The Dos and Don’ts of Creating a Positive Work Culture
Your company culture is the shared set of values, beliefs and attitudes that guide your organization. It’s reflected in the way you treat your customers and employees, and impacts the types of candidates you attract for open positions. A strong company culture boosts productivity, decreases turnover and improves employee engagement.
A culture will naturally form within every organization and sometimes to the detriment of the business. Allowing negative behaviors and toxic attitudes to fester will cultivate an unfavorable work experience. However, by being intentional with your core values and culture initiatives, you can create a positive work culture that will inspire your team and help your organization thrive.
In this article, we'll cover the dos and don'ts of creating an exciting workplace culture and equip you with actionable tips to use in the office.
How to Create a Positive Work Culture
To get started building the company culture of your dreams, first lay out your core values. These should be the foundation of everything that happens at your company and guide your organization’s evolution. Dedicate as much time as necessary to ensure everyone is aligned, and include leadership, long-term employees and HR representatives so all significant parties can weigh in. In the end, you should have a concise list of values that accurately reflect your current company culture and long-term goals.
Then, think about the type of organizational culture you want to create. Consider everything from the physical layout of the office to how frequently employees interact with their colleagues, managers and members of the C-Suite. From there, the real work begins. Use the following dos and don’ts to create a positive work environment that aligns with your values and prevent negativity from festering.
Company Culture Dos
1. DO: Set clear departmental goals
Outline the objectives of each team so employees have tangible results to work toward. Not only will this help guide individual performance, but it will encourage collaboration between team members. Make sure there is room for feedback to adjust quotas and KPIs when needed. For example, if a team is continually reaching their objectives without breaking a sweat, you might want to modify their target goals to push production further.
2. DO: Promote the organization’s goals
In addition to setting departmental goals, make sure every employee is clear on the organization’s long-term objectives. This will help individuals cultivate a sense of professional purpose. Having a source of motivation beyond quarterly quotas will demonstrate the value each role has toward achieving the company’s mission.
3. DO: Promote diversity and inclusivity
Create a positive, inclusive workplace culture by welcoming individuals from all backgrounds and celebrating their differences. Encourage employees to share their pronouns with the rest of the team to promote inclusive language and consider establishing a committee to contribute to diversity initiatives. Work with the HR department to make diversity a part of your recruitment strategy and ensure diversity and inclusion continue to be foundational elements as your organization grows.
4. DO: Allow for humor
Work has its stressful moments and being able to make a difficult situation more lighthearted is an invaluable skill. Of course, the ultimate goal should be to resolve the problem, but a fresh perspective and positive outlook is more productive than the alternative. As Dale Carnegie said, “People rarely succeed unless they are having fun in what they are doing.” If you can afford to find the bright side and let your team know that you have their back, they’ll return the favor by working even harder.
5. DO: Prioritize respect
Every individual should feel valued and heard, regardless of their status within the company. Interns offer a much greater advantage than being delegates for busy work, and new employees bring a fresh perspective. You never know where the next big idea will come from, so let every employee have a seat at the table and feel empowered to share their thoughts.
6. DO: Establish a strict zero tolerance policy
Just as important as creating a welcoming environment is ensuring employees know their rights and individualities are protected within the workplace. A crucial facet of a positive work culture is providing employees with the opportunity to speak openly about issues they are facing — in and outside of the office — and have access to the support and resources they need. Make sure HR representatives have flexibility within their schedules to be available for personal conversations when needed, and consider implementing an anonymous sexual harassment hotline as a secure and private way for employees to report incidents in the workplace.
7. DO: Create an employee recognition program
Recognize and reward employees for achieving outstanding results. Doing so will encourage employees to continue performing at impressive levels, and make them feel valued within the company. It will also motivate their peers to up their game, fostering a culture of friendly competition that leads to high performance.
8. DO: Accept and utilize your employee’s feedback
In fact, try to change your perspective on feedback. Rather than considering it to be indicative of something you’re doing wrong, think of it as the opposite — your employees care so much about the organization and its success that they are trying to help make it better. They’re choosing to bring their pain points to your attention and it gives you the opportunity to fix them instead of the employee stewing over them and eventually leaving the company out of frustration.
9. DO: Be flexible
Life happens and things will get in the way. Allow your employees the room to be human and address things that come up unexpectedly without (extreme) repercussions. For example, if an employee is struggling to manage their office responsibilities with their family life, work with the individual to find a compromise that allows them to be productive at work without sacrificing life beyond the 9 to 5. You’ll earn the respect of your employees rather than the reputation of being unaccommodating and unapproachable. Not only that, but flexible schedules can help you attract elite candidates; 88% of people would consider a lower-paying job over a higher-paying job if it offered flexible hours.
10. DO: Be transparent
Engaged employees invest their full selves into the success of the company, and they deserve your leadership team’s trust. Promote transparency and open communication between department heads, management and team members. Doing so will create a positive work culture where employees feel heard and valued. Consider implementing a recurring internal newsletter to share critical information with the team, and hold a monthly town hall meeting to make company-wide announcements that require more context.
11. DO: Plan social outings
Humans are social beings that crave interaction — albeit some more than others. Nonetheless, having the opportunity to get to know each other outside work will help foster meaningful relationships between employees. You can keep it simple by having a Friday happy hour in the office, forming a running club that meets once a week after work or organizing company-wide potlucks during lunch hours. Think about the types of events your team would most enjoy when coming up with new company culture ideas.
Company Culture Don’ts
1. DON’T: Encourage employees to work through lunch
While lunch breaks are not legally required, allowing employees to shut off their computer for 30 minutes to an hour each day helps create a positive work culture. Your team is not comprised of robots, so expecting employees to continuously churn out quality work over the course of eight hours without breaks is unrealistic — and unhealthy. More than that, it suggests that employees are only valued for their work output, not as individuals. Regular breaks have actually been shown to improve productivity and 81% of employees who break for lunch on a daily basis report having a desire to actively contribute to their organization.
2. DON’T: Reschedule one-on-ones
If you’ve set aside time to meet with an employee individually, do your best to honor that meeting, especially if something else comes up. Doing so will show you value and respect the individual’s time, and care about what they have to say.
3. DON’T: Let disengaged employees hang around
Having an engaged workforce will help propel your company forward on its path to success, while disengaged employees will actively get in the way. There’s a key difference between employees who are not engaged and those who are disengaged, the latter being a source of pervasive toxicity within the organization. If you notice individuals who are counterproductive to your team’s success, pull them aside to discuss their behavior. If nothing improves after making an effort to positively address the situation, it is time to part ways and help them find another position more suited for their needs and goals. Sometimes disengaged employees are stuck in a rut professionally and just need a little support to get back on their feet.
4. DON’T: Limit learning opportunities to job descriptions
Skill building is an important part of a positive work experience. Allow employees to pursue their passions, both in and outside of the office, and encourage information sharing between colleagues. This exchange of knowledge will lead to improved employee relationships, collaboration and camaraderie.
5. DON’T: Hire for culture fit
A key part of creating a diverse community within the office is hiring for culture adds, not culture fits. The cultural add recruiting model means identifying candidates who share and embody your core values and who offer a unique perspective. You want to continue to grow and develop your culture and company, so look for candidates who will productively add to your team, not necessarily fit into a mold.
6. DON’T: Tolerate poor managers
Managers have a massive impact on their employees’ engagement and performance. In fact, 94% of employees with great managers report being more passionate about their work. On the other end of the spectrum, 77% of employees with bad managers hope to leave their current jobs. Managers interact with their direct reports most frequently, so it’s vital to make sure those individuals who are leading a team are doing so with conviction and in accordance with your core values.
Creating a positive work culture where everyone feels valued, welcomed and respected is vital to an organization’s success. Be sure to take your employee’s feedback into account and lean on them to help cultivate a great work experience. Remember, if you ever find yourself facing a negative organizational culture, don’t panic: there are five simple steps to changing company culture.