Employee Appreciation Day arrived on 3rd March which was a fantastic opportunity to take a look at some of the ways in which organisations can show their people thanks for their ongoing efforts. This year though, instead of listing a range of short-lived ideas to say thank you, we’re focusing instead on what all employees really value when they go into work every day – a great company culture. Here’s a look at why a great culture matters, and how to work out if your organisation has a great one too. 

You can’t begin to measure something which you can’t define. Resolving a singular definition of what company culture actually is has been a challenge for people leaders, HRDs and organisations the world over. 

Some may say it’s a combination of the activities and benefits put in place that surround the work itself, such as team events or introducing a flexible working schedule. Others may say it’s a feeling, a vibe, and something you feel as you walk into the office or log on to Teams in the morning. 

There are some great definitions out there from the likes of Great Places to Work and HBR, though. 

Company culture could describe the shared values, goals, attitudes and practices that characterise an organisation. Or, more simply, it’s how you do what you do in the workplace. 

To simplify things and cut through the different definitions, it may be helpful to get an idea of what company culture is… and isn’t:

What company culture is: your shared values, mission and collective goals, and how you work together to live them every day

What company culture isn’t: pizza parties, pool tables, free coffees, goat yoga classes

Understanding the difference between the two can help to formulate a shared idea within your organisation of what culture is, and what you want to continue building upon. 

Why improving your company’s culture matters

What business wouldn’t like higher sales,  more creativity, happier customers and lower staff churn?

Company culture matters because it influences pretty much all areas of your organisation – which can either be a great thing, or in the cases of toxic cultures, a very slippery corporate slope. 

Creating a healthy and safe culture encourages employees to be braver, take more calculated risks, and to speak their minds. This drives collective productivity and better work outcomes. 

Great cultures are also paramount to supporting long-term employee engagement – the holy grail for people leaders – and taps into the innate motivation of all employees to help the organisation succeed. 

How to measure your company culture 

Measuring culture is hard, as is any attempt to put a figure against a concept. But there are some methods you can deploy internally, as well as more macro-view analysis, to help understand it. 

You could create your own internal scoring system that factors in self-reported employee happiness, staff churn, project success rates, internal promotions and job referrals – with each metric contributing to a larger total figure or percentage which can be compared year on year. 

Three key metrics you should look to include in your calculations are:

  • Sentiment: what employees tell you they’re feeling about their role and the organisation, typically gathered through pulse surveys or annual reviews.
  • Behaviour: understand how employees are living up to your corporate values through the work they do, the targets they meet, and the actions they take. 
  • Relationships: how connected are staff to other peers, and how cohesive are your teams? Great cultures foster higher levels of communication and collaboration across departments.

Recent research from the London School of Economics has gone one step further, analysing publicly-available company data to measure corporate culture more effectively. Their approach, entitled the ‘Unobtrusive Corporate Culture Analysis Tool’,  removes self-reporting and any potential for bias by looking solely at:

  • Annual reports
  • Financial records
  • Press releases
  • Databases

And according to LSE researchers, data derived from a combination of these records can indicate an organisation’s cultural footprint. 

How to build a culture that helps your people (and organisation) to thrive

We’re beginning to understand what culture truly is, and the ways in which we can begin to measure it. 

But how do you go about improving your company culture? 

There are some tools and strategies already at work in the world of work which are making a difference. 

Be transparent and embrace autonomy

Trust and being given the space to do your best work are critical in creating the best company culture. 

Transparent organisations enjoy higher levels of trust. But micromanagement can quickly erode motivation, engagement and productivity. 

Recognise great work

Recognising the ongoing positive contributions of your people – especially where it relates to a value or shared mission – is a fundamental tool to boosting engagement and growing a wider, more positive culture. 

Embrace diversity

Organisations have an obligation to create workplaces that are fair and equitable to all staff – no matter their race, gender or faith. Workplaces which embrace diversity at the heart of everything they do generate happier teams that are more strongly aligned with the overall mission of the company. 

Focus on personal and professional development

When people thrive, their positivity and resultant great work ethic rubs off on everyone around them. And when all the people in your organisation are supporting in their personal and professional development, it can lead to a culture of peer support and a collective strive to reach new levels. 

Leaders who know how to communicate

Leaders set the overall tone of the workplace, and the way in which they communicate with others is critical to set that tone. 

Leaders who are active advocates for their teams, clearly communicate the direction of travel for the organisation, and truly live the values of the organisation for all to see, help to create an environment where a positive workplace culture can arise. 

Poor leadership can turn a great culture into a toxic one, just as great leaders can turn a toxic place to work into a great one. 

Embrace technology to support your culture-building efforts 

HR teams, people leaders and organisations on the whole, can utilise market-leading technologies to support their understanding of what their current culture is, how it’s performing, and look to build upon it. 

Platforms that support gathering employee feedback through pulse surveys, team-communications apps, and employee recognition and reward platforms, are just some of the quick-to-deploy and cost-effective solutions available. 

For a true sense of what’s going on in your organisation, looking to adopt an integrated HR system which can handle the day-to-day runnings of a team, alongside all the engagement-boosting, culture-measuring functionality you need to effectively run a modern workplace, is an investment worth making. 

At Phase 3, we help organisations just like yours to plan, research, and deploy systems that support their strategic goals – from HR to finance and payroll.

Learn more about what we do and how we can support your culture-building efforts here.