Everyone seems to be talking about workplace “culture” these days. Unfortunately, inaccurate use of this popular buzzword has created the belief that workplace culture is synonymous with a “fun” place to work.
Although “fun” and even “best” places to work may very likely also have a thriving culture, workplace culture goes much deeper than fun.
Let’s start with what “workplace culture” is NOT:
- It’s not positive values like kindness and respect;
- It’s not offering fun company retreats;
- It’s not incentivized wellness programs, flex-time, or maternity or paternity leave.
While these may offer some benefit for employees, they describe outward behaviors and actions, or manifestations of culture; in other words, they actually describe workplace climate. (For a clear depiction of the difference between culture and climate, click here.)
Furthermore, research has shown that if the underlying organizational culture is unhealthy, these types of benefits and programs won’t improve the health of employees or your organization in the long term.
‘Workplace Culture’ Defined
According to organizational culture expert Edgar Schein, PhD, workplace culture is the unconscious, taken-for-granted beliefs, perceptions, thoughts, and feelings that guide and shape employee behavior. Workplace culture is the deeply ingrained “way we do things around here,” even if no one can explain why; workplace culture is what has the power to create lasting change.
It follows that building a thriving workplace culture is no simple task. It requires getting to the root of why your employees may not be happy or productive at work, instead of trying to coerce them into behaving a different way. Creating a thriving workplace culture is the key to your organization’s success.
Here are 3 Ways to Tell if Your Workplace Culture is Thriving
1. Every employee knows the mission, vision, and values of the organization and how their work aligns with them.
When people understand how their work is related to something bigger, the workplace has succeeded in implementing some fundamental aspects of a healthy culture, namely:
- The organization’s mission, vision, and values have been clearly articulated;
- Employees receive clear, timely, and meaningful communication from executive leadership;
- The executive leadership team is cohesive.
2. Employees are continually bringing forth new creative and innovative ideas.
One of the signs of a healthy workplace is innovation, which thrives when employees are engaged. Not every new idea is a good one; but the fact that employees are willing and excited to share new ideas shows that they are engaged in their work, and that they believe their opinion matters.
- Employees who are motivated to bring forth new ideas work in a safe environment where they are enabled to leverage their strengths.
- Employees understand the company rules, which are fairly applied to everyone;
- Leaders provide employees with autonomous support. (If your organization relies on rewarding and punishing employees to induce behavior change, it will backfire and create less creative, disengaged employees.)
3. Employees view their work as a career or, even better, a calling, and have many friendships at work.
People who are engaged at work will also be engaged with their colleagues, which means they will develop friendships at the office. Some employees may be so invested in their work that they feel it is their “calling.”
Organizations with employees with this positive outlook have cultivated a culture where:
- Employees are given resources, programs, policies, or environmental support to thrive in all areas of wellbeing, not just at work (social, career, financial, community, physical);
- Employees feel valued by leaders;
- Employees respect, support, and care about one another as people, not just as coworkers who complete certain tasks;
- The company has a clearly stated purpose, the difference it is trying to make in the world.
If you think your workplace isn’t as healthy as it could be, the first step is to understand the status of your current culture — our FREE Manager’s Audit will give you a snapshot of the health of your workplace in under 5 minutes!
To become an expert on building a thriving workplace culture at your organization, register for the Thriving Workplace Culture Certificate Training Program.