How to nurture your culture for happier employees

A quick summary:

  1. What does a nurturing work environment look like?
  2. Is a people first culture important?
  3. How to nurture your culture in the workplace
  4. Conclusion on how to nurture your culture
  5. Next steps to create a people first culture

Nurturing employees is no easy job. It requires conscious leadership, general interpersonal skills and the ability to put others first. It’s respecting the role of the employee in an organisation and recognising that they are the most significant stakeholder; deserving a nurturing work environment where they can thrive.

Our people are what keeps business ticking. Without their creativity, passion and desire to succeed, we’d find ourselves in a very difficult situation. With this in mind, it’s clear that we must construct a people first culture; one that supports the health, wellbeing and happiness of team members and tailors the employee experience based on their needs and desires.

That, in a nutshell, is the ingredient many businesses are missing. It’s also something we’re going to explore in much more detail in this article.

We’ll start by identifying exactly what a nurturing work environment looks like, before understanding its importance and the various ways to nurture your culture.

If you’re already well versed in the strategies of nurturing employees, head to the very bottom of this page for some recommendations of what to read next!

Four employees stood discussing a project in an office
What makes for a nurturing work environment?

What is a nurturing work environment

Starting with possibly the most important question, what is a nurturing work environment? To put it simply, a nurturing work environment prioritises the needs of people by putting things like employee wellbeing and job satisfaction first.

Of course, this only scratches the surface of a people first culture, but it’s important to recognise that businesses are only as successful as the health, wellbeing and happiness of their people.

There have been numerous reports and findings on the positive difference happy employees have in the workplace. Unfortunately, many businesses neglect this, choosing to focus only on the company’s bottom line.

If we could summarise the qualities that make a nurturing work environment, it would include the following:

  • Compassion
  • Empathy
  • Trust
  • Honesty
  • Selflessness
  • Openness

It’s characteristics like these above that allow employees to thrive. Through an organisation's values, mission and incentives (just to name a few) they can revolutionise culture.

Equally, a nurturing work environment is all about exceptional communication. What is it people want, but also don’t want? What does your organisation currently do or offer that employees absolutely love?

Leaders need to get into a rhythm with self-reflection and inviting feedback. It needs to be ongoing, honest and actioned regularly. Without speaking to people directly in the work environment, companies cannot build a people first culture.

Now, let’s look into the importance of developing a people first culture, and how employers can benefit from it.

Is a people first culture important in the workplace?

The second most important question to this guide is why a people focused culture is vital. Why bother nurturing employees? After all, is it even the responsibility of an employer?

Well, to answer the last question, of course, it is! It’s in the best interests of an employer to nurture employees. As we discussed above, supporting employees wholeheartedly means creating happier employees and in turn healthier business margins.

Additionally, establishing a people first culture is the difference between good and great workplaces. Think about it, after the global pandemic, society started prioritising personal health and wellbeing a lot more.

This need to take better care of ourselves translates to heightened demand for better care from employers in the workplace. After all, we spend a large portion of our time in the office or behind our laptops at home — the demand is justifiable.

As organisations fought with competitors to hire top talent, it’s these exact initiatives that let some companies down. A lack of flexibility, a lack of subsidised healthcare, gym memberships or access to emotional wellbeing support.

Whatever it was, hiring efforts were hindered, and organisations that outdid their competitors were those that modernised their offerings when it came to the employee experience.

So, to summarise, in addition to happier employees performing better than unhappy employees, it can block companies from growing a skilled workforce and scaling their operations, and people would much prefer to join an employer with a people first culture.

With these important reasons to develop a people first culture covered, let’s take a look at nurturing employees at work.

Similar read: Here’s why an always-on culture is harming your team

How to nurture your culture at work

In this section, we’re exploring exactly how you can nurture your culture. The points we’re going to discuss will cover everything from understanding the needs of people and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to prioritising career development and hiring the right people.

Understand the needs of your people

To start creating people first culture, you must understand it first. In a nutshell, nurturing work environment begins when people are empowered to fulfil all of their needs.

That means nurturing employees with their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs. If you’d like a more detailed explanation. The question is, how do we get to know these needs?

The truth is that everyone’s needs are different, but don’t panic. There are models that allow us to understand and identify the needs shared by all human beings — introducing Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

A powerful tool organisations can leverage to grasp the true meaning of human needs, as opposed to guessing what people need in life — because believe us, it isn’t ping-pong tables or free tea and coffee!

According to Maslow, bottom-of-pyramid needs like physiological and safety needs must be met before motivation for higher needs in the hierarchy emerge.

If we are to achieve a people first culture, we must empower people to get to the very top of the pyramid. At this stage, employees are internally motivated to be all that they can be.

As leaders and founders, it’s our duty to provide all the stepping stones by nurturing employees. Let’s look at the various stages of Maslow’s pyramid.

Physiological needs

You can support people to fulfil their needs by providing them with the knowledge and tools to support their health and wellbeing. Think sleep aid, nutrition support, financial wellbeing and more — it’s initiatives like this that help with nurturing employees.


Layoffs, furloughs, the economy, and healthcare… these have all contributed to work environments brimming with anxiety, uncertainty and fear. The truth is we cannot control these external factors, however, we can influence how our people feel about them.

From life coaching, meditation and mindfulness, we can replace feelings of vulnerability and insecurity with confidence and motivation. It’s all about helping people rethink the obstacles in life; that is the essence of a people first culture.

Young employees linking arms and celebrating in the office
How to nurture your culture at work


The concept of belonging is more important than ever. It’s no secret that the global pandemic had huge consequences on our social lives. It truly took its toll, and many people have found themselves facing anxiety and stress in social scenarios.

These problems demand better mental health support and an emphasis on nurturing employees. What’s more, organisations must create better communities within the workplace.

Whether it’s buddy systems, more inclusive collaboration or other strategies to increase communication and belonging. Ask yourself, does your team have a network of support for their wellness?


Thirdly, let’s look at the concept of esteem. This is about empowering our employees to find their strength, freedom and self-worth.

As leaders, we must seek out experiences which allow employees to redefine themselves and improve their mental and emotional strength and confidence. This is different for everyone, but it can be a spa session or a HIIT class.

Any workplace that wants to construct a people focused culture should always aim to boost employee confidence and self-worth. The better people feel about themselves the more they are emotionally equipped to succeed in everyday life.


Finally, let’s discuss self-actualisation. This refers to one’s creative, intellectual and social potential. It varies from person to person and it’s only possible when we’re able to identify our own strengths and have the tools to thrive through them.

It should be seen as the stage where we stop thinking of all the things we’d like to be doing… and actually start doing them.

When your employees are at this stage, they are motivated internally. When they’re at this stage, they can thrive regardless of the circumstances. This is how you know you have succeeded in creating a people first culture.

But first, they need the right tools. The right amount of rest, the proper nutrition, the right coaching, the right energy.

An employee receiving support from a manager
Prioritising career development for a people first culture

Prioritise career development and progression

Closely following the importance of people’s needs is career development and progression. Of course, this could be placed in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, but it’s deserving of its own mention and explanation.

So, what makes prioritising career development so important when constructing a people first culture? How to does it feed into the idea of a nurturing work environment?

Unfortunately, many businesses put themselves first. The better approach is to start listening to what it is people want to achieve on an individual level. Then, it’s knowing how to blend both the goals of a company with the career ambitions of its people.

That, in a sense, is the very best way to build a people first culture with learning and development. The reality is, businesses aren’t bigger than their workforce — it is the workforce that makes a business successful.

Things, however, become problematic when it is only the company’s bottom line that sees this success. Instead, employers should be active and intentional with their learning and development support.

This means finding projects and opportunities to help people sharpen their skills. It might mean introducing an education provider or subsidised tuition.

If organisations want to put nurturing employees high on their agenda in 2023, career development must receive its rightful attention.

Hire the right people for a nurturing work environment

It’s important organisations monitor the effectiveness of their recruitment efforts. Although a people first culture must be instilled at the very top, hiring the wrong people can have detrimental impacts on the direction of your culture.

Employees don’t always gel, bullying is a thing, and managers can’t help themselves from micromanaging. These are all real problems in thousands of companies.

We advise that you take hiring very seriously. One wrong hire could bring down not only team morale, but the performance and general attitude or satisfaction of other employees.

Believe it or not, negativity can spread. If a new employee doesn’t fit in well and turns against your company and employees, this negative attitude can catch on. Read Psychology Spot’s article on how negativity is contagious for a deeper understanding.

Here are some tips on hiring the right people for a nurturing work environment:

  • Really get to know them as a person during the interview process
  • Involve colleagues in the interview process who understand your culture
  • Quiz them on what makes for a successful work environment
Employees high-fiving in the office
Final thoughts on how to nurture your culture

Final thoughts on how to nurture your culture

And that’s a wrap! Hopefully, by now you’ve realised the various ways to create a nurturing work environment. The underpinning message is to focus on people and their experience of the workplace.

There are tremendous benefits to creating a supportive, amicable and compassionate workforce, as we explored near the beginning of this guide.

If we could leave you with our best advice, it would be as follows:

  • Acknowledge that employees are your biggest stakeholders
  • Recognise the power health and wellbeing can have for your workforce
  • Personalise both the employee experience
  • Remember that your business isn’t bigger than the people who run it

Next steps to create a people first culture

Now you know how to implement a people first culture. Remember that health and wellness, much like happiness and motivation are not things which you can enforce.

On the contrary, they will only work if individuals take ownership of them. As leaders, it’s our job to facilitate; to ensure that we provide all the tools and resources that allow people to take control of their health and wellbeing.

Focus on your people and their needs, and everything else will take care of itself. Need some support with this? Meet Heka! Heka’s an employee wellbeing platform offering thousands of experiences, services and products.

We’ve brought together some of the leading partners in the wellbeing industry to give employees the chance to personalise their health and wellbeing.

Whether it’s healthy meal kits, counselling and therapy or physical fitness, there’s really something for anyone in your company.

If you’d like to find out more, and start using Heka to create a people first culture, get in touch with our experts now.

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