Positive workplace culture – what it is, why it matters and how to get one

Published on 16th October 2017

Against a backdrop of deadlines and schedules, and in an arena where there are never enough hours in the day, who has time and resources to worry about instilling a positive workplace culture? What, even, is it?

If you’re thinking that the term itself sounds like an output from some idea-swapping weekend in the Cotswolds, or the result of a W1A-type pow-wow, you could be forgiven.

The truth is surprising. Changing the workplace culture for the better, far from being a fluffy concept-in-the-sky is actually a hard-nosed, pragmatic business decision. It’s one that’s loaded with benefits too – from higher retention to lower costs, from increased brand awareness to fewer sick days.

Happy to find out more? Let’s get ready for a bit of culture.

First of all – what it’s not…

Before getting into the realities of a positive workplace culture, let’s begin with a negative: let’s begin by dispensing with a few myths

Improving company culture isn’t about everyone being nice all the time. It’s not about setting aside Tuesday mornings for cake or, more seriously, creating a kind of 9-to-5 utopia in which there’s no such thing as mistakes.

There are such things as mistakes.

How they are addressed is one area that contributes to a company’s culture. Nobody, for example, should expect a medal for missing a deadline. Equally, they shouldn’t be worried sick about a public dressing-down either.

…and what it is

So, a positive culture isn’t a culture of cuddles. Instead, it’s a culture of common sense. Its influence is felt across practical, everyday areas like rewards and discipline, feedback and recruitment. On a wider scale, positivity contributes to how your organisation is viewed from the outside, so it helps build brand and reputation.

When applied to these nuts and bolts of the workplace, suddenly that abstract concept we started with begins, perhaps, to make more sense.

Still sceptical? One thing’s for sure, every organisation has a culture of its own. Left unchecked, it will develop just fine without your influence – but often with negative consequences. Those organisations who take the lead, therefore, are the ones who’ll more likely reap the benefits.

Of course, no two organisations are the same. What is practical, possible and appropriate for one entity is unlikely to apply 100% to another. But there are general characteristics. So here are seven ways a workplace can ensure positivity sits proudly at its core:

Publicise your policies

Across most successful organisations you’ll see transparent policies about factors like promotion, conduct, training and management. Keeping employees – including new-starts – in the know about these important areas makes for a slick operation and a workplace that’s primed for progress.

Policies like these rarely stand still though, with legal or internal advances necessitating updates. Positive organisations ensure their people are kept up to date with any significant changes.

Define clear goals

Clarifying a task from the outset goes a long way to helping colleagues successfully achieve it. That’s because anything unclear can be queried early. That clarity is dynamite for improving focus, saving time and boosting motivation.

And as we’re talking about goals…

Recognise a job well done

Remember when we told you that a positive workplace culture isn’t about being nice to people? Well, we lied. But only a little. Because one characteristic of a positive workplace culture is its reward system.

This is all about acknowledging effort, and can require little more than telling someone they’ve done a great job. Of course, this is one area where the envelope can be pushed as far as you like. By all means hand over bottles of plonk or bonuses, but a sincere word of thanks is a strong and simple gesture that goes a long way.

Celebrate successes

Business wins, service milestones, birthdays, babies. All good reasons for a celebration. Marking occasions, even in a small way, acknowledges events in and out of the workplace and does wonders for team-building and cohesion.

Never underestimate the value of loyalty.

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Invite comment

An open-door policy that welcomes comments and feedback is a win-win across your organisation.

Encouraging responses and ideas demonstrates that people are valued and respected. And the fresh thinking garnered from those at the sharp end of things can lead to valuable change.

Open-door policies give employees an authentic stake in your business. So in addition to capturing all that great thinking and perspective, loyalty and performance can be given a boost too.

Start the week off on the right foot #positiveworkplace #leadership #happystaffhappylife #professionaldevelopment #highperformancetraining

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Hire and hire

Adding to your team? A clear commitment to positivity attracts positively-minded candidates. And at interview, pitching a conflict scenario will give you a terrific idea of how your potential new-start will plug into your policies.

So don’t be shy: across websites, social media and especially on job ads, shout about the positive culture recruits can expect. A statement of core values is a good start – but something more active, like an online film or animation, opens up loads of creative ways to define your culture.

Take the lead

If you’re top of the tree in your organisation, you’ll be used to your people taking their cue from you.

The creation – and evolution – of a positive workplace culture is likely to begin with you and your senior colleagues. But you won’t be alone for long. A company’s positive culture thrives when everyone’s on board. So set the right example and you’ll be well on the way.

Five good reasons for embracing a positive company culture

  • You’ll make people whistle while they work Your colleagues will actually enjoy coming to work. Imagine that. And if people enjoy the working day, there’s a fair chance they’ll do a better job.
  • You’ll build your brand If your people love their workplace they’ll tell others. Your brand benefits from these plaudits via social media, and from good old-fashioned word-of-mouth too.
  • You’ll attract the brightest Positive people are attracted to positive workplaces. Present your organisation as a terrific place to make a difference and terrific people will want to work with you.
  • You’ll ramp-up retention It’s a simple equation: people who feel valued, enjoy their job and are less likely to move. That strengthens teams, retains experience and reduces the costs – including admin, advertising and training – associated with high turnover.
  • You’ll contribute to the greater good Stress and pressure is often felt way beyond the workplace and long after hometime. That impacts on family life, creating a vicious circle that does your business no good at all. A setting that’s fair, progressive and sympathetic reduces anxiety, can deliver fewer sick-days and is key to a positive work/life balance.

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