The 3 Common Mistakes That Doom Workplace Culture Initiatives

Getting started on the journey toward a thriving workplace culture cannot be done in a vacuum. People support what they help create, so it’s crucial to involve employees in the process to provide opportunities for employee engagement and also to foster long-term support for positive change in the workplace. However, you’ll want to avoid these common mistakes to ensure you aren’t unintentionally damaging your efforts.

Common Mistake #1: Starting without a plan.

Despite good intentions, without appropriate planning, organizations often implement new workplace improvement policies or employee wellbeing development initiatives that start off strong, but fade into the background after a few months or falter in the long run.

What to do Instead: Create a Strategic Plan focused on Building a Thriving Workplace Culture

When you are starting a positive change journey to build a thriving workplace culture, you need a plan and a strong foundation. No strategic organizational change will succeed if it’s not aligned with the culture. Therefore it’s essential to:

  • Understand your current culture.
  • Define your preferred or desired culture.
  • Intentionally reduce any disconnect between your current and preferred culture.
  • Foster aspects of your culture where there is presently no disconnect.

To fulfill your plan, recruit a culture and wellbeing team. Invite 5-15 people (depending on your company size) from all levels of your organization to comprise the team. Ask leaders for assistance with intentionally recruiting employees who do not normally interact on a regular basis, and be clear with them about the commitment and other expectations. Here are some tips for getting started:

  • As a group, begin by articulating what you envision for the future. Though you’ll need to allow for flexibility when discussing workplace culture, it’s crucial to keep the desired culture in mind.
  • Assess your current culture. Through the deployment of employee surveys and other metrics, find out how happy and well your employees are and how they perceive the current workplace culture. You can’t improve if you don’t know what needs improving!
  • Create a detailed plan for how you will assess whether your culture and wellbeing plan is successful. What kind of data will you collect? How frequently will you collect it? What metrics will you use to gauge success? Which members of the group will be responsible for what?

Common mistake #2: Asking for employee input but doing nothing with it.

Well-designed employee surveys can provide valuable information for your organization. However, if your organization has a track record of asking for input or deploying surveys but never doing anything with the results, you’ll need to perform damage control before asking for input again.

Research shows that if you ask for employee input without acknowledging and taking action with the results, you might be making things worse for your organization! This research from a 2013 Blessingwhite global engagement study found that deploying engagement surveys without visible follow-up actions actually decreases employee engagement.

What to do instead: Eat Crow, Deploy a Survey, and Communicate Results.

Let employees know that you value their input, but first admit to any previous fault. Before sending out another employee survey, acknowledge past mistakes and then promise this time you will actually publish and take action based on the results!

We recommend our Thriving Workplace Culture Survey™ (TWCS) for a comprehensive assessment of employee and organizational wellbeing that will help you bridge the gaps between your current and desired culture. The TWCS also includes recommendations and next steps for creating a thriving workplace culture, as well as communication tips & templates.

No matter what kind of employee survey you use, read our 7 Dos and Don’ts before you begin.

Common Mistake #3: Too much top-down communication

Many leaders believe they are effectively communicating because they send frequent email updates that discuss important aspects of business. However, if the purpose of these communications is to convince employees to do something from an executive point of view (like participate in the wellness program in order to help save corporate dollars), employees may well feel alienated and disengaged.

Likewise, communication that attempts to scare people into behaving a certain way will backfire, and can create serious morale problems at work. If your corporate communication is narrow, generic, or doesn’t sound like something that somebody at your office would actually say in a meeting, it’s probably doing more harm than good.

What to do instead: Communicate Regularly, Solicit Employee Input, and Highlight Contributions

Hold focus groups or initiate informal conversations to find out what employees would find most useful in corporate communication. You might consider creating a new employee newsletter or revamping existing communication to reflect this input.

These suggestions will help nix the top-down approach and focus on employee-centered communication:

  • Consider how the information applies to the majority of people at the office instead of how the information impacts leadership. When evaluating what to communicate in a newsletter, email, or blog, ask yourself “Why would an employee want to read this?” If it explains a positive outcome or benefit, it will grab your employees’ attention and keep them coming back for more. Whatever the underlying message, frame it in a friendly, easy-to-understand way that highlights the personal benefits to employees.
  • Solicit employee feedback in your communication. When you make workplace changes based on that input, be sure to call attention to it! For example, if you have an employee newsletter you might include an article about how leadership decided to begin quarterly retreats where employees and managers can discuss their roles in improving company culture, thanks to suggestions from the marketing department. Or, highlight a new policy that requires 20 minutes between meetings because of the survey results that indicated that 80% of employees were frustrated because of the lack of time between meetings for effective breaks.

For a 7 Point Blueprint on how to create a thriving culture at your workplace, watch this 7-minute video by Dr. Rosie Ward – “How to Build a Thriving Culture at Work.” Share with your team!

Let’s Talk! Salveo Partners can help you build a thriving workplace culture and avoid these – and other – pitfalls! Contact us today to schedule a consultation or enroll in our Thriving Workplace Culture Certification™ course.

Jon Robison, PhD, MS, MAJon is an accomplished speaker, teacher, writer and consultant. He has spent his career advocating that health promotion shift away from its traditional, biomedical, control-oriented focus, with a particular interest in why people do what they do and don’t do what they don’t do. Jon has authored numerous articles and book chapters and is a frequent presenter at national and international conferences. He is also co-author of the book, “The Spirit & Science of Holistic Health — More than Broccoli, Jogging and Bottled Water, More than Yoga, Herbs and Meditation.” This work formed the foundation for one of the first truly holistic employee wellness programs — Kailo. Kailo won awards in both Canada and The United States, and the creators lovingly claim Jon as its father. Contact Jon at: or

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