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What is Company Culture and 4 Tips for How to Improve it

June 14, 2023

CEOs want to see growth, sales departments want to see leads, and finance wants to see profit. But employees? They want to enjoy coming to work every day – they want a positive company culture.

In fact, research from MIT found that toxic company culture was the primary reason for people quitting their jobs from April to September of 2021. This same study found that a healthy work culture is 10 times more important to employees than pay.

But knowing company culture is important is one thing. Actually cultivating a healthy, positive work culture is another story.

To help, we’ve come up with 4 ways that you can start improving your company culture today.


What is Company Culture

First, let’s establish what company culture is so we know areas that impact it. Company culture is the blend of values, behaviors, and norms that makes up the experience of your employees and customers.

Some of these elements are formal, like having a written corporate value of innovation. And some are informal, like punishing an employee for trying something new.

In this case, the company’s values and behaviors aren’t aligned, which can lead to employees feeling confused or even that the company is hypocritical. As you can imagine, this would contribute to an unhealthy work culture.

Conversely, if in this example, the company praised the employee for trying something new (even if it fails), their behavior would match their value for innovation.


How to Determine Company Culture

Employee Engagement Surveys

As you can imagine, company culture can be a bit ambiguous. Additionally, it can feel different to different people within the organization. Managers and leaders may be having a completely different experience than their employees.

So, before implementing any changes, be sure to start with an employee engagement survey to help gauge your starting point.

Ensure this survey is completely anonymous so employees feel safe giving their fully honest opinion. Then ask questions like:

  • How would you describe our company culture in three words?
  • Do you feel a sense of belonging at work?
  • Are you connected to the work you do?
  • Do you feel recognized and appreciated for your work?
  • Do you feel that the company embodies our values through our actions?
  • Do you have friends at work?
  • What could we do to improve our company’s culture?


How to Improve Company Culture

You’ll likely see a trend appearing from your survey results. So, use this information to drive your culture initiatives. With this in mind, there are some general areas every company can look at to cultivate a healthy work culture.


1. Prioritize Mental Health

Mental wellness is a critical factor in any job, especially today. In fact, Indeed surveyed more than 1,500 employees in March 2021 and found that 52% of respondents were feeling burnt out. Furthermore, this feeling is even more common among people working virtually.

There are a few things you can try to prioritize mental wellbeing at your company. First, take a look at your expectations. Do you expect employees to work late or through lunch to meet deadlines? Do you expect employees to respond to calls or emails after hours?

These types of unspoken (or spoken) expectations can breed a toxic culture. To combat this, it’s typically not enough to only reiterate taking breaks and signing off at 5pm – although you should do so.

Instead, really talk to your employees. Take a look at their workloads. Try to understand the root cause of their burn out. Then, work towards making changes that will help alleviate causes of stress. This will show your employees that you’re committed to making real change and it’s not just talk.


2. Build an Employee Recognition Program

Employee recognition software is arguably the simplest thing companies can do to improve, not only their work culture, but drive retention and engagement as well.

In fact, research shows that:

  • 82%of people are happier when they’re recognized at work. (Curiosity at Work)
  • 85%of HR professionals say employee recognition programs positively affect organizational culture. (Mercer)
  • When employees believe they’ll be recognized for their work, they’re 7 times more likely to be highly engaged. (Quantum Workplace)
  • 63%of employees who feel recognized are unlikely to look for a new job. (Curiosity at Work)
  • Companies with effective employee recognition programs have 31%lower voluntary turnover. (Forbes)

There are all kinds of employee recognition programs available today, from peer-to-peer recognition to service awards. And when done correctly, these programs can be an invaluable tool for businesses.

Keep in mind that employee recognition programs should have clear goals, be easy to use, and be consistent. Most importantly, they should be genuine and authentic.

social recognition platform

RELATED: How to Build an Effective Employee Recognition Program


3. Encourage Open Communication

A healthy company culture is based on trust – and trust is based on transparency. When employees feel that they’re out of the loop, it lays the groundwork for insecurities and disengagement.

Avoid these insecurities by addressing (appropriate) business decisions publicly. During company meetings, talk about the direction the company is moving in, goals that were achieved and upcoming targets. And don’t be afraid to talk about difficulties. Just be sure to talk about your plans for dealing with difficulties.

Additionally, consider adopting 360 feedback for your review process. Traditionally, evaluations are given to an employee from their supervisor in a “top-down” approach. With 360 feedback, the employee will be able to evaluate their supervisor as well.

The employee will also be reviewed by more than just their supervisor. This helps give each person a more rounded, objective, honest review.


4. Invest in DEI

DEI (or diversity, equity, and inclusion) is a framework that strives for more fairness and empowerment for individuals who have typically been underrepresented or subject to discrimination in the workplace.

While DEI isn’t new, it has become more popular in the past decade or so – and for good reason. DEI efforts help build a company culture of belonging, community, and psychological safety.

Research has also found that companies with DEI strategies show more innovation, higher employee retention, and better business outcomes.

Get started with DEI training, creating employee resource groups, and celebrating a wide variety of holidays and traditions at work.


RELATED: Cultural Diversity in The Workplace: What it is, Why it’s Important, and How to Get Started


Work with Terryberry

Terryberry provides solutions to help build a healthy, accepting work culture through effective employee engagement. These solutions include:

  • Service Awards and Performance Awards: Recognize and reward employees based on years of service awards, anniversaries, or performance.
  • Social Recognition: Empower your employees and managers to recognize their peers and celebrate successes with an easy-to-use social recognition application.
  • Feedback and Communication: Unlock improved feedback and communications with employee and customer feedback solutions.
  • Surveys and 360 Feedback: Drive business decisions through employee engagement surveys and 360 feedback.
  • Wellness Programs: We make it easy to run wellness programs and activity challenges that increase engagement, expand corporate health, and build team camaraderie.

Ready to learn more? Schedule a demo with our team to get a hands-on walkthrough of how Terryberry can transform the culture of your workplace.