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Is Your Workplace Culture Positive?

Is Your Workplace Culture Positive?

As we round out a tumultuous and historic year, it’s a good time to reflect on the good, the bad and the ugly of your organisation’s culture. Is it strong and defined? Did it withstand the events of the past year and shield your organisation from internal disengagement? Does it resist toxicity, or are toxic traits perpetuated? Does the culture promote positivity, unity and productivity? And what elements of the culture can be improved?

According to research by Deloitte, 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct culture is important to a business’ success.[1] The same report found that 83% of executives and 84% of employees ranked having engaged and motivated employees as the top factor that sustainably contributes to a company’s success. Looking at these numbers alone is enough reason to make striving for a positive culture a top item on the agenda.

Workplace culture vs corporate culture

While the terms corporate culture and workplace culture are often used interchangeably, there are slight differences. Corporate culture refers to the organisation’s core values, beliefs and mission, whereas workplace culture can be defined as the embodiment of these values through the members of the organisation who, driven by shared beliefs, approach challenges and solutions in alignment. The culture is the “personality” of an organisation; its beating heart. A business cannot be successful without a positive and well-defined culture.

Find out more about a key element of corporate culture, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and its importance during the pandemic in ELMO’s blog.

A toxic workplace: the signs

Although corporate culture and workplace culture inform one another, they can fall out of sync when members of the organisation do not practice and preserve the values. This can lead to toxicity. Symptoms of a toxic workplace include low morale, mass disengagement and high turnover.

Examples of toxicity include:

  • Bullying that does not lead to disciplinary action
  • Normalising harassment
  • Conflict that unreported or unresolved
  • Normalising over-working or setting unrealistic goals
  • Unhealthy competition
  • Environments that induce anxiety
  • Other bad behaviours such as people taking credit for other people’s work, people discrediting others, and shifting blame

The danger of long-lasting and unresolved workplace toxicity is that it can warp a sense of what’s acceptable. When a type of behaviour is endorsed, employees will begin to think that it’s the way things should be, and not recognise or strive for better working conditions. It may also influence behaviour shifts in employees, meaning toxicity becomes self-perpetuating.

Tolerating negative behavior from employees will erode the engagement of even the best workers. Leaders should actively address and eliminate such behavior to maintain a positive and productive work environment.

Toxicity in the workplace can be stamped out of an organisation if its leadership establishes strong values and demonstrates commitment to those values. Managers should actively promote and embody the company’s values by addressing and eliminating behaviors that are considered harmful.

When an organisation breeds positive practices, engagement becomes rife – and, fortunately, engagement is contagious. In turn, motivation and productivity increases which reduces turnover. It really is win-win.

4 elements of a positive and inspiring workplace culture

So, what does a positive culture actually look like, what are its characteristics, and what should your organisation put in place to cultivate a culture strong enough to weather any storm?

1. Openness and transparency

This year has reiterated how important open and transparent communication is in the workplace. During VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) times (this year being the VUCA situation par excellence), employees crave transparency from the top – as well as from management and HR.

Organizations have made many important decisions during the pandemic to adapt to the challenging conditions. However, they should not implement any decision that affects employees without explaining the reasons behind it. Humans are innately habitual so may resist mass change if they do not understand the reasoning behind the change.

Similarly, employees crave knowledge to remedy uncertainty, so any communication that concerns them should be informative to build a sense of trust.

2. Recognition and feedback

Creating a culture that prioritizes recognition and feedback is an indicator of organizational well-being, characterized by high morale, empowered employees, and increased productivity.

Recognition is about recognising a job well done or acknowledging a particular behaviour – a figurative or literal pat on the back. It can be as simple as a manager saying “thanks” for a job well done – this can have a tremendous impact on motivation. In order for a recognition program to be effective it must happen in real-time. The best recognition programs involve the use of public work channels, e.g. social media, messaging platforms, or during team meetings (either virtual or in-person). Recognition can be inherently motivating, without requiring a reward.

Employees desire feedback because it demonstrates their value and recognition within the organization. While not all feedback is positive, constructive feedback aimed at motivating employees to improve is still effective.

Learn what causes a culture of entitlement – and how to avoid it – by reading our blog.

3. Learning and development

Another key ingredient of a positive culture is investment in the professional development of employees through training initiatives. An employer who cares about the future success of its workers inspires motivation and productivity – and enhances retention.

Two-thirds (63%) of employers report a lack of career progression as the main reason employees leave,[2] and 91% of Millennials want rapid career progression.[3] To satisfy an appetite for learning, employers should encourage the upskilling and cross-skilling of employees, or implement other cost-effective career development opportunities, such as internal mentoring programs, job rotations or short-term secondments in different departments.

4. Empowerment through surveys

By regularly surveying employees, an employer can gain valuable feedback on the many aspects of business. Through surveys, employers can gauge how effective business processes are. They can also measure the pulse of the organisation and employee sentiment and satisfaction. This is critical insight into how positive or negative a culture is.

Research by Gartner found that three-quarters (74%) of organisations rely on annual employee surveys to determine employee sentiment.[4] However, once-a-year surveys are not effective. Take this year, for example – employee sentiment will no doubt be different today than a few months ago during the height of the pandemic. Regular pulse surveys are crucial for understanding how employees perceive the workplace culture and making positive changes.

Find out more about measuring employee engagement through survey by reading our blog.

With a positive and strong workplace culture as its foundation, an organisation can effectively implement change, drive productivity and increase retention. Better yet, it will be strong enough to take on whatever the future has in store. Find out how ELMO’s Engage suite of solutions can boost engagement in your workplace.

ELMO Software  is a cloud-based solution that helps thousands of organisations across Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom to effectively manage their people, process and pay. ELMO solutions span the entire employee lifecycle from ‘hire to retire’. They can be used together or stand-alone, and are configurable according to an organisation’s unique processes and workflows. Automate and streamline your operations to reduce costs, increase efficiency and bolster productivity. For further information, contact us.

[1] “Core beliefs and culture: Chairman’s survey findings”, Deloitte, 2018

[2] “Turnover and Retention Research Report”, Australian HR Institute, 2018

[3] “66% Of Employees Would Quit If They Feel Unappreciated”, Forbes, 2019

[4] “Are employees burnt out from COVID-19?”, HRD, June 2020