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Creating great workplace culture all too hard? Here's a few pointers for getting started.

For busy leaders and HR professionals, tackling and creating a sustained positive work culture can be overwhelming. A constant changing work landscape, pressing business kpi's, personalities and politics internally can make it all seem a mammoth undertaking.

All leaders want to get there...but it all seems a big challenge. So where to start? Getting the groundwork done is the most important part I think. One of my favourite quotes applicable in this instance comes from the great Steven Covey:

"Begin with the end in mind."

Paint a picture

When I conduct workshops around the topic of creating culture, I first ask the participants to spend a few minutes thinking about what their intended ideal workplace would look and feel like. I ask the questions:

  • What elements would your ideal workplace culture have from a people, environment and "vibe"?

  • What do you want to achieve by changing the current situation?

  • What constraints are currently holding you back?

It may sound a bit airy fairy but by articulating all of the above, it sets the scene for moving forward to achieve a stellar workplace.


The evidence supporting the relationship between increased business outcomes and engaged employees is huge. Koter (2008) in a study of more than 207 organisations over 11 years found a 500% + increase in revenue among those that invested in creating positive culture.

More recently Gallup (2012), in their yearly meta analysis of the research on this topic, found that work units in the top quartile ranking for engagement out performed bottom quartile units by 21% in productivity and 10% in customer ratings. Subsequent yearly analysis have only but supported these results further.

For culture change to be embedded throughout the entire organisation, leaders must be fully on board and supportive from the get go! Understanding and believing in the benefits they will gain by creating change will increase buy in. Education is essential.

Ascertain the current state of play

Organising and administering a workplace survey can induce rocking in the corner in many a leader - which is why this practice is often conducted so poorly. Finding out where your organisation sits in terms of morale and engagement is highly necessary so that you can then create and personalise your culture fit to the needs of your own team.

I always recommend surveying staff to gain the state of play therefore. It doesn't have to be a war and peace document that is administered - There are plenty of survey question templates available online to draw questions from.

Develop your leaders

To embed culture effectively, we need to develop ourselves. Scary for some established leaders, but to change others and our environment we must be prepared to change and adapt ourselves. Again, this is a good time to workshop the questions:

  • What are my own personal values and principals that I live by?

  • Are these in line or in contrast with the current organisational values?

  • What is my communication style?

  • How do I need to adapt my workplace behaviours to meet the needs of my employees?

In the book "Everyone Culture: Becoming a deliberately Developmental Culture", Harvard researchers, Kegan and Lahey identify that continuing to practice self-development is inherent in the behaviour of both leaders and employees of companies creating sustained organisational success.

Self reflection is good.

Got your background info and a shared purpose and picture? Now before you line up at the blocks....

Plan Plan Plan

Your plan to create a stellar culture requires time and input from many organisation levels and is the topic for a whole other article. Essentially though, even at this starting point (and beyond) your entire organisation should play a role in planning change.

I always recommend utilising the following broad headings in preparation for your culture change plan:

  • Collaboration

  • Communication

  • Budget

  • Timelines

  • Evaluation

Using tenacity and insight in the preparation for making culture change will help you immeasurably as you embark on on creating a stellar workplace. Your success will be greater long term if these fundamental initial stepping stones are in place.

"A company’s culture is the foundation for future innovation."

Brian Chesky - Founder and CEO, Airbnb.

Edwards, J: 2017. Culture University: " For Culture Success, Organisations must concentrate on the Big 3."

Kotter, J.P.: 2008. Corporate Culture and Performance. Simon and Schuster.

Gallup: 2012. Q12 Employee Engagement Meta Analysis.

Kegan, R et al: 2016. Becoming a deliberately Developmental Culture. Harvard Business Review.

#employeeengagement #culture #planning #leadership