Workplace Culture

Group of young colleagues or students sitting together and smiling with laptops and phones visible

  nine square icon

Workplace culture can be framed as, “The personality of an organization from the employee perspective” (Siu, 2014). More specifically, it is the environment and atmosphere that employees work in, combining the leadership, beliefs, values, attitudes, behaviors, and interactions within the workplace. A positive workplace culture successfully creates a space where employees feel comfortable, trusted, valued, and empowered in their work. An organization’s culture is interwoven into everything they do, stand for, and how they treat their employees (Siu, 2014).  

There are many benefits to a positive workplace culture. First, a positive workplace culture increases productivity (Pontefract, 2017). If employees feel they are contributing to something meaningful or something they care about, they will work harder. A good workplace culture also increases employee engagement (Society for Human Resource Management, n.d., p. 2). For the most part, employees work harder and are more engaged if they enjoy being at work. Next, a positive workplace culture makes people enjoy their work, being at work, and being around their coworkers, which increases their job satisfaction (Craig, 2017). As a result, the organization retains employees (Pontefract, 2017). Employees are more likely to stay within the organization or department because they do not want to give up the positive culture or their increased job satisfaction. In fact, strong workplace cultures have only a 13.9% projected turnover rate, where organizations with poor cultures have a 48.4% projected turnover rate (Medina, 2012, p. 41).  A positive workplace culture also increases employees’ creativity (Craig, 2017). Positive workplace cultures empower employees to solve problems, often thinking outside of the box, since employees are comfortable speaking up and are invested in making their job or task the best it can be. Lastly, positive workplace cultures encourage employees to spend time getting to know their coworkers, which promotes collaboration (Craig, 2017). If employees know their coworkers better and trust them, they are more comfortable, and therefore more likely to work together.  

There are resources that can improve workplace culture. One MSU resource is Human Resources’ Organization and Professional Development (OPD). These development services help individual employees and units develop skills that can benefit the unit’s culture and individual employees’ careers. Visit https://hr.msu.edu/professional-development/ for more information on OPD’s services and resources. Another MSU resource is Human Resources’ Consulting Services; see more in the Spartan box in this section. Gallup’s Strengths Finder is an outside resource that can be used to learn employees’ strengths. Once the team has learned their employees’ strengths, employees can work more effectively together and utilize each other’s strengths, as well as help each other improve their weaknesses. For more information on Strengths Finder, visit https://www.gallup.com/cliftonstrengths/en/strengthsfinder.aspx

Units can follow some steps to improve their workplace culture, too. First, defining what is important for the unit through reviewing a mission statement, core values, and determining the ideal culture, and aligning that ideal culture with MSU’s core values and goals, will help the unit determine what they want to result from the improving the workplace culture. Then, understand where the unit’s culture is currently. Surveying employees to see what they are already happy with and what could use improvements is one way to find a starting point to improve upon (Okyle, 2015). The survey should provide channels for feedback and give employees a say in the process. Third, establish a way to achieve the unit’s ideal culture and communicate that path to the employees. To communicate the path, the unit can hold town halls, have focus groups, or publish a newsletter with articles on the unit’s cultural goal and the plans to get there (Okyle, 2015). Then, changes can be implemented. For example, a culture committee can be created to spearhead cultural change, managers can be empowered to create change, or the unit can host culture-focused events or provide trainings. Additionally, within this step, improving hiring choices, leadership styles, processes within the unit, communication styles, and paths, how employees work together, feedback styles, and the expectations of employees, among other aspects of the workplace, can all improve a unit’s workplace culture (Okyle, 2015). Finally, refining and restating cultural goals can allow the unit to adapt as other aspects of the workplace culture reveal that they are successful or unsuccessful and need improvement. One way to see what aspects are successful or unsuccessful is by resurveying employees to see what they are still happy with, what about their workplace has improved, and what still needs to be improved. As aspects of the ideal workplace culture are changed, restate the adjusted cultural goal to the employees (Okyle, 2015). These steps can help larger units with more internal resources change their workplace culture to a more successful and positive one that values its employees and the work they do.

At a Glance

  • Workplace culture is, “The personality of an organization from the employee perspective” 
  • In other words, workplace culture is the environment and atmosphere that employees work in, combining the leadership, beliefs, values, attitudes, behaviors, and interactions within the workplace
  • A positive workplace culture successfully creates a space where employees feel comfortable, trusted, valued, and empowered in their work

Benefits of a good workplace culture:

  • Increased productivity  
  • Increased employee engagement 
  • Increased job satisfaction 
  • Increased retention of employees 
    • Strong cultures have only 13.9% turnover, where poor cultures have 48.4% turnover 
  • Increased creativity 
  • Promotes collaboration 

How to develop a good workplace culture:

For smaller units:

  • Review this guide with the unit’s staff 
    • Can act as a conversation starter to improve the unit’s culture
    • Gives staff the opportunity to determine the unit’s priorities and what they care about within the unit’s culture
  • Consult with MSU Human Resources Organization and Professional Development
  • Consult with MSU Human Resources Consulting Services
  • Gallup Strengths Finder

For larger units:

  • Review this guide with the unit’s staff 
    • Can act as a conversation starter to improve the unit’s culture
    • Gives staff the opportunity to determine the unit’s priorities and what they care about within the unit’s culture
  • Define what is important to the unit, aligning with MSU’s core values and goals 
  • Understand where the unit’s culture currently is through surveying
  • Develop a path to get to the unit’s ideal workplace culture, with employees’ help
  • Ensure all employees are aware of the path
  • Implement change through transparent, accountable processes, including frequent reviews
  • Refine and restate the unit’s cultural goals to allow the unit to adapt as other aspects of the workplace culture reveal that they are successful or unsuccessful and need improvement

MSU In Action

A resource on campus that can aid in units’ cultural change is MSU’s Human Resources Consulting Services. They consult with departments on many topics, including workplace climate, culture, and interpersonal relationships. Human Resources Consulting can help departments with communication to build teamwork, trust, and respect, identify core values, develop methods for employee recognition to enhance feelings of self-worth and importance to the department, and provide coaching on how to integrate all styles of work for a positive work culture. Visit https://hr.msu.edu/ua/organizational-resources/consulting-services.html#Consulting_Services for more information. 

One example of a unit that has done exemplary work on their workplace culture is the College of Arts and Letters. In their “Culture of Care,” they state that their culture is, “Active community empathy that leads with intention and kindness,” in which they empower their faculty and staff to engage in intellectual leadership, equity, transparency, creativity while promoting diversity and supporting their students. For more information on the College of Arts and Letters’ workplace culture, visit http://www.cal.msu.edu/about/culture-of-care.

Resources on Campus

  • MSU Human Resources Organization and Professional Development
  • Human Resources Consulting Services 
    • Consults with departments on many topics, including workplace climate, culture, and interpersonal relationships 
      • Can help departments with communication to build teamwork, trust, and respect, identify core values, develop methods for employee recognition to enhance feelings of self-worth and importance to the department, and provide coaching on how to integrate all styles of work for a positive work culture 
    • Visit https://hr.msu.edu/ua/organizational-resources/consulting-services.html#Consulting_Services for more information
  • WorkLife Office
    • Offers many presentations and trainings on a variety of topics including developing positive workplace cultures, such as Building Your Best Colleague. This presentation teaches employees what it means to be a good colleague and how to improve their workplace actions to become a better colleague, as well as how to build a good culture and community, and support one another 
    • The WorkLife Office can also facilitate reviewing this guide with a unit’s staff
  • College of Arts and Letters “Culture of Care”
    • A good best practice for other units across campus to follow, their culture is “active community empathy that leads with intention and kindness.” They empower their faculty and staff to engage in intellectual leadership, equity, transparency, creativity while promoting diversity and supporting their students
    • Visit http://www.cal.msu.edu/about/culture-of-care for more information on the College of Arts and Letters’ “Culture of Care”

References

Craig, W. (2017, July 25). 3 Reasons Why Positive Work Cultures Are More Productive. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/williamcraig/2017/07/25/3-reasons-why-positive-work-cultures-are-more-productive/#3f8b93db1ede 

Medina, E. (2012). Job satisfaction and employee turnover intention: what does organizational culture have to do with it? Columbia University. http://static1.1.sqspcdn.com/static/f/1528810/23319899/1376576545493/Medina+Elizabeth.pdf?token=MteMy2IzopTptqVsrgkGC4z9mIo%3D

Okyle, C. (2015, February 11). 6 Steps to Strengthening Company Culture. Entrepreneur. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/242774# 

Pontefract, D. (2017, May 25). If Culture Comes First, Performance Will Follow. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/danpontefract/2017/05/25/if-culture-comes-first-performance-will-follow/#3ed356226e62

Siu, E. (2014, October 21). It Really Pays to Have a Rich Company Culture. Entrepreneur. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/238640# 

Society For Human Resource Management. (n.d.). SHRM’s Effective Workplace Index: Creating a Workplace That Works for Employers and Employees. https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/trends-and-forecasting/special-reports-and-expert-views/Documents/SHRM-NSCW-Effective-Workplace-Index-Summary.pdf 

nine square icon

Back To Top