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Exploring Company Culture: Insights and Analysis

culture in the workplace

Company culture plays a huge role in your organization’s success. It’s your DNA, the driving force behind every decision you make and the secret sauce that will set you apart from your competition. But what exactly is it and how can you create a culture that will help you thrive? 

If you asked business leaders to name the most important factors in their company’s success, what do you think they’d say?

Strategy? Innovation? Sales? The answer is in fact, company culture. 

But what exactly is culture? How do you build it, how do you manage it and what kind of impact does it have on your business? 

In this guide, we’ll take a deep dive into everything you need to know about culture, so that you can unlock its benefits for your organization. 

Table of Contents

What is company culture? 

How can it benefit your business?

What does a healthy culture look like? 

How to evaluate your culture

Ideas to improve your company culture

Examples of successful brands with great workplace cultures

analyzing company culture

What is Company Culture? 

It’s a term that we hear thrown around a lot these days, but when people talk about culture what exactly do they mean? 

In a nutshell – workplace culture is the term we use to describe the environment that you create for your employees to work in.

Culture is your business’s DNA. It’s the values, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that your employees share and the day-to-day experiences they have at work. It’s crucial because it defines every action, every decision and every interaction that your organization has along with thousands of other aspects (both big and small) that contribute to it.

If all of that sounds a little bit nebulous, it’s because it is. The problem with culture is that it can be incredibly hard to pin down. It’s a moving target, constantly changing with every day and every interaction. 

Because it’s intangible, businesses can find it hard to positively impact their culture. After all, how can you possibly hope to hit a target that you can’t see and that’s constantly moving? But the benefits of a positive culture mean that the effort you put into shaping it can pay dividends. 

Why is Company Culture so Important? 

One of the biggest reasons why workplace culture is so important is because it matters to your employees. We spend, on average, a third of our lives at work. So it’s only natural that the environment that we spend so much of our time in can have a massive impact on the employee experience. 

Any leader knows that their employees are the lifeblood of their business. And in today’s climate, where the Battle for Talent and the so-called Great Resignation dominate boardrooms across the globe, that statement rings true like never before. In order to succeed companies need to attract the best talent, keep hold of them and engage them in their work. A thriving culture can help you to achieve all of that and more. 

It can boost morale, increase productivity, enhance engagement and improve innovation. This, in turn, leads to higher levels of retention, reduced recruitment costs and a reputation that boosts your brand and your bottom line

That’s because a great culture doesn’t just impact your people, it also impacts your customers. It impacts every interaction they have with your business. It drives what they see, what they hear and how they feel when they interact with you. And that can have a significant impact on their experience. We all know that first impressions count. Perception is everything and ultimately the impact of your culture boils down to the difference between a one-off buying experience and a long-term relationship with your customers. 

7 Benefits of a Healthy Company Culture

  1. Impact retention and recruitment.
  2. Reduce safety incidents. 
  3. Boost productivity
  4. Enhance employee wellbeing.
  5. Improve customer service. 
  6. Accelerate innovation. 
  7. Deliver financial returns. 

positive company culture

What Does a Healthy Culture Look Like?  

We now know why it’s so important, but in practice, what does a healthy organizational culture look like? 

Cultures vary wildly from organization to organization and though researchers have categorized them, every one is unique. There are however a few key characteristics that are common to all healthy cultures, telltale signs that will tell you whether it is a positive place to work… 

People will feel valued

Everyone wants to feel like they’re important and that their contributions make a difference to the company they are working in. That’s why great cultures ensure that their people know their value and don’t just treat them as another cog in the machine. 

Employees respect one another

Positive cultures all feature one common trait – and that’s respect. The very best organizations don’t just treat their people with respect, but ask their people to show the same respect to their colleagues too. This can take many forms. It can be how people interact with one another, being empathetic towards peers, showing appreciation for people’s time, or recognizing and rewarding their efforts. But the key is to make sure it shows up in every interaction. 

Diversity is more than just a buzzword

Diversity, equity and inclusion is more than just the latest business buzzword – it’s a key component of healthy cultures. Your employees want to know that they matter, that their viewpoint is welcomed and their perspective encouraged. So when your workforce is diverse and accepting it sends the signal that your company is too. 

Wellbeing is prioritized

Health and wellbeing are major concerns for your employees. In an age of overworking and burnout, your people want to know that their job won’t harm their mental or physical health and that your company will take steps to protect them from negativity. Great employers ensure that wellbeing is front and center in everything they do. 

Effective leadership 

Everything starts from the top, and healthy cultures are no different. Leaders are the role models of your company. Their job is to inspire, motivate and encourage others. When they get it right they’ll also model the kind of behaviors that you want your people to share, setting the tone for your entire culture. 

Clear mission and values

Your company mission is more than just a slogan, it’s something that defines your entire company and guides every decision you make. Businesses with healthy workplace cultures use this to their advantage. By ensuring that everyone understands the importance of your mission and shares your values, you can set expectations and align everyone so that they are pushing towards the same shared goal.

The environment is supportive

Where would you rather work? An environment where there are tight deadlines, where your work is micromanaged and your day-to-day activity is closely monitored? Or somewhere where you are trusted to work in the way you want to, given the responsibility to take on new challenges and enabled to push new boundaries? When your people are given the freedom to own their work it can create an enormous sense of empowerment and pride that translates into a thriving culture.

Work/life balance

Another key indicator of good culture is work/life balance. Offering your employees the opportunity to work in hybrid or remote settings can have a huge impact, while flexible working hours enable them to fit work in around their personal lives and not the other way around. It’s a small step that makes a big difference to the lives of your employees and in turn your culture.

Low turnover

This one may sound simple, but it’s still worth pointing out – companies with great cultures will have low turnovers. That’s because employees will enjoy their jobs, be engaged in their roles and invested in their long-term futures. That all translates to fewer people leaving. Of course, the opposite is also true, and if a company has high turnover it’s generally a good sign that they have a negative organizational culture. 

Development opportunities

A surefire sign that a business has a great culture is how they treat career development. The top employers understand that employees want to be supported in the long run and that their leaders are invested in their success, that’s why they offer clear career development pathways.  

developing your employees

How to Evaluate Your Company Culture?

Whether you’re looking to discover what kind of culture your company currently has, or you want to see whether your initiatives are working, at some point you are going to want to evaluate your culture. 

This is when you’ll attempt to take the intangible factors that go into making up a culture and turn them into cold hard facts – data that you can measure, benchmark and track over time. 

There are several techniques that you can use to evaluate your workplace culture. You can use some or all of these as part of your own efforts, but finding the right combination of tools and techniques will be unique to each business. 

So if you’re looking for ideas to evaluate your culture here are a few ways you can start measuring sentiment in your organization.

Consider the Competing Values Framework (CVF)

Originally conceived in the 1980s the Competing Values Framework (CVF) was developed to help organizations to identify what they value the most. It’s a deceptively simple model based on the idea that most cultures can be defined using two competing axes that run between opposite or competing values. It’s a fantastic tool that can not only help you to locate where your current culture is at, but the journey you will need to take to change it. 

Look at your engagement surveys

These days pretty much every company conducts some form of employee engagement survey. If you don’t, that’s something that you will want to remedy right away. The great thing about employee engagement surveys is not only that they tell your people that you care about their thoughts and opinions – a key component of all great cultures – but it also gives you invaluable insight on the current state of your culture. 

Conduct a dedicated culture assessment

If you really want to drill down into your culture then you might want to conduct a standalone assessment. Much like employee engagement surveys, these culture assessments speak directly to your leaders and employees to check their views on your culture. They are an incredibly useful tool to find out what is working, what’s not and where your culture needs improvement. 

Consider external indicators

Beyond your own organization there are a host of external resources that can help you to evaluate your culture. Sites like Indeed and Glassdoor enable current and former employees to review your organizational culture. Because they are conducted anonymously these sites provide a good snapshot of what your past and present employees really think of your company. 

Don’t forget about exit interviews

Just because an employee has decided to leave your organization, doesn’t mean that you should ignore them. Indeed, existing employees are an invaluable resource that can provide you with unfiltered insight into the current state of your culture. So make culture a key part of your exit interviews. Ask questions about your culture, what can be improved, what is working and why they have decided to leave? This will all help you to evaluate your culture and the steps you need to take to improve it. 

Explore your HR metrics

Your business no doubt already has a host of data points that can give you an insight into your culture. Metrics like retention rates, absenteeism and employee engagement can all be put together to see if you have a positive culture, or if you have a culture that needs improving. Typically positive cultures are reflected in high retention and employee engagement alongside low absenteeism and turnover

exploring HR metrics for workplace culture

How to Improve Your Company Culture?

When you’re ready to begin investing in your culture, you need to take deliberate action to build the kind of values and behaviors that you want to see. Enacting change isn’t always easy. But with a little forward planning and effort, you can make huge strides. 

To help get you started here are a few ideas to help you improve your organizational culture. 

Hire the right people

Recruitment isn’t cheap. It takes time, effort and investment to fill a role. So imagine going to all of that trouble only to hire someone who isn’t going to fit in? To prevent this you need to focus on finding people who share your values and ideals, candidates who will fit into the culture you’re looking to create. It’s relatively easy to accomplish, all you need to do is make cultural fit as much a part of your recruitment process as skills and experience. 

Define your mission and values

You may know what your mission is or what your company values are, but how about your employees? One of the biggest stumbling blocks companies face is clearly defining and communicating their missions, objectives and values. Remember these are the guiding principles that will govern what you and your employees are working on every day. So take the time to put them into words, define them and then communicate them with your people. Write them in the company handbook, put them in your email signature, emblazon them on the break room wall. However you decide to do it, make sure that everyone (and we really mean everyone) is on the same page. 

Promote diversity, equity and inclusion

You may already think that your organization is doing a great job of promoting diversity, but there’s often a gap between what you perceive and what the reality is for your employees. That means you need to double down on your efforts, investing in an inclusive culture with a sense of belonging that people want to be a part of. 

Walk the talk

If you want to create real change then you are going to have to lead by example. That means you need to practice what you preach, embodying the kind of culture you want to create in every interaction you have both inside and outside of work. 

Create a culture committee 

While leaders have a key role to play in creating change, culture isn’t driven by individuals alone. Instead, a collective effort is required if you’re going to create lasting change. That’s where a culture committee comes in. Made up of individuals from different sectors of the business, it’s their job to bring together different perspectives and brainstorm ideas to deliver a positive culture. They will also act as champions to help blaze the cultural trail that you want to see. 

Focus on recognition and rewards

In a world where 79% of people quit a job because of a lack of appreciation, employee recognition proves itself as a necessary tool in cultivating committed and loyal workplaces. Employee recognition is so much more than just saying “thank you” for a job well done. It’s a basic human need, something that our brains are hardwired to respond to. When recognition hits the mark, employees are 5x as likely to be connected to company culture. Do it often and your people will sew the seeds for a positive workplace culture. That’s where dedicated recognition and rewards programs like Bucketlist can help. 

recognition and rewards platform for culture

Empower your employees

Employee empowerment is a small thing that can have a big impact on culture. Trusting your people, allowing them to innovate, to manage their own workloads and grow as a team will help to create the kind of positive culture that every business aspires to. 

Keep up with changes

The world of work is constantly changing. Every day new trends, technologies and even entire industries arrive. New generations are also entering the workplace and with them, they are bringing new expectations about the kind of relationship they want with their employer. No organization is immune to change, but by staying on top of changing trends you can ensure that your culture evolves alongside your employees.

Provide development opportunities

If you want your people to feel like they are part of a culture that supports them then make sure that you invest in their development. Offering your people the support they need to develop their skills and experience will not only enhance your workforce, but help to lay the foundations of a culture where everyone feels like they are important. 

Embrace flexible working 

The world has changed. Work/life balance is no longer something that employees aspire to, it’s something that they’ve come to expect. Helping your people to balance their personal and professional lives is vital. Not only does it help to make them healthier and happier, but it also shows them that you care about them as human-beings. 

9 Businesses with a Great Company Culture

If you’re looking for some inspiration to help kickstart your culture initiative then you don’t have to look far. Some of the world’s most successful businesses put culture at the heart of their operations, investing heavily to create the best possible environment they can for their employees. 

Though you might not be able to replicate their success just yet, these are great examples – north stars that you can use to guide your own efforts to improve your employee experience.

1. Google

Often cited as one of the best places to work, a whopping 97% of Google’s employees say that the company has a positive work culture. The search engine giant is notorious for offering employees fun incentives and focusing on a culture of enjoyment with initiatives that include free food, video game stations and even nap pods. 

2. Warby Parker

The online glasses retailer considers culture to be so important that they’ve created a dedicated team to manage it. This team’s sole responsibility is to improve the employee experience, planning and implementing events and initiatives that boost wellbeing, motivation and engagement. 

3. SquareSpace

Another tech giant that you’ll regularly find featured on lists of the best places to work is SquareSpace. Describing its culture as “flat, open and creative” the company has deliberately held onto its startup mentality, maintaining a structure where there are as few barriers between staff and leadership as possible.  

employees working together

4. REI

REI has long been the dream employer for people who love the Great Outdoors. But it’s not just the staff discounts that attract enthusiasts, it’s the culture. REI is a cooperative that shares its profits, it also immerses employees in its culture, even encouraging them to submit proposals for personal challenges and adventures that will be supported by the company. 

5. Chevron

Chevron is held in high regard by its people thanks to “The Chevron way” a program that focuses on employee wellness and safety. Here employees are encouraged to look out for one another and keep safety front-of-mind. This is reinforced through perks such as on-site fitness facilities, massages, personal training and a culture where regular breaks and vacations are encouraged. 

6. HubSpot

Not only do they place culture at the top of their list of priorities, but HubSpot also offers initiatives such as flexible work, unlimited vacation and continuous learning support – all of which are key ingredients of a great culture. 

7. Zappos

This company has become as known for its positive work culture as it is for the shoes it sells. In fact, the culture is so important at Zappos that it makes up half the weighting when it comes to determining whether a candidate should be hired. But the focus doesn’t stop there. Zappos doubles down on its cultural focus by offering new employees $2000 to quit after their first week of training if they decide the job isn’t for them.

8. Meta

Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta has seen explosive growth over the past few decades, but it’s still managed to keep culture at the heart of everything it does. As well as benefits like great health insurance, stock options and a flat company structure the business is renowned for its working environments. Meta campuses are filled with food options, outdoor space, open plan offices and even on-site laundry facilities – everything their employees need to live their best lives both inside and outside of work. 

9. Southwest 

Culture is key to the success of Southwest and one of the reasons why it’s still thriving more than 50 years after opening its doors. The company is renowned for its clan culture that treats employees like family. It’s more than just words however, it’s something that’s backed up by their industry-leading approach to employee satisfaction. From benefits and pay to employee rewards, recognition and opportunities for advancement – the company puts its people firmly before profits. 

two employees collaborating at work

FAQ on Culture

What is company culture?

It is a term that’s used to describe the environment that you create for your employees to work in. 

Why is workplace culture important? 

Culture is important because it impacts every aspect of your business from retention and recruitment to productivity and profits.

What does a good culture look like? 

Some key signs of a good culture are high retention rates, good leadership, employees who treat each other with respect and a healthy work/life balance. 

How do I evaluate my culture?

Some of the techniques that you can use to evaluate culture are surveys, exit interviews, checking your Glassdoor score and using the Competing Values Framework. 

How do I improve my culture? 

You can improveculture by investing in your employees, showing appreciation, encouraging feedback and aligning your words with your actions.  

The Bottom Line

Culture is no longer something that leaders can ignore. It’s essential. A key part of any successful business. The good news, however, is that the power to create a great culture is in your hands.

By taking the steps to analyze your existing environment and define the kind of characteristics you want to add to it, you can set out a roadmap towards a better culture. By investing time, energy and resources into culture initiatives you can make a real change. But remember there is no final destination on your journey. Company culture is an ongoing initiative, a living, breathing thing that you need to nurture over the long run. 

Make no mistake this is a big investment, but the more you put into your culture the more you will get out of it. Just remember that at the end of the day, you’re not just creating a better environment for your employees to work in, you’re creating a better business. One that will thrive long into the future. 

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