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How can I define a workplace culture?

How can I define a workplace culture?

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When asked how they would describe their company culture, many bosses will say they employ a ‘work-hard, play hard' philosophy.

It's a great approach to take and one that you should look to instill at all levels of the business. Whatever culture you're trying to create, if you do take the time to make a careful and accurate definition of your workplace, it can have a very positive and real effect on your bottom line.

By knowing who you are and what you want as an organisation, you can attract and retain the right employees. That means staff who know what you want of them from the outset, can achieve it, feel fulfilled, be productive and stay with you for the long-term.

It means staff who are united by common values, goals and vision. When staff feel good they're more energetic and productive – qualities essential to any organisation's competitive advantage.

Ask yourself a few searching questions:

  • Who are you hiring, retaining and promoting?
  • Who are you getting rid of?
  • Is there equality between management and staff?
  • Do staff feel valued?
  • Do you solicit and act on your employees' input?
  • Does your organisation value teamwork or individuality?
  • How goal-oriented is your organisation?
  • How flexible is it?
  • Does your organisation practice what it preaches?

Take a walk around. Take a close look at some of the physical manifestations of your culture. How is space allocated and to whom? What is posted on boards or displayed on walls? What do you see on people's desks? What do the common areas look like? Are there any? How do staff communicate with each other and what's the usual tone?

Hold cultural discussions with small groups of staff and ask for honest, direct answers to some hard-hitting questions:

  • What would you tell a friend about working here?
  • What is your favourite thing about working here?
  • What is the one thing you would most like to change?
  • What kinds of people don't succeed here?

It may be worth calling in an external party to conduct this research so you can get some really impartial advice e.

You should also take a look at measurable factors such as staff turnover, absenteeism, meeting attendance, productivity and average wages. If some teams or departments are more productive, take a closer look at their dynamics.

Assuming you don't like all the answers you find, you can use this information to begin to fuel change. By involving your board, management and staff in discussions, you can identify what is positive and encouraging against what is counter-productive and discouraging. From this, a picture of what a more satisfying workplace culture might look like may emerge.

Cultural factors that have been shown time and time again to have a positive influence on the health and happiness of employees include good work-life balance, a sense of control, positive and respectful relationships with peers, superiors and clients, adequate training, a sense of fairness, a sense of fun, and access to support when needed.

Changing your company's culture – if you need to – is not an easy option for success. It takes interest, information, commitment and consistency. But, if you take a close look at the companies who succeed and those who don't, you will see that a good culture is an integral part of their achievements.

Discuss this issue on The Employer Forum.