The importance of a positive workplace culture.

“Employees make hundreds of decisions on their own every day, and culture is our guide.”
- Harvard Business Review

Katie Johnson


ESE Consulting

2016 Graduate Rob Hunt Transformational Leadership Program

The definition of workplace culture is, “The underlying values, beliefs and principles that serve as a foundation for an organisation’s management system.” Workplace culture is derived both from the imposed organisational structure as well as from the personalities of the individual employees. Workplace culture includes the methods with which people interact and how or if they network with each other. Workplace culture affects how people feel while at work.


In today’s world, businesses have to consider and put time and energy into creating a positive workplace culture. It is no longer an option but essential to success.

To attract and retain the best possible candidates for your business, a few factors need to be considered. Firstly, can you describe your current workplace culture? Is it positive? Have you approached employees to gain feedback on their perspective?

Businesses are created using different goals and beliefs and these are the foundation for developing workplace culture. People’s personalities and ways of interacting with each other set the scene for workplace culture. It is important to understand these elements to ensure you are focussing your efforts in the right areas within your business to effectively influence your workplace culture.

According to Frances Frei and Anne Morriss at Harvard Business Review:

“Culture guides discretionary behaviour and it picks up where the employee handbook leaves off. Culture tells us how to respond to an unprecedented service request. It tells us whether to risk telling our bosses about our new ideas, and whether to surface or hide problems. Employees make hundreds of decisions on their own every day, and culture is our guide. Culture tells us what to do when the CEO isn’t in the room, which is of course most of the time.”

Where to next? When you fully understand what workplace culture is and what your current position is, you need to determine what your desired workplace culture looks like. How would you like your employees to feel about coming to work in your business each day? What vision do you have to create a positive workplace culture that will positively influence and drive your employees to want to succeed?

Employee engagement and culture are closely intertwined. Providing a working environment that is challenging, rewarding, inclusive and flexible, is the key to creating an attractive workplace culture.

Leaders within your business are pivotal in driving and ‘living’ the workplace culture and as a result must be all on the same page and committed to the same goal. It will take time initially to develop the new and improved culture but the on-going benefits far outweigh the original energy invested. The benefits are endless. Not only can you attract and retain the best people for your business but you will have loyal and committed workforces who are working towards a common goal to make your business bigger and better than ever before. Absenteeism will reduce, productivity will increase and you will become an ‘employer of choice’.

So how can your business develop the culture necessary to thrive in today’s business world?

  • Have clearly defined company values and behaviours. These values need to be relevant and up-to-date. The best way to develop company values is to include employees in the development process. The values will create transparency with your businesses expectations and will assist to guide performance management.
  • Hire the right people. Use a proven methodology to ensure that you are recruiting people into your business that share your company values.
  • Practice what you preach. Live by these values and behaviours everyday.
  • Provide feedback in real-time. Immediately call people out on behaviour that conflicts with the company values and hold them accountable. Reward employees for living the values and behaviours that are consistent with the desired culture.
  • Utilise the skill-set within your business and seek the opinion of others. No-one has all the answers and employees want to have a voice and a meaningful impact.
  • Work as a team. This statement speaks for itself. Support each other and work together to create an environment where no-one is left ‘carrying the can’.
  • Supportive leadership. The culture of a business is driven by leadership. Support your employees and let them know that their work is appreciated. Provide them with the right tools to perform in their roles effectively and fully listen to them when they speak. Provide flexibility and freedom wherever possible.

It is essential that leaders create a positive workplace culture as a means of developing a successful and long-lasting business.