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Improving psychological safety and workplace culture

Workplace Culture is the character, personality, and spirit of your organization. This is the element that makes your team unique.

Workplace culture demonstrates to the community the sum of your teams’ values, traditions, beliefs, interactions, behaviors, and attitudes. Positive workplace culture attracts new talent, drives engagement, inspires happiness and fulfillment, and affects the overall performance of the team. The personality of your business can be influenced by policies, processes, most importantly people, and people leadership.

The Importance of Workplace Culture
Workplace Culture is just as important as your business strategy because it either strengthens or undermines your objectives. Positive workplace culture is significant, because:

  • It attracts the desired talent, individuals serious about their career evaluate your organization and its wellbeing. A strong, positive, clearly defined, and well-communicated culture attracts talent that fits your
  • It drives engagement and retention. Culture impacts how employees interact with their colleagues, their work, and the organization.
  • It impacts happiness and fulfillment. Research shows that employee happiness and fulfillment are directly linked to a strong workplace culture (Source: Deloitte).
  • It affects performance, organizations with stronger cultures outperform their competitors financially and are generally more successful in all other areas.

What Impacts Culture in the Workplace?
The short answer is, everything. But to provide some more context, below are some key areas to improve psychological safety at work and help drive a happy, healthy, and sustainable workplace culture.

Team Members, the people you hire, their personalities, beliefs, values, diverse experiences, and everyday behaviors will directly influence the workplace culture. The types of interactions that we encourage between team members will support or undermine our goals. (Collaborative versus confrontational, supportive versus non-supportive, social versus task-oriented, etc.).

The organization’s Mission, Vision, and Values directly reflect the beliefs and philosophies of your organization, and the extent they are communicated, and continuously emphasized will support how inspiring they are to your team members. Don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk!

The work environment, including how you take care of the facility, place objects, furniture, and other physical items in your workplace, also has a strong impact. These include what people place on their desks, what the organization hangs on its walls, how it allocates space and offices, what those offices look like and how  common areas are used and maintained. If you don’t take pride in your workplace, how could one ever expect the team to take pride in it?

Workplace practices related to recruiting, selection, onboarding, compensation and benefits, rewards and recognition, training and development, advancement/promotion, performance management, wellness, and work/life balance, paid time off, as well as workplace traditions, all impact workplace culture.

Management and how you organize and manage the workplace systems, structure, hierarchy, goals, and procedures is very important. The degree and consistency to which you empower team members to make decisions, support and interact with them can make a big difference in morale.

The way communication occurs in your workplace is another key factor. Importantly, the degree, type, and frequency of interactions and the ability to communicate between all levels of your team, leaders, managers, and team members, including the transparency with sharing information and autonomy for making decisions.

Leadership, and how you communicate and interact with your management team and team members, what you communicate and emphasize, the vision for the future, what you celebrate and recognize, what you expect, the stories you tell, how you make decisions, how you deal with growth opportunities, will determine how much you are trusted.

Building a positive workplace culture takes constant effort from all levels, keep in mind that workplace culture will always be a work in progress. It will change based on the effort of the team. The most vital question is, will it remain positive? The old adage “attitude reflects leadership” or “people don’t quit companies, they quit people” is incredibly relevant here. Make workplace culture just as important as your business strategy.

Have you defined your Workplace Culture?

One of the biggest mistakes an organization can make is to let their workplace culture form naturally without intentionally defining what it is or should be. Common mistakes in culture creation include:

  • Failing to consider everyday actions/inactions and how they affect the desired culture.
  • Failing to compete for talent.
  • Using a hiring process that doesn’t target the desired talent/personality.
  • Tolerating bad management styles that threaten employee engagement and retention.
  • Not creating and communicating a clear mission/vision or not defining our values.
  • Creating policies, processes and programs based on what we have
    seen in other workplaces without considering whether they fit our work

For these reasons, it’s important to step back, evaluate, and define your workplace culture (both where it is now and what you want it to be in the future), and how these factors either contribute or take away from your
desired workplace culture. Although it can be very difficult to define, assessment tools and surveys are very helpful in gauging your workplace culture. They may reveal gaps between the workplace culture you want to attain and the workplace culture you currently have. 

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