The ultimate guide to organisational culture in 2022

A quick summary:

  • What is organisational culture? 🔎
  • Why does organisational culture matter anyway? 🤔
  • What are the benefits of a great work culture? 🏆 
  • The signs of a toxic work culture 🚩
  • Ways to enhance workplace culture 📊
  • Using Heka to boost organisational culture in 2022 💚

Organisational culture; some companies get it right and others not so much. It is, however, one of the most crucial ingredients to a successful team and business. In this ultimate guide, we’ve covered the A to Z of what makes for great work culture.

In 2022, surprisingly few companies understand how to build positive work environments. And this lack of knowledge and know-how drives some pretty hideous results. Think high employee turnover, poor engagement and an unhappy workforce. 

While these three consequences will give some business leaders the worst of shivers, it only scratches the surface of a bottomless pit of HR woes.

What is an organisation’s culture?

Before we jump into the nitty-gritty of work culture and find out why employers must start taking it much more seriously, what exactly is it?

HR leaders have a responsibility to organise and empower people in the workplace to deliver value and success. Over the many decades of corporate culture, leadership styles have been tried, tested and transformed in the name of business prosperity.

Organisational culture starts at the very top with leadership teams who develop a set of attitudes, behaviours and expectations in the workplace. Leadership styles aren’t the only element involved, however. The objectives, missions, and values of a company also need to be taken into consideration.

It’s through these characteristics that company culture is born. It’s what makes one competitor different to the next. And in some cases, it’s what keeps one company afloat, while others sink. 

Why is organisational culture important?

As briefly mentioned above, organisational culture has enormous implications on things like employee engagement, business performance, general workplace happiness and much more. 

This means that the reverse is also true. Great work culture means better business performance, improved employee happiness and a higher engagement rate from your team. Those very objectives and values set at the beginning of the business can be achieved through a robust organisational culture.  

In an essence, it’s taking the strive for success in your business much more seriously, and going from good to great across the board. Below are several other vital reasons to build a culture people want to play a part in:

  • Retain your very best employees for much longer
  • A well-rounded culture boosts the onboarding process
  • Positive culture means positive wellbeing for everyone
  • Your company culture turns a group of employees into a team
  • Supports better collaboration and relationships in the workplace

The list really does go on. And it’s important you understand the difference great organisational culture can make. Through small changes here and there, improvements can compound and your business can benefit for years to come. 

One study by Deloitte found that 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is important to business success.

Next, we’ve cherry-picked the most important advantages of a positive work environment - those that will see your business take leaps and bounds.

The benefits of a positive work culture

Now, this is where things get really interesting! What many leaders fail to recognise is just how impactful great work culture can be. From productivity to performance, recruitment to retention, find out why you need to take organisational culture seriously in the modern workplace. 

These next four points are especially important considering the changing attitudes towards work and life. Society has begun to realise the true power of abandoning a toxic work environment and instead focusing on healthier ways of working. 

Ultimately, we all want to lead happier lifestyles, and positive work culture can reinforce this in both our personal and professional lives. 

Improved productivity and performance

Starting with productivity and performance, these two elements can be massively enhanced by company culture. That’s because a work environment that values employee happiness will see a more productive workforce. 

It’s no secret that when we are happier, we are more productive, more engaged and fundamentally enjoy our working lives in many ways. Happiness in the work environment is the beginning of other benefits to come. 

Research by Oxford University in partnership with telecommunication giant BT, found that there is a link between happiness and productivity. Their finds uncovered that employees are a staggering 13% more productive when happier. 

The equation is simple… improved work culture means happier employees, and happier employees equal more productivity in the workplace. 

Help recruit the very best talent

It isn’t just more efficient employees that can benefit your business. Taking your company culture seriously, with a people-centric approach will see the very best of talent flocking to join your team. 

In the modern workplace, businesses of all shapes and sizes have struggled drastically to hire the right talent. The Great Resignation has forced millions of employees to reconsider their careers, and employers have had to get their thinking cap on when it comes to recruitment. 

In the aftermath of a global pandemic, society didn’t just realign its priorities to live healthier and happier, but it began to realise that careers can (and should) work for them, and not against their happiness.

Boost employee retention and reduce employee turnover

Many HR leaders, including yourself, will know that recruitment is only half the battle. Once you have successfully onboarded the very best talent, it’s time to retain them. This is where your organisational culture will come into play. By building a work environment that is for your people, you can begin to improve your retention rate.

It’s also important to remember that company culture boosts a sense of belonging and purpose. A rigid and positive work environment will make these two principles clear to employees, and when we have a better sense of belonging and purpose, we stick around much longer. 

When fewer employees are departing your company for greener pastures, you can minimise the cost of recruitment and training - because unsurprisingly, these things can cost thousands of pounds. And in today’s talent market, that just isn’t viable or sustainable for many businesses. 

Ultimately, gone are the days that companies could maintain a high employee turnover while staying afloat and beating the competition. Forward-thinking companies are taking employee retention more seriously, and understand that people must come first in the workplace, not profit. 

Other ways to boost employee retention:

  • A supportive and caring work environment
  • Thorough communication between team members
  • Robust employee benefits and incentives
  • Recognise your team regularly for their hard work
  • Training and development opportunities
  • Comprehensive onboarding strategies

Higher employee engagement

Finally, higher employee engagement can often be the result of improved work culture. That’s because when we are happier at work, we are more likely to be engaged with both our team members and responsibilities. 

You may be surprised to know that highly engaged employees lead to around a 202% increase in performance! Ultimately, and like many of the above benefits, employee engagement can contribute to successful businesses and teams. 

High engagement comes from building a work environment that enables employees to thrive and enjoy what they are doing. It’s also a work culture that has gotten its people onboard with the mission and values of the organisation. And as we know, people can only work at their full potential, when they agree with the purpose of their work. 

Below are some other ways in which higher employee engagement can contribute to the company and team-wide success: 

  • Enhanced employee retention rate
  • Improved job satisfaction and employee happiness
  • Boost productivity amongst engaged employees
  • Reduce absenteeism and presenteeism
  • Increases innovation and creativity

Evidently, there’s a lot of reason to consider building a healthier and more positive work environment for higher engaged employees. 

Signs of a toxic work environment

Now that we’ve explored the benefits of great work culture, what are the red flags of a deteriorating work environment? By examining the list below, you can compare your current work culture - looking for any flaws in your own organisational culture. 

You’ll likely come across none of these in your own company; after all, you’ve read this far, so you obviously take your team’s health and happiness seriously! However, it’s good just to be aware of these telltale signs. 

Unhealthy competition amongst your employees

Anyone who works in a solid team knows that you can only go so far alone. Those who want to go the furthest, achieve the highest and see the best results must go together. That’s exactly why we’ve made this our first sign of a toxic work environment. 

If you’ve noticed competition among your team members, this is a very obvious sign of worse things to come. That’s because when we prioritise our own efforts and recognition over those we work closest with, we’re bound to value our own success over that of the company - or that achieved collectively. 

As a HR leader, you must help your team understand the importance of working as a team. You should constantly reiterate the difference between working together over working against each other. 

Successful teams are all around us, not just in the workplace, but everything from sports teams to influencers. These teams are built on mutual respect, common goals, and rigid communication. Qualities that often don’t gel well when people are competing for the same outcome. 

In fact, 75% of employees consider collaboration and teamwork as crucial in the workplace - further reinforcing the importance of working together. 

Your team prioritise overworking more than personal wellbeing

No work environment can avoid becoming toxic without an emphasis on positive health and wellbeing. And a work culture that neglects personal wellbeing often prioritises unhealthy working habits

Unfortunately, there are a lot of people that believe overworking is the quickest way to success. Yet, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, overworking typically leads to symptoms of burnout. And once burnout takes its hold on your team members, you can expect a gigantic drop in productivity, performance, and employee happiness. 

If your work environment suffers from contradicting ideas of what ‘commitment’ and ‘determination’ look like, it’s time to ensure everyone is on the same page. This is especially true for remote employees, who may struggle to distance themselves from their work duties - even without a pushy manager who promotes “going that extra mile”. 

One way to ensure your team, and the wider company aren’t prioritising overworking is to carry out a health and wellbeing survey. Through a series of questions, you can carefully measure the happiness of your team. 

Ultimately, overworking isn’t healthy for anybody in the workplace - you or your team. As far as work culture goes, normalising working excessively can create a toxic work environment.

There’s a lack of recognition and rewards

The final sign we want to cover in our top three for a toxic work environment is a lack of recognition and rewards. Unfortunately, recognising one another in the workplace doesn’t come often enough. 

This is damaging to your work environment, but also represents a problem that’s both cost-effective and simple to correct. We’ve all heard the saying “it doesn’t cost a penny to be grateful”. And despite this being something we’re taught in the early years of our life, it often slips the mind of leaders across many businesses. 

A toxic work environment does not show appreciation and recognition for the hard work and efforts of its employees. Not only should there be a robust rewards scheme to reinforce how much leaders appreciate their team, but a simple ‘thank you’ and ‘well done’ should be common their your vocabulary. 

For example, here at Heka, we all choose a member of the team we believe has done something great throughout the week. Each Friday, we tell the team why we have chosen said colleague. Whoever wins the most votes can start later or finish earlier the following week. 

This way we’re able to share something positive about one another while rewarding someone for going above and beyond in a particular week.

Other signs of a toxic work environment:

  • Your business has poor employee reviews online
  • Employee turnover rates continue to skyrocket
  • Teams are plagued with absenteeism and presenteeism
  • Company mission and values aren’t clear to employees
  • People don’t agree with the business objectives and goals

How to improve your company’s work culture

Now that we’ve covered the various signs of a toxic work environment, let’s look at quite possibly the best part of our guide: how to improve company culture. Of course, none of the below ideas and strategies will set your company up for overnight success - yet, you will be well on your way to building great teams. 

Start taking health and wellbeing more seriously

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again… health and wellbeing should be at the forefront of every positive work environment. Not because we are an employee wellbeing platform, but the truth is in the figures.

For instance, Forbes reported that 61% of employees are burned out on the job - and we know how that can impact a business! 

Not only that, another study found that workplace wellness programs produced positive results among employees. Firstly, 89% suggested they would recommend their employer to others as a great place to work, and secondly, 91% found themselves motivated to do their very best work.

As you can see, employee wellbeing helps businesses in many different ways. However, one of the most important is its contribution to a positive work environment. If HR leaders want to see vast improvements, health and wellbeing must play a role in the workplace. 

The recent global pandemic proved that much more needs to be done to support healthier, happier workplaces. Companies now have the opportunity to rethink their policies, initiatives and benefits packages.

Through these, companies can transform the health and wellbeing of their people. One sure-fire way to boost organisational culture.

Listen, improve and become a flexible leader

How many times have you worked in an environment that expects nothing short of perfection? Stressful, right? That’s exactly how millions experience their working lives. And if you haven’t already guessed, it’s not healthy for anyone. 

Forward-thinking leaders understand that sometimes we must scrap policies and become flexible with employees. It’s the art of listening and refining the ways we work with one another. 

Many great leaders understand that being too strict and expecting too much is a recipe for disaster. When employees speak up about how they feel about the workplace, leaders must listen and act - not point out policies and neglect their team. 

Whether it's flexible working arrangements, requests for new projects and challenges, or raising concerns about the workplace, leaders need to consider the following: 

  • What can I change to improve my team’s happiness based on their feedback?
  • How do the requests or changes contribute to business results?
  • Is my decision fair to everyone involved?

Ultimately, the COVID-19 pandemic taught a lot of businesses that understanding, flexibility and the act of listening are what helped them survive. People made their voices heard on all kinds of concerns and demands, and the leaders who listened and reacted were those who retained their talent through a global pandemic. 

Consider what steps you can put in place to boost feedback, open communication and start building a work environment that wants to improve. 

Stay true to your core organisational values

Now, although leaders must be flexible when it comes to the demands and needs of employees, there’s one thing companies must stay strong on… organisational values. Unfortunately, a lot of businesses make it unclear how best to work with one another.

Company values are the driving force behind quality collaboration and work culture. For instance, leadership that continually reinforces the importance of living happier and healthier to its people can build a culture of health and wellbeing. 

A company that demonstrates its appreciation for honesty and trust can build teams that work together through the thick and thin - teams that communicate effectively. 

Essentially, through a set of core organisational values, a positive work environment can be built. It gives new and existing employees the framework to work from. If you haven’t already identified the core organisational values, there’s likely a very big problem going on in your business. 

To build organisational values, analyse your current work culture, review your business objectives, and consider values that can help achieve those objectives. Make sure to define those values, and what they really mean to you and your business. It’s as simple as that! 

Finally, ensure your leadership team are all on the same page with your current work culture and new or existing organisational values. These individuals hold the most influence over the rest of the team. They are responsible for ensuring these values are the lifeblood of the business. 

Build company culture with intention

Finally, build your company culture with intention. A lot of leaders treat work culture as box-ticking, and these lacklustre efforts are extremely apparent. Businesses must take employee wellbeing seriously and understand that anything short of an employee-centric culture is damaging. 

Those who read our guide and take action are far more likely to see their company culture embrace positive change for months and years to come. As with anything, a lack of intention yields not so great results.

Start by speaking with everyone from leadership teams to other employees -  organisational culture is built for people, not businesses. Speaking with your team about how to build a great work environment is one of the most proactive ways to build with intention. 

Not only will you receive great ideas, but you will also set in motion the means to build a great work environment by embracing criticism and open communication from others. 

Ultimately, people must come first in the modern workplace; but only through meaningful improvements and changes can this happen. Start today, refine, refine and refine some more. 

A positive work environment is an ongoing pursuit. One that deserves regular assessment to align with changing employee desires and needs. As a HR leader, ensure you set aside time each month (or that of your colleagues) to discuss organisational culture. 

These conversations will reveal fresh ways to improve the work culture - proving that building with intention isn’t the best, but the only way to truly take care of organisational culture. 

Other ways to boost your company’s work environment:

  • Nurture strong employee relationships within your team
  • Work on your employee experience - from start to finish
  • Build a sense of purpose amongst your employees
  • Create a rewards system or recognition scheme
  • Build a fun, exciting and engaging onboarding strategy
  • Create a transparent and honest work environment
  • Avoid micromanagement and give employees autonomy
  • Consider wellbeing meetings and regular dialogue among employees
  • Identify and embrace team-building challenges, events and ideas
  • Create an extensive employee benefits package 

Using Heka to boost your organisational culture

Building a strong foundation for your work culture starts by putting people first. This means understanding what it is that drives happiness among your employees. For many, that’s health and wellbeing. Two areas of self-improvement with enough power to transform our lives both in and outside of work. 

You should realign your incentives and benefits to cater for health, fitness and wellbeing. After all, Barack Obama didn’t once say “you’ll have to exercise, or at some point, you’ll just break down” for no reason. 

At Heka, we want to make the world of work healthier and happier - hence our passion for health and wellbeing in the workplace. Yet, we also recognise the true potential it has on a workforce and the work environment.

Through our employee wellbeing platform, we empower thousands of people with thousands of wellbeing experiences, products and services. Whether it’s treetop climbing with GoApe, vegan-friendly meal deliveries with Allplants or life coaching with Jill Martin Coaching - there’s something for everyone in your team. 

Still not sold? Take a look at what some of our delightful customers have said about their experience with our employee wellbeing platform. Why not also have a look around and meet Heka.

Alternatively, if you’re ready to find out why your team can benefit from using our employee wellbeing platform, get in touch with our wellbeing experts for a demo!

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