Organizational culture affects how employees experience an organization, and consists of the values, behaviors, expectations, and communication style that go along with it. Understanding your own workplace culture can reveal opportunities to attract new talent and improve  retention. How does it feel to be a part of your organization? Your organizational culture can answer that, as it affects every aspect of your team's experience. Simply put, culture refers to the shared values, behaviors, unwritten rules, and communication style expressed in the workplace. 

Organizational culture also shapes the way team members problem solve, interact with one another, and perform their roles. My experience has shown me that a culture will exist whether it's intended or not, and it can make a significant difference in your employees' decision to remain in the organization. These concepts have been studied and analyzed for many years. Findings from one study revealed that when comparing different kinds of organizational culture on retention, support-focused and achievement-focused cultural behaviors had significantly positive effects on retention, while power-focused culture had significantly negative effects on retention. Post-pandemic, we're experiencing a shift in the labor movement and more than ever, employees are leaving to seek a better organizational culture. With this in mind, it's vital to remain aware of your current and intended workplace culture, and shape it to improve satisfaction, retention, and, ultimately, success. 

Define your culture

You must be able to clearly articulate your company values, beliefs, accepted norms, and "how we get things done" attitude. These may be based on tradition, competitor benchmarks, social movements (such as a recognized need for DEI), and other influences, but ensure they are tailored to your organization's unique needs and strategy. 

Recognize weaknesses and opportunities

Understand that there may be a gap between your current, actual culture and the intended culture reflected in those previous value statements. There may be opportunities to change, especially if an organization has gone through significant restructuring or growth--as a team or in business strategy. Assess your workplace to audit the current culture. This can be done in both formal and informal ways: conversations with upper management and longtime employees, anonymous surveys so employees are comfortable sharing, exit interviews (when appropriate) so that you understand existing cultural motivations to leave. 

Lead with culture 

In order for all levels of employees to act in line with culture, they must be led by that culture. Executives, senior leaders, and management must represent and perform the desired behaviors, values, and workplace attitudes they wish their employees to exhibit. This is easier said than done, and I've seen this time and time again: When leaders are held to a different standard than their subordinates, employees are dissuaded from meeting those workplace cultural expectations. To ensure leaders are clear on the desired culture, hold workplace seminars communicating needs for change, and assess these behaviors in performance reviews. In addition, promoting junior candidates who positively represent the workplace to leadership positions will ensure that upper management remains in line with industry standards.

Hiring based on the intended corporate culture

As your company grows, and the workforce naturally fluctuates, take time to assess new applicants for their ability to uphold and create the desired culture. Throughout this process, remind yourself that a positive organizational culture is a competitive advantage, just like compensation, when seeking talent. Inquire about their desires in the following ways:

  • Beyond their skills and experience, what do they bring to the team?

  • How have they handled interpersonal conflict in the workplace?

  • What have they heard (or would like to know) about your organizational culture?

  • What's most important to you about workplace communication and problem solving?

Use their answers to identify if they will positively or negatively direct culture.

A positive workplace culture where employees feel supported and appreciated fosters engagement and commitment. By improving the overall atmosphere, employees will feel less stressed and be less likely to seek career satisfaction elsewhere.