What does workplace culture mean?

People talk about workplace culture and whether potential staff are the right ‘cultural fit’. But what is it, how can you define it? I feel that it is the environment that you provide for your employees. Together you create the feel or the unique ‘culture’ of your organisation. It’s a bit like the ‘personality’ of a company and each company will have a unique ‘personality’. Ideally employees should feel that their needs and values are met and fit with the values that the company aspires to have.

Culture in the workplace takes on many characteristics, some are tangible such as the dress code of employees or the physical work environment and some are less tangible like the company values that are espoused or the way a company communicates - casually, formerly, consistently? Largely it is up to the business owners and managers to set the stage and define and refine the culture.

Different leadership styles often come through in the company culture, where some give employees a lot of flexibility, others run a pretty tight ship and hierarchical structure. Where business owners and management understand their own personalities and the way this is reflected in the business values and expectations, the culture will be more easily defined. It is then easier to find the right employees that will fit and work well in their culture.

workplace culturel

It is important that owners and management lead by example and they realise how their own behaviour impacts on employees’ adherence to values. Values are often documented and communicated to employees but they need to live and breathe them for the culture to be strong.

The look and feel of the workplace is often a visual reflection of the culture within. Colours and furniture can give clues to the workplace culture and the value placed on the work environment for the employees. The mood and culture you are trying to represent needs to be considered when choosing office design colours and furnishings. You will not achieve an innovative culture with old, tired and frumpy furniture.

The dress code of a business will consider employee comfort, safety requirements of the work being completed but also the desired message you are trying to convey to customers. If the expectation around clothing is not something an employee is comfortable with and they think their feelings are not being considered in that or other concerns, there is a potential to create disharmony in the ranks and a breakdown in team culture.

All in all, workplace culture is important. It defines you and it defines your business to the external world. Businesses that recognise the benefits of establishing and maintaining a strong workplace culture will also be those that are successful in other metrics as well.

How would you define your culture? .....More importantly, how would your staff or your customers define your culture?

by Pru Bell

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