When we encounter an organization that has a great culture, it’s natural to wonder how they created their inspiring workplace. We might wonder what event, activity or HR policy created their cultural success. The truth is, there is no magic formula for achieving a great, inspiring culture. There are, however, some common characteristics in the organizations that have great cultures.
While no workplace is perfect, many organizations strive to become truly great, inspiring workplaces, and some come close. They are truly making a difference.
Leaders define their culture
Be it good or bad, your culture is always driven by the leader – owner, president/CEO, general manager, or department head.
So if you want to improve your culture, you as the leader must champion the improvements.
You may be asking right now, “Won’t we need to back off from driving for the results we need in order to improve our culture?” The answer is absolutely NO.
I would suggest you continue to drive for the results and keep the high expectations. AND add improvements to your culture, which is the “people side” of your business.
Some principles are hidden below the surface of the common and expected practices of business. Their power goes untapped because it takes some faith to put these principles into action.
Making culture a priority is one of these principles. You’ll find that as you strive to have a great culture, your people will be inspired to help you achieve the results you want.
At our company, we definitely were not perfect, but over time, we got more intentional about creating a great, inspiring culture. From 2005 through 2011, we saw the following results during some of the toughest economic times:
Revenue grew about 5 times
Profit increased slightly more than 5 times
EBDITA (Earnings before Depreciation, Interest, Taxes, and Amortization) increased about 5 times
Also the first two times we applied, we were awarded the 100 Best Companies to Work For in Texas the years 2011 and 2012.
Our company experienced significant growth during a time when many other companies were declining. And, just as importantly, we created a workplace where people enjoyed being a part of our team.
Every leader can create a great, inspiring culture by applying the principles discussed below.
For the past several weeks, we have been talking about what a great, inspiring culture looks like. The first set of posts helped us gain a better understanding of workplace culture. The following are links to the blog posts and an explanation:
- Are These Three Leadership Practices Stunting the Growth of Your TEAM? – Emphasizing event over process, using fear to influence behavior, and demonstrating chronic inconsistency.
- What is Culture? – What does culture look like, and what shapes workplace culture.
- What Affects Your Culture? – People, leadership, information flow, policies and practices, and facilities.
- Four Benefits of an Inspired Workplace Culture – It attracts high-performing people (and keeps them). It creates a united team. It increases employees’ sense of well-being. And it boosts financial performance.
The second set of posts focused on the findings of the ERC (Employers Resource Council) who compiled a list of characteristics of “great workplaces that excel at the attraction, retention, and motivation of top performers” based on 15 years of surveys and interviews. 
The following are links to the blog posts in this series on great, inspiring workplace cultures. Each post also includes my take on the workplace attribute:
- How to Win in the Marketplace – Meaningful and challenging work and competitive compensation plus incentive pay
- Two Ways Leaders Can Improve Their Cultures – Listening and collaboration, genuine care, and mutual respect leads to trust
- How to Hire the Right People – Recruiting, selection and hiring, and people working together
- Are You Investing in Training and Development? – Training and development
- 7 Ways You Can Up Your Communication Game – Open communication
- The Secret Every Leader Needs to Know – Formal and informal recognition and praise
- What Does Dr. Seuss Know About Building an Inspiring Culture? – Incorporating fun into the workplace
- An Uncommon Way to Grow Your Business – Benefits of acts of community service into the workplace
- 6 Ways to Achieve Work/Life Balance – Incorporating work/life balance into the workplace
- Who Else Wants Confident and Courageous Employees? – Encouraging wellness in the workplace
- Get Gold Medal Results for You and You Company – The practice of having an attitude of excellence in the workplace
- Here’s the Key to Keeping Your Customers – The practice of having exceptional customer service and quality in the workplace
- Chaplains in the Marketplace – An extraordinary service that will benefit your employees, customers, suppliers and your own organization!
Culture is as important, if not more important, than your business strategy, because it either strengthens or undermines your business and the objectives you are trying to achieve.
Step back, define, and evaluate your workplace culture – both what it is now and what you want it to be in the future.
This process of improving your workplace culture is not a sprint, it takes time and intentional leadership. I encourage you to identify one aspect of your workplace culture that you would like to improve and then focus on that one area.
Consider making culture as important of an objective as your business strategy – you’ll be glad you did.
Which workplace attribute listed above is your favorite or you feel is most important? Leave a comment to this post and share your perspective.