How do you build a positive workplace culture and how can it benefit your organization? In this guide, you’ll find out everything you need to know alongside some positive work culture examples that you can learn from.
From the breakroom to the board of directors it seems like everyone is talking about building a great company culture.
And for good reason.
You see a great company culture can help to reduce stress, improve productivity, boost morale and even enhance retention. It may sound too good to be true but it’s really not. Not only do the statistics back it up, but there are countless positive work culture examples that show why it’s priority number one for some of the world’s biggest businesses.
But there’s just one catch. You can't just create a positive culture out of thin air. Instead, it’s a deliberate process - a cocktail of leadership, strategic direction, good management, perks, benefits and employee recognition that culminates in a great working environment.
We’re not going to sugarcoat it, this one is going to take some work. But get it right and your business will reap the benefits for years to come.
We use the word culture all of the time, but what exactly do we mean by it?
In the workplace, culture refers broadly to the environment you create for your people to work in. It’s not necessarily the physical space that they inhabit (though that can be a part of it). Instead, it’s the collection of principles, ideologies, beliefs and values that are shared by everyone who works there.
Not only is your culture shared by everyone, but it’s also shaped by everyone too. From the CEO to entry-level employees your workplace culture is the sum of every interaction, attitude and behavior that exists within your organization. It’s the way you treat your customers, the way you respond to emails, your approach to vacation, your company dress code, the way you conduct meetings and thousands of other little interactions that all come together to create a company culture.
If all of that sounds pretty complex, it’s because it is. And to make matters worse workplace culture isn't something you can nail down. It’s a moving target. A living, breathing thing that’s in constant flux - changing and evolving with every interaction that takes place between your employees.
It’s the HR equivalent of trying to nail Jello to a wall, and every bit as difficult as that sounds. But as difficult as it may be, for organizations that get it right, culture is the secret weapon to their success.
“Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.”- Simon Sinek.
When it comes to culture, not all workplaces are created equally.
You’ve probably experienced this for yourself. Think of the best place you’ve ever worked, and the worst - the distinction between the two no doubt boils down to the company culture more than it does things like salary and job title.
Cultures vary wildly from organization to organization. And even though researchers have worked to categorize them, breaking positive cultures down into eight different categories, there are still plenty of shades of grey that lie in between each archetype.
But that’s a subject for another day. Instead, in this guide, we’re going to zero our focus in on the two extremes of the culture spectrum: those that are toxic and those that are positive.
So what’s the difference?
Positive work cultures are places where employees feel supported, where their wellbeing is prioritized and where policies are in place to encourage trust, respect and support. As we dive more into some positive work culture examples below, you'll begin to visualize exactly what this culture would look like. In a positive culture, morale is high, employees are engaged and motivated to come to work and perform to the best of their abilities.
Analysis shows us there are six key factors that define a positive work culture:
Toxic work cultures, however, exist at the other end of the spectrum. We’re not talking about a culture that’s simply annoying here, or an environment in which you can’t reach your potential. We’re talking about the kind of place that ties your stomach in knots before you’ve even clocked in. There are many factors that make up a toxic culture including the maltreatment of employees and unethical behavior.
Researchers have pinpointed six key signs that a work culture is toxic:
As you can see, they’re two polar opposites. But even if your organization doesn’t fit fully into either camp you want to make sure you skew more towards the positive end of the spectrum, especially if you want to enjoy the benefits that a positive work culture can bring.
88% of job seekers cite positive work culture as a key consideration when searching for roles.
35% of workers would pass on the perfect job if they had concerns over company culture.
60% of workers have left a job because of a bad boss.
60% of U.S. employees would accept a job they love that pays half their current salary over a job they hate that pays double their current salary.
The majority of employees (88%) believe a positive work culture is key to business success.
69% of organizations that adapted amid the pandemic cite positive work culture as their main competitive advantage.
92% of executives believe that improving their firm’s corporate culture will improve the value of the company.
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. Work culture for example has a profound impact on employee engagement, staff morale, job satisfaction and employee retention.
A positive work culture doesn't just impact your employees either. It also has an impact on your customers. That’s because 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, so imagine how your work culture translates to a customer’s first impression of your business.
If it’s toxic, then your employees probably won't be engaged, they probably won’t be very positive and they certainly won’t represent your organization in the best possible light. However, if you have a positive work culture, your employees are your most powerful advocates. They’re proud to work for you, and that will come through in the way they interact with people.
Perception is everything and ultimately the impact of your company culture boils down to the difference between a one-off buying experience and a long-term relationship with your customers.
“Everything rises and falls with corporate culture. If you do it right, you can build a market-leading business that makes the world a better place...If you get it wrong you won’t be able to attract and retain the team required to build a sustainable and meaningful organization.”— Jason Lindstrom, CEO, Bucketlist Rewards
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If you’ve not been sold on the benefits of positive work cultures just yet, here are a few more reasons why building one should be top of your organization’s agenda.
If you want to hold onto your top talent then you better start building a positive work culture, quickly. According to one global study, nine out of 10 employees who rate their company culture as poor have thought about quitting. It’s a staggering figure, especially at a time when employee retention is becoming a key concern in boardrooms across the world.
If you want to boost your business’s bottom line then there’s one place you should start - company culture. Happy employees who work in a positive work culture are on average 12% more productive than the average worker. On the other hand, unhappy employees are 10% less productive.
That’s quite a swing.
Companies with positive cultures have also been found to outperform their competition by as much as 20% Their employees are also more likely to solve complex problems, faster, and be more creative than their counterparts.Put simply, a positive work culture is good for your business.
The Battle for Talent continues to rage as employers across the globe seek to fill record numbers of roles. Workers are in painfully short supply and there simply aren't enough candidates to fill the growing number of roles on the market. In fact, right now in the US, there are nearly twice as many openings as there are workers to fill them.
But culture can provide you with a secret weapon to stay ahead of your competition. A good culture can help you to attract good people, and lots of them. Today’s top talent aren’t looking for a big salary and a company car, they’re looking for a great culture. In fact, 15% of candidates admit to turning down a job offer because of concerns over a company’s culture.
Did you know that there’s a direct correlation between your company culture and the health of your employees?
Research shows that healthcare expenditures at high-pressure companies are nearly 50% more than those at other organizations. What’s more, it’s estimated that in the US alone, more than $500 billion is taken off of the economy due to workplace stress, with a staggering 550 million workdays lost each year due to stress on the job.
On the flip side, positive work culture examples however show us that we can change that. Organizations with a positive work environment tend to have higher levels of employee wellbeing, with researchers discovering that culture can have a direct impact on people’s health.
“Corporate culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage that is completely within the control of the entrepreneur. Develop a strong corporate culture first and foremost.”— David Cummings, Co-founder, Pardot.
Even if you work in an organization every day, it might be hard to work out what kind of company culture you have. After all, we’re often so busy completing day-to-day tasks that it can be hard to step back and take an objective look at how things are going. There’s also another issue, and it’s that leaders aren’t particularly well placed to get an accurate idea of what their company culture looks like.
So, if you want to know what kind of work culture exists within your organization you’re going to have to do a little bit of detective work. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to analyze your own work culture to see how positive or negative it is in its current state.
The first thing you should do to find out if you have a positive work culture is to ask. Employee engagement surveys are a great tool for this as they provide you with a barometer for what your organization is doing well and where it might need to improve.
Beyond the results of your employee engagement, another easy way to explore the current state of your company culture is to simply come out and ask your people directly. The key here is to speak to people from across every level of your operation so that you can see the big picture and not just one or two pieces of the puzzle.
Perhaps the strongest indicator of the kind of company culture that you have is the relationships that exist between your people. If you analyze the dynamics between them and the ways in which they interact with one another, you’ll no doubt have a pretty accurate snapshot of where your work culture sits on the toxic to positive spectrum. A few questions to ask yourself include:
You don't just have to look internally to find out what your work culture is like. Previous employees can also offer an objective insight into what it is like to work at your organization. This is where employee review websites like Glassdoor and findings from exit interviews can really shed light on where you are at.
Your company programs and policies can be a good weathervane of where your culture is headed. If you prioritize employee wellbeing and engagement through recognition programs, work/life balance incentives and professional development opportunities - then you clearly care about your people.
Employee turnover is a fact of life for every organization, no matter what their work culture is like. But if yours is higher than it should be it may be a warning sign that you need to address some issues in your environment. On the other hand, if you have a number of long-term employees on your payroll, then it’s a good sign that you’re doing something right.
Positive work cultures don't just manifest themselves out of thin air. Instead, they are deliberate. They have to be communicated and embodied at every level of the organization. That all starts with having a clear idea of what you want your work culture to look like. If you’ve taken the time to not only identify your mission and values but actively communicate them to your people, then you are on the right path.
Is your organization diverse? Or does everyone come from the same background? The very best work cultures embrace diversity, prioritizing inclusion and actively ensuring that they reflect the world around them.
“You have to be a place that’s more than a paycheck for people.”- Rick Federico, CEO, P.F. Chang’s
Companies with positive work cultures can attract the best talent, improve productivity and ensure their employees are motivated to give their all. In contrast, companies with toxic work cultures can suffer from retention issues, lack of motivation, low morale and churn.
Clearly creating a positive work culture is vital. But sometimes it can be hard to know where to start. Fortunately, there are a host of renowned businesses that offer excellent positive work culture examples.
By examining the positive work culture examples below you can get some inspiration for your own company culture as well as some ideas of the kind of initiatives you can implement.
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. From supplying breakfast, lunch and snacks, video game stations, games like table tennis, and even nap pods, it’s clear they focus on making the office culture enjoyable so that employees actually like being at work.
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. They support this with an amazing array of incentives, benefits and programs to support their staff including perks, 100% health coverage, flexible vacation, attractive office space and monthly celebrations.
While oil and gas companies can come in for a lot of negative press in the current climate, one area of Chevron’s operation that is regularly held in high regard is their positive company culture. “The Chevron way” as it’s known internally, is built around a focus on employee wellness and safety - with employees encouraged to look out for one another. This is reinforced through perks such as on-site fitness facilities, massages, personal training and a culture where regular breaks and vacations are encouraged.
HubSpot believes that “culture is to recruiting as marketing is to product,” which is why they’ve built a renowned company culture that their employees love. 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 positive work culture.
Patagonia is built on the mission to create the best products while causing the least amount of harm. From their Worn Wear Program where you can buy second-hand Patagonia products, to their 1% for the planet initiative where a percentage of the company’s annual sales go to good causes, purpose is baked into everything the company does. That filters through to employees who are drawn to work somewhere where the purpose reflects their own values and ideals.
This CRM provider is famous for its 1-1-1 philanthropic model that has helped to shape the company as one of the world’s best employers. Every year Salesforce donates 1% of its equity, 1% of its product and 1% of its time to nonprofits and education institutions around the globe. That’s a powerful act of positivity that helps to give their employees purpose.
This company has become as known for its positive work culture as it is for the shoes it sells. In fact, the company 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. It’s just one of the ways in which they operate around a set of core values that inform each and every decision they make.
“We believe that it’s really important to come up with core values that you can commit to. And by commit, we mean that you’re willing to hire and fire based on them. If you’re willing to do that, then you’re well on your way to building a company culture that is in line with the brand you want to build.”- Tony Hsieh, CEO Zappos.
By now you’re hopefully switched on to the benefits that a positive work culture can bring your organization. So what are the next steps you should take to ensure your company fits in with the positive work culture examples you can read above?
Here are a few hints and tips to help you make a meaningful cultural change.
Improving work culture isn’t a speedy process. It certainly won't happen overnight. Instead, you’re going to have to be patient in order to achieve long-term, sustainable success. That all starts from the top. Leaders have a key role to play in creating a positive company culture, so get your executive team on board first so that they can set an example for the rest of your organization.
It’s not just your leadership team who should have a say in your company culture - you should also ask your employees. Regular employee engagement surveys are a great way to encourage feedback from your people and build out a roadmap for how you can improve your company culture. The key is not only to ask for peoples’ input, but show that you are acting on it.
Your company culture is so much more than a collection of words that are written down in the employee handbook. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn't take time to identify exactly what they are. Companies that clearly define their mission and values, then share them not just with their employees, but their customers and candidates, are far more likely to enjoy the benefits of a positive work culture.
Building a workplace that contains people from diverse backgrounds is no longer just a buzzword. It isn’t something companies do to satisfy their HR departments either. Creating a culture of appreciation at work is now critical to a company’s success. So if you haven't already now is the time to embrace the opportunities presented by diversity, equity and inclusion and ensure this vital work is embedded at every stage of your organization in order to create a positive work culture.
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. Do it often and your people will sew the seeds for a positive workplace culture. That’s where dedicated recognition and rewards programs can help. That’s where we can help. Bucketlist Rewards' industry-leading platform can help you build a robust program that unlocks the power of recognition and rewards for your organization.
Employees value honesty and want to work in an environment where they feel they can trust their leaders. By promoting transparency and open communication, even when it’s difficult, you can create a culture where your people feel valued. To achieve this consider implementing open hours, regular company-wide town halls and even recurring newsletters where you can share vital information.
This one’s deceptively simple, but once you’ve identified the kind of work culture you want to build make sure that you hire people who fit into it. During the recruitment process, it may be tempting to opt for candidates with a better skillset or deeper experience. But if you don’t bring in people who will fit seamlessly into your culture you can very quickly undo all of your positive work.
Health and wellbeing are key concerns for organizations. But while steps are already being taken to improve the office environment there’s only so much you can achieve with healthy snacks and lunchtime workouts. If you truly want to create a great company culture you’re going to need to invest in the kind of health and wellbeing programs your people actually value.
The problem is that traditional benefits packages don’t meet those needs. So leaders will have to get creative, looking beyond the confines of traditional benefits to find new ways to support employee health and wellbeing. Varied benefits that include access to mental health support, childcare, dietary advice and even flexible working hours can be genuine game-changers if they’re deployed as part of a comprehensive program.
As a leader, you want your employees to be happy because happiness leads to better results for your business. By building a positive work culture and drawing on these positive work culture examples, you can create an environment where your people are happy, healthy and ready to bring their best to the office each and every day.
It’s not a simple task, but then, the best things in life are rarely easy. No matter how much work you put in, the benefits make all of the investment worth it. And as the examples of positive work cultures we’ve covered in this guide show, building a great working environment can pay dividends.