Culture in the Workplace: Definition, Importance and Steps

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 9 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Companies have unique cultures that define their goals and values and help them attract talent. Besides considering the compensation, the work culture of an employer is a major factor many candidates consider before choosing to apply to companies. Understanding the importance of work culture and knowing how it can impact employee performance and company goals can help you develop a positive culture. In this article, we define what work culture is, outline its importance and explain the steps for creating a healthy culture at work.

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What is culture in the workplace?

The culture in the workplace is the attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that make up the regular atmosphere of a work environment. Healthy workplace culture is positive, encourages collaboration amongst employees and aligns the behaviour of the workforce and organisational policies with strategic company objectives. The work culture of an organisation influences everything from office relationships, job performance, work-life balance, job satisfaction and turnover rates. This is why many companies make deliberate efforts to create and nurture a positive workplace atmosphere that allows their employees to achieve professional and personal goals while helping the company meet its objectives.

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Significance of a positive work culture

Here are a few reasons detailing the importance of a positive culture in the workplace:

Improves hiring choices

Having a positive workplace culture can make an employer attractive to talented candidates. If people know that an organisation has a healthy culture that promotes professionalism, excellence and performance, they're likely going to work for such a company. This positive reputation increases the chances of recruiting qualified people into the company and can also give an employer an advantage over competitors with less-than-ideal organisational culture.

Increases employee happiness

The type of work culture in a company can impact how employees feel about their work. Having a healthy and rewarding work culture can increase job satisfaction and help people find meaning and purpose in their duties. Conversely, a negative work atmosphere can reduce morale and lower performance. By creating a healthy work culture, employers can promote the happiness of their workforce and also improve their career and personal lives.

Promotes employee retention

Because a positive work culture increases job satisfaction and happiness, it can make employees loyal and committed to their companies in the long term. When people have positive and rewarding relationships with their colleagues and find meaning and satisfaction with their work, they may feel secure with their employer. This can help promote retention, as the workplace environment is conducive and allows employees to achieve their professional and personal objectives.

Read more: What Is Employee Retention and How to Improve It (With Steps)

Boosts performance

A positive work culture can boost employee performance. A healthy work atmosphere promotes good relationships among colleagues and encourages collaboration. When teams enjoy good working relationships, it becomes easier to leverage each other's strengths and skills to achieve common goals, which allows the company to meet its productivity and performance objectives.

Promotes brand reputation

Having an exemplary workplace culture that promotes employee well-being and work-life balance can create a positive brand reputation for a company. Happy employees who are satisfied with the way their employer treats them serve as brand ambassadors for the company, sharing their favourable experiences with their social and professional networks. Over time, feedback from within and outside the organisation can result in a positive image, making people associate the company with the positive things they hear about it.

Improves work quality

A healthy culture can encourage people to deliver high-quality performance. This is because it's often easier for people to be productive and make quality decisions when they feel comfortable and appreciated at work. Working in a positive atmosphere motivates people to dedicate themselves to company goals, part of which includes providing the highest quality products and services to customers.

Promotes teamwork

Healthy workplace environments tend to promote teamwork. Such environments encourage positive relationships among employees and make people dedicate personal strengths towards achieving common goals. Organisations that have a positive work culture are adept at breaking personal boundaries and encouraging camaraderie among their staff, which can lead to healthy competition and dedication to achieving collective goals.

Encourages transparency

Companies that have a positive work culture often enjoy a high level of transparency. To build a healthy workplace atmosphere, it's essential to encourage constructive communication and feedback from every employee. This not only gives people the opportunity to share their opinion about issues that affect them, but it can also enhance creativity and make it easier for the business to generate innovative ideas that can help protect its competitive advantage. Being transparent can also make employees feel valued and respected, and this can make them more loyal and committed to company goals.

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Elements of a healthy work culture

Culture is a complex concept that constantly evolves in the workplace based on many elements. While some people may value a more traditional work culture and others want something more modern and fun, healthy work cultures have many traits in common, such as the following:

Accountability

When each person who works at a company is accountable for their behaviour, that indicates a healthy work environment. A balanced workplace enables people to feel comfortable enough to take credit for their ideas and their mistakes. Open accountability allows each employee to learn from challenges instead of avoiding them. Accountability fosters a work culture based on teamwork, open communication, trustworthiness and responsibility.

Equity

Companies that treat all of their employees equally often have healthy workplace cultures. Every position within an organisation has value, and giving everyone opportunities boosts employee morale. Favouritism in the workplace can cause feelings of distrust and resentment between coworkers, making an equitable workplace environment essential for any positive work culture.

Related: Job Search Guide: Finding a Diverse and Inclusive Workplace

Expression

People are generally happier, more productive and more focused when they feel able to express themselves in the workplace. If employees have some freedom in their personal style and can decide how they want to decorate their workspace, it shows a level of comfort within their work culture.

Communication

Open communication is critical for a productive workplace environment. It's important for everyone within an organisation to understand how to give and receive feedback, share ideas, collaborate and solve problems. All teams have interpersonal conflicts sometimes, but a functional work culture allows them to resolve issues and work as a team despite any challenges.

Recognition

Thriving work cultures recognise employee success and reward people when they do well. Management in a healthy work environment will look for positive attributes of everyone on the team and encourage the use of their talents. Employee recognition, ranging from regular verbal praise to competitive salaries, can build a work culture of appreciation and mutual respect.

How to create a positive workplace culture

Here are steps you can follow to create a positive workplace culture:

1. Define the company's core values

An important step in creating a thriving organisational culture is to identify the company's core values. Start by analysing the key aspects of the company's identity, especially the mission, vision and values. Defining the company mission offers employees internal motivation to achieve the strategic goals of the business. Outlining your vision provides your people with a clear picture of the destination you're leading them to, which gives them a sense of purpose and adds meaning to their work.

The values of the company are the guidelines everybody agrees to follow when working together. It's the blueprint for creating and nurturing interpersonal relationships and leveraging each employee's skills and expertise to achieve company objectives.

2. Establish trust

To build a positive work culture, it's necessary to gain the trust of employees. This starts with the leaders in the company internalising its values and adhering to the guidelines of the organisation in their conduct and interactions with employees. When people see their leaders practise company beliefs and values, they're encouraged to follow them.

3. Have clear and consistent expectations

To create a positive work culture, it's important to be clear and consistent about the conduct you expect from employees. Create and enforce guidelines to help employees know company rules and understand the leadership's expectations. This provides predictability and allows each individual to follow the proper code of conduct at all times.

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4. Make employees feel valued

An important aspect of a positive work culture is ensuring that employees feel valued. The ideal company culture is one that enriches an employee's daily experience, making their work meaningful and satisfying. Doing this requires asking for feedback from employees consistently, rewarding excellence, investing in personnel development and showing appreciation for the employees' contribution to organisational achievements.

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