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Why Positive Workplace Culture Matters

Workplace culture is a term that we are all accustomed to hearing by now, but what does it mean and why is it important to have a positive one in an organization?

Workplace culture is the foundation upon which great companies are built. It all begins with developing a strong company purpose and the values that guide your employees towards fulfilling that purpose. However, your purpose and values are not something that employees are just told they should believe in. It is important to feel like they are truly a part of the company and want to strive to make themselves and the company a better place. Culture lives and breathes through the words and actions of your peers. A Harvard Business Review article (HBR), How Company Culture Shapes Employee Motivation, defines culture as “the set of processes in an organization that affects the total motivation of its people.” They have compiled three questions that help explain how this is accomplished:

  • How does culture drive performance?
  • What is culture worth?
  • What processes in an organization affect culture?



Driving Performance

Giving employees a purpose gives them a drive to do more and perform at a higher rate. Empowering people to go above and beyond is essential for success. In the above-mentioned article, HBR adapted a study to distinguish the six main reasons why people work:

Play (motivated by the work), purpose (valuing your impact), and potential (work that benefits your identity) are all motivators that increase performance. The last three are ones that reduce motives; emotional pressure (external forces that threaten your identity), economic pressure (feel like you have to work), and inertia (you do not know the motive anymore and feel removed). Successful workplace cultures are the ones that focus on maximizing the first three motivators on why people work and reducing the last three.

Culture’s Value
If your employees are inspired and motivated to work, most likely the company as a whole is performing better. Company culture is always important to employees because workers are more likely to enjoy their time in the workplace when they fit in with the overall culture. When these relationships with others are developed, they become more productive. This is also tied to employee retention, as people are less likely to leave companies where they feel comfortable and supported.

Organizational Processes
There is not one “tried and true” method to creating an ideal workplace culture, it is a combination of a variety of factors. HBR goes into detail about how a role is designed can greatly affect motivation. Be sure to have a clear definition of a role and find the motivators of what that position entails. The next factor is the actual identity of an organization which encompasses the purpose and values. Depending on the work, develop ideas on how to play into those motivators to make the employees feel like they have an impact through their work. The last factor mentioned was a structure for growth. Employees want to know they can grow within an organization and be given the tools to succeed.

Lindsay McGregor, co-author of Primed to Preform: How to Build the Highest Performing Cultures Through the Science of Total Motivation, summarized it best, “A great culture is not easy to build — it’s why high performing cultures are such a powerful competitive advantage. Yet organizations that build great cultures are able to meet the demands of the fast-paced, customer-centric, digital world we live in. More and more organizations are beginning to realize that culture can’t be left to chance. Leaders have to treat culture building as an engineering discipline, not a magical one.”


Mandy Brown
Marketing & Recruiting Coordinator, Small Giants
Mandy has been with Small Giants for 3.5 years and in the AEC industry for 7.  She is an active member of SMPS but hasn’t made the leap to leadership yet.  In her free time, she likes to attend concerts, travel and hike.  On a recent trip to Sedona she went skydiving! Next time you see Mandy, ask her how it felt to jump out of a plane over those famous red rocks. 

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