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Workplace Culture – what it is and the positive impact it can have

by James Beardmore

06 May 2022 : Industry News

Why culture matters in the workplace

You may have heard the term ‘The Great Resignation’ in recent months. The turbulence of the last few years has given people the opportunity to take stock and revaluate what’s important in their lives, leading many to look for new roles that allow them to balance their career with their lives outside of work. 

Many are seeking a ‘culture’ that fits their own values, that helps them realise their personal and professional goals, in a business that is committed to the health and wellbeing of the team and that’s purpose is more than just the bottom line. 

For these reasons getting your workplace culture right is more vital than ever. But what does culture mean and how do you get it right? 

What is workplace culture? 

Workplace culture can mean different things to different people. Forbes describes it as ‘shared values, belief systems, attitudes and assumptions that the team share in a workplace’. Others develop this idea further, describing culture as the ‘very air you breathe’ and an organisation’s ‘DNA’. I personally believe that workplace culture is the personality of a business. It’s difficult to define exactly what makes up this personality as it comes naturally based on the shared values, behaviours and purpose of a business. 

Cultures can be described as positive, nurturing and empowering, whilst on the opposite end of the scale they can be described as negative, unemphatic, inflexible and even toxic!

So, what advantages does developing a strong workplace culture have for the business and the individual? 

The benefits of a positive workplace culture

Now that people have had the chance to reflect on what they really want from a job, priorities have been readjusted and members of the team want to feel safe, engaged, inspired and productive in the workplace. 

One of the main benefits we’ve found of creating a positive culture is our team being truly engaged. An engaged team raises morale and in turn, has a correlative effect on productivity and efficiency. Job satisfaction is high, meaning our team is retained as all of their priorities are being realised. Trust and confidence then builds throughout the business and teams become more cohesive.  

This engagement generates momentum that then acts as a catalyst for the business to drive forward and achieve our ambitions. Our client relationships improve as a result and it has also become a tool that we use to recruit. Not only is the culture clear across our external communications but our team become ambassadors in the recruitment process.  

On a more individual level, I read recently that research by mental health charity, Mind, has shown that organisations viewed as ‘supportive’ by employees, record-high levels of happiness and lower levels of anxiety within their team. A positive culture therefore not only creates a sense of job satisfaction and success for the business, but it also plays an invaluable part in the well-being of the team. 

It takes time and resources and can sometimes feel daunting to start. However, it can be one of the most effective actions you can take and luckily, it’s fairly easy to make those first steps. You can focus on 3 things to make a change straight away: 

1.    Improve Communication
2.    Gather insight
3.    Give Recognition and Feedback

We’ve worked on each of these in our business over the last year and they’ve helped to develop the culture that we have today.

1.    Improve Communication 

Keep everyone involved by making sure that communication lines are kept open. The key to this is being active listeners. If a member of the team comes to a line manager a number of times on the same subject but doesn’t get any answer, that creates a situation which you have to then try and build back up. By getting an answer the first time, it shows the team member that they are valued and enhances trust. 

2.    Gather Insight

Once communication is open, it allows you to gather insight about your team and make changes. One thing we realised from gathering data is that our team wanted the choice when it came to flexible working. From this insight, we implemented a hybrid working policy, enabling the team to have a schedule which suits their needs. 

3.    Give Recognition and Feedback

We’ve moved away from the end of year review as we felt it wasn’t in line with our people-first approach. An amazing achievement in February can be overlooked by the time December rolls around. Instead, we moved to quarterly Training, Support and Development sessions (TSDs) which allow for open and honest conversations to take place regularly and focus on the individual and their goals. This approach provides an opportunity for line managers to give feedback on a more consistent basis but also provides team members a chance to talk about their role, the future and training opportunities they feel would be beneficial to them. 

Developing culture moving forward. 

Once these easy changes have been made, you can start looking at further steps such as defining the values and direction of the company, making changes to the work environment and looking at training and support opportunities.  

I always say that creating a culture is a journey, not a destination. It’s not a project you can spend a year on and expect it to run for the next 10/20 years without any changes. It’s also an evolution; making too many changes too early on can have the opposite effect of what you’re trying to achieve. Take those first steps and see the difference it can have on your business.

Further Reading

If you'd like to discover more about workplace culture and its importance to a business, here are a couple of online articles that might come in handy: 

What do we mean when we talk about workplace culture

- Workplace culture: what it is and how to create a positive impact in your organisation

- How to create a positive workplace culture

Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index

Make Your Values Mean Something

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