive impact on employees which will help to improve their work.

This may seem like a cliché, but your employees need to know that they are valued and have an important part to play in the company.

They will not just perform better, but they will feel good about coming to work every day because they know they are making a difference. You can build your business around them so that you get what you need from your team without much effort.

Interpersonal Aspects of Leadership

Interpersonal leadership refers to the relationship between leaders and their employees.

Relationships between leaders and the people that work for them are very important as they impact how good an employee is at their job, how much they are motivated, and how effective they are at doing their work.

A good leader understands the needs of their people and knows how to involve them in decisions that will help the business to be more productive.

Interpersonal leadership is essential to a company’s success, but it is not something that should be taken lightly. You need to see your employees as partners, as co-workers, as people who are performing a job that you need them to do.

Creating a Conducive Work Environment

Your employees are the backbone of the business. Even with great ideas and business plans, nothing can get done without your team. That is why providing them with a place to work that is a conducive work environment helps to ensure that they can do their work in a much more productive and effective manner. How can you create a work environment that is effective, without having to raise costs? Here are some things to think about.

StrategyDriven Managing Your People Article | Creating a Conducive Work Environment

Remove bad vibes

If there are any employees who are getting into ‘trouble’ with their coworkers on a regular basis, then they create some unnecessary stress and unnecessary tension in the workplace. This can impact more people and stop them from doing their job as they would like to. So it is important to step in as management when this kind of thing happens, to give them enough warning so they can adjust their attitude, and take steps to deal with the issues. When it comes to hiring new people, look for people who will be a good fit for the role, but also fit into the culture of the business and existing team. A mix of personality and skills is a must for new candidates.

Incorporate branding into the workspace

We all know that when employees are at work, they will also be thinking about other things, and doing some other things. They might need to take a personal call, book an appointment on their lunch break, or deal with a personal issue when getting on with their workload. Which is why having some branding in the office can make a big difference. When the theme of the business and the brand runs throughout the work space, it can spark creativity, and helps give employees a focus when working. They only have to look around and see a custom flag or brand colors on the wall to remember where they are and what they should be doing. Simple things can make a difference and help your team to work more productively.

Use technology

It is so important to look at and harness the power of technology in the workplace. It can streamline what you are already doing, and improve things like management, cash flow, and other aspects of the business that can be prone to human error. Technologies and collaboration tools so cost the business money. They also need to involve some learning, which is why some businesses can be shy to use them and embrace them as much as they could. The costs associated will pale in comparison to the benefits that can be gained, so that is an important thing to think about.

An effective and productive work environment for your team is one that is not just rewarding for your team and the business, but one that is also safe. Look for ways to make the office a safe space to be, and that can help too. People aren’t going to stay working with you if they are just working in an office space that is full of accidents that are waiting to happen.

How to Keep Your Team Agile and Aligned Under Pressure

StrategyDriven Management and Leadership Article | How to Keep Your Team Agile and Aligned Under Pressure
As a leader, you are constantly trying to maximize the magical effort to effectiveness equation (a.k.a. efficiency). You can see this play out in your daily operations and ultimately in the P&L. However, there is an intangible asset that is very difficult to quantify — but without it you cannot ultimately succeed. This asset is, of course, alignment.

Alignment matters because it is an amalgamation of understanding, agreement, buy-in, engagement, empowerment, and accountability.

It amazes me how few leaders understand how to harness, measure, leverage, and ultimately achieve true alignment behind their strategies and objectives. Too many leaders assume that just because they have spoken, their teams are all on the same page with them — and everything will proceed from there. Achieving true alignment takes a significant allocation of effort. But there is a direct correlation between the extent of alignment and the results achieved.

Therefore, it is in your best interest as a leader to focus more on achieving, gauging, and calibrating alignment than almost any other executional activity. The good news is that achieving alignment is more science than art — meaning that there are tools that work nearly every time in getting people behind an idea, strategy, or mission. Below, allow me to present three of my favorites:

1. Define and Drive organizational culture. Culture is the glue that holds an organization together. It’s often the reason behind why people choose to stay with your company over jumping ship to a competitor. As a leader, it is your role to create, foster, and harness culture against organizational objectives. Conduct focus groups, one on one’s, and surveys to get a strong grip on the current state of your business culture. Then define a desired state for the values and behavior you expect to see on display daily, and embody them in everything you do.

Once you are well on your way towards your desired cultural state, you need to then define your business’s hedgehog concept. This is time very well spent because it takes your underlying culture and applies it to specific business problems. By deriving the intersection of three key questions: what are we wildly passionate about, what can we do better than anyone else, and what drives our economic engine, you set a direction for people that is easy to align with. Ask the three questions at all levels of the organization, calibrate the responses, and then package the inputs into an easily digestible reason for organizational being that relates to the majority of your enterprise. Then you can focus organizational attention on how you are doing, not on what you are doing — or even worse, why you are doing it.

2. Don’t just communicate, connect. When you give a presentation on your business strategy, key priorities, and other initiatives, how often do you check (either via polls, surveys, show of hands) what people understood from your communication, what they are taking away, and whether or not they agree? Many leaders are scared to ask these types of questions because they don’t like being second-guessed. Still, it’s better to be second-guessed than to be zero-followed! Taking the time to gauge the degree to which key messages are landing, as well as whether the audience is aligned, is probably the most important investment you can make as a leader.

Once you know where your participants are on a given issue, the next step is to connect the dots for them. Do the hard work of helping them see what you see and understand why you are making these choices. Allow them to question, build on, and enhance your ideas. And finally, move forward, together.

3. Keep it very simple. It is relatively easy to stick to one road, drive the speed limit, buckle up for safety, and arrive at your destination both on time and with all passengers on board. Once you start introducing shortcuts, detours, scenic routes, and bypasses into the mix, you are almost destined to lose some people along the way. No one (besides Forrest Gump maybe) meanders their way to success. You pick a destination based on the best available information (expected weather, road conditions, permitted speed), calculate the mileage, gas expense, and time to arrival, and then start driving in as straight a line as possible until you reach your desired location, or in this case desired mission, goal, or objective.

Leaders who jump from highway to highway, seemingly without rationale, are leaders who lose the power of an organization primed and focused on achieving results. You have to know when to forge ahead, when to change course, and when to abandon ship — but at each inflection point, the more important concept to remember is that you need to reengage the enterprise when change is afoot, and never assume that people know the key why’s and what’s and how’s behind the new direction.

About the Author

Omar L. Harris is Associate Vice-President and Country Manager for Allergan PLC in Brazil. He is the author of Leader Board: The DNA of High-Performance Teams available for purchase in ebook or print on Please follow him on instagramtwitterLinkedIn, and/or his website for more information and engagement.

Culture Change – Slow Down to Go Fast

StrategyDriven Article |Workplace Culture|Culture Change – Slow Down to Go FastWhen my children were taking violin lessons and were given a new piece to learn, they would start from the beginning and race through the song at breakneck speed. One day, their teacher offered an insight that radically altered how they were able to progress. He told them that if they wanted to play fast, they would first have to practice slow. Similarly, taking the time to slow down and plan improvements to workplace culture also produces more effective results down the line.

Workplace culture isn’t something you can instantly fix, swap out, or quickly reboot. It’s not like a used car you can trade in when it no longer runs smoothly. Culture change requires culture work – and success necessitates effort and attention. Rather than being daunted by this task, we need to take a breath, slow down, and intentionally chart our course forward.

We recently worked with an organization who took the advice to slow down and take the time to invest in their long-term workplace culture to heart. Their decision was precipitated by a harassment complaint that revealed many layers of dysfunction – they could no longer ignore the impact their unhealthy culture was having.

Management was distant and unaware of the tension between employees, staff turnover was high, valued customers were leaving, and the human resources department admitted they were overwhelmed with the flood of complaints. The task of improving their workplace seemed enormous, but they decided to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

Senior management started by doing a cultural assessment and mapping out a plan. They began with a number of simple fixes to jumpstart the process. They revamped their respectful workplace policy, as well as held a training day for all staff to inform them of the current cultural assessment. Supervisors and management began joining employees in the common area during breaks.

To begin the long-term work of culture change, the organization initiated dialogue with staff and instituted weekly check-ins. They also revamped their performance management process to include a quarterly focus on employees’ goals, and provided all supervisors with training on conflict resolution and how to give effective feedback. These, along with a number of other changes, started to slowly shift their workplace culture in the right direction.

Now several months into the process, they are beginning to see the positive results! Staff are happier and more engaged, which has led to better productivity and an improvement in the quality of work being done. Their human resources department feels supported by management, and complaints have dropped as supervisors gain confidence in their ability to coach and support employees.
This organization realized that it would take time to replace the unhealthy culture with a healthy one, and that it couldn’t happen all at once. As a result of their patient and intentional work, they have seen a slow but marked improvement in their culture.

Culture is often so ingrained that people take it for granted. When we recognize that there are long-standing issues that we need to address, the work ahead can feel overwhelming, but culture won’t be improved with one-off initiatives like taco Tuesday or yearly surveys. Culture develops over time, and therefore takes time to change. Taking small steps to create a culture that will become the new standard may feel like slow work, but the rewards of a healthier culture are more than worth the wait.

About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor | Wendy LoewenWendy Loewen is a mediator, facilitator, and the Training Development Specialist at ACHIEVE Centre for Leadership & Workplace Performance. She is co-author of the book, The Culture Question, and is the author of many ACHIEVE workshops including Respectful Workplace, Assertive Communication, and Performance Management. In her work as a mediator, speaker, and facilitator, she is committed to helping organizations create dynamic and engaging places of work where people care about each other, are productive, and deliver quality services and products. Wendy believes that learning is a dynamic and life-long endeavor, and with commitment, guidance, and individualized support, this process should be enjoyable and motivating.

Why Ethics are Essential for a Strong Team Culture

StrategyDriven Corporate Culture Article | Ethics | Why Ethics are Essential for a Strong Team CultureBuilding a team culture that is magnetic or lasts means better productivity, positive engagement, and higher retention. However, what has been largely overlooked by many business leaders is the essential foundation for a culture that sustains and thrives: Ethics. An understanding and common ethical language is missing for many organizations. This makes it impossible to establish a strong, cohesive culture where the interests of the individuals and the collective move forward together. In order for both the individuals and the collective whole to move forward together, a common language and appreciation for ethics is essential.

The Culture Fad

Culture is a company’s collective personality. To fit into a company’s culture, your personal attributes as a team member should be compatible with the personality of the workplace. Culture entails work environment, vibe of the people, values, and mission. Examples of cultural attributes are values like collaboration, creativity, learning, and professionalism. Culture also entails environmental preferences like a casual workplace with a dog-friendly environment. Culture entails policies and rules, like a work-from-home policy or a vacation policy. A strong collective culture fuels the individuals and therefore fuels the mission, since when the individuals are supported and motivated, they contribute toward the collective mission with energy and dedication. With a strong cohesive culture, the individuals are aligned and united around the mission, as well as around how the mission is achieved day-to-day in practice. A strong culture is one where individual peace and progress thrive, and therefore the company’s progress thrives.

Ethics as the Essential Foundation

Why are ethics essential for a strong culture to work and sustain? Ethics are principles that guide our behavior toward what is most good or guide as to what is the right thing to do in a given situation. Ethics guide how we conduct our work and how we interact with and respond to others. Aren’t these the most basic, universal actions of any organization? Surprisingly, these basic requirements can be very tough to align around without a common understanding and appreciation for what is ethical. Though the individuals in an organization may all value the work-from-home policy and free lunch, without a common understanding for how to communicate with each other, build relationships, and foster development for each person, the work environment and perks become obsolete. Though a company or team’s culture may change with time – the policies, the environment, the people, a common language for ethics are timeless. A common language, understanding, and practice of ethics is the basic foundation for any strong culture.

Modern Obstacles to an Ethical Culture

An ethical language is challenging to design and align around. Many companies define their culture as built around Integrity as a value. Most organizations describe integrity as “do the right thing” and stop there. However, this leaves many individuals asking: What is the right thing in a given situation? There are a few reasons that this isn’t so straightforward anymore. Firstly, we have become so accustomed to hearing “do the right thing” that it has almost lost its meaning. Secondly, organizations have diverse teams of individuals that have different perspectives on what “the right thing” is. Finally (and most relevant for our need for ethics now), with the fast-paced, dynamic society we live in, new products and situations arise everyday that require a newly interpreted understanding of what “the right thing”, or the ethical thing, to do really is. In many organizations, people on the same team are speaking a different ethical language and this causes misunderstandings and does not serve the mission. Many organizations believe that is human-centered action is prioritized, business progress and impact will be jeopardized. However, actually the opposite is true. If human-centered action is not prioritized, business progress and impact will be jeopardized.

Ethics in Practice

In a business environment, the culture is often professional and mission-driven, however, it so often lacks an ethical backbone. This is to say that it lacks a common understanding for what is acceptable and conducive behavior toward work and toward each other. In interpersonal situations like meetings, team projects, or when giving feedback, people do not know how to treat each other in a way that both serves individual peace and progress, as well as collective peace and progress. The result? Lack of ownership, lack of productivity, high stress, low morale, and ultimately poor retention. Teams become environments of animosity that are not aligned or focused on the mission. Without this foundation of ethics, productivity and retention are impossible. Therefore, without ethics, a strong culture is not possible. Building a culture without building it upon a common language and appreciation of ethics is like building a skyscraper on a foundation of sand. In harsh weather, when misunderstandings and debates arise, the shiny skyscraper you have built will waiver and come tumbling down.

The Solution

Ah, the good news, finally. A culture built upon a foundation of ethics is a culture that will sustain and continuously thrive. How can you build a culture that that is build upon a foundation of ethics?

To build a strong culture, you must build a common language, understanding, and appreciation of ethics into your own cultural DNA. A common language of ethics can be found in Awake Ethics. This language of ten principles is a timeless system with clear, universal appeal. The interpretation and stories from the field are from recent business experience. Next, schedule regular ethics trainings for your team every quarter. With an understanding of ethics and time to share recent experiences as a team, you will feel more confident in your own decision-making. You will have a shared team understanding about what positive, constructive collaboration and interacts look like. Finally, encourage ethics. Incorporate ethics into performance reviews and acknowledge outstanding ethical behavior. Incorporate ethics into your cultural values, as the foundational value.

A common language, understanding, and appreciation for ethics is the foundation of a strong culture. Once you have the ethical foundation in place, then feel free to add your perks, policies, and decorations. A shared practice of ethics enables individual peace and progress, which fuels collective success. Ethics align and accommodate the desires of the individuals and the whole.

Get started in building your culture upon a solid foundation of ethics.

About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor | Hilary Jane GrosskopfHilary Jane Grosskopf is the author of Awake Leadership: A System for Leading with Clarity and Creativity (2018) and Awake Ethic: A System for Aligning Your Action with Your Core Intentions (2018). She is a leadership guide, strategist, writer and Founder of Awake Leadership Solutions.