What Exactly Would Having a Great Workplace Culture Mean to You?

By Sarah McVanel, Chief Recognition Officer, Greatness Magnified

We have the privilege of serving clients in almost every industry across North America, and you might be surprised to know just how similar the core needs and wants are. Are you curious what they are? 

Building a Positive Workplace Culture

image of different coloured paper people in a circle with a pair of real hands around the circle to represent workplace cultureYou ask variations of these questions:

  • How can we ensure people feel valued and recognized?
  • How can we reliably retain great employees and leaders?
  • How can we build a culture of high performance and collaboration?

In other words, how do we ensure that our great people are appreciated so that they stay and perform well, and we’re able to drive the kinds of improvements that allow clients to be satisfied, our performance is high quality, and we’re able to weather whatever change comes our way? 

You may use words like kindness, respect, appreciation, and rewards. You must see reduced sick time, turnover, attrition, low morale, and injuries. You want more discretionary effort, resilience, collaboration, continuous improvement, innovation and agility. Ultimately, building a positive workplace culture comes down to three key things.

Every great culture has:

  • Genuine recognition
  • Enviable loyalty
  • Engaged accountability

It’s a three-legged stool. Without one, the cultural base risks collapse. What does this look like? Well, we’re glad you asked. Here’s what we’ve found.

Level 1: Culture Complacency

image of wooden blocks tumbling down tiered levels with one wooden person trying to hold it back to show poor workplace cultureYou know a complacent culture—you’ve likely worked for one. Constant criticism, critical instability of the workforce, and even passive-aggressive alienation—you’ve got to watch your back while you’re expected to perform and produce. Even if you want to improve things, you’ve learned there’s no point in trying. 

Complacency is a culture virus. What is the way to contain the spread? Curiosity. 

Curiosity may seem like a strange pill for such a problematic diagnosis; however, without it, how do we see the pockets of effectiveness, however small? If those are amplified, progress will prevail. The next level is within view as soon as this subtle shift happens.

Level 2: Culture Competence

You know you’re at a level of culture competence when you have sporadic validation. You’ve got some appreciation momentum, and you’re hoping it spreads.

Also key is that you’re not constantly working short when turnover and attrition happen. Resumes are coming in, and you have some transactional efficiency to fill key roles quickly. You also see effort-based participation. The curiosity allowed you to see places, people and practices working so they could be leveraged, and those became culture anchors. It gave everyone something to hold onto. Sure enough, it’s not treating a virus. It’s looking for signs of healing and vitality. 

From this place of greater cultural health, consistency further shores up the culture. Soon enough, you see that even more is possible.

Level 3: Culture Proficiency

image of a group of people in an office watching a woman write on a white board to create a better workplace cultureWhat is working begins to get amplified at the level of culture proficiency. There are regular acknowledgments, structural stability in the team, and people making meaningful and aligned contributions. This is where people feel work means something to them personally. Relationships are deeper, projects get completed, customers are more satisfied, and people want to work. 

With previous instability, it’s very tempting to think, phew! We’ve finally made it. However, what’s stable today might not be tomorrow. We cannot take our eyes off the cultural prize. Our clients sometimes assure us, “Don’t worry, we’re stable now!” How does the average house fare in an earthquake? Who knows what external forces might rock your foundation? There’s one more level that’s possible, and that is what allows you to realize unrivalled cultural resilience.

Let me say that in a question: 

Would you take it if it were possible to have unrivalled cultural resilience? 

We thought so. If you want to go from “good enough” to “greatness,” you need mastery.

A truly high-performing team that attracts the absolute best and that makes people want to jump out of bed and click their heels together three times and say, “There’s no place like work, there’s no place like work, there’s no place like work” demands a commitment to mastery. You don’t become a master chess player doing it every third Sunday; you cannot run a marathon if you hop on the treadmill for a few minutes at lunch, and you don’t raise amazing kids by taking them on an annual vacation. It’s a focused effort every day. So, let’s get culturally masterful.

Level 4: Culture Mastery

image of 4 people standing with one arm raised to show a great workplace cultureOur clients who have reached this level of mastery say this. We have abundant appreciation. We have an amazing reputation where our staff and customers tell people to come and work for us (with no bonus cheques as currency). Talent drives transformation because the work deeply matters to people and fuels a sense of meaning. In other words, work is purposeful, and it is purpose-making.

What is the recipe, you ask? Actually, that’s what makes mastery interesting. To be masterful, it’s unique to everyone. However, what is true is that it’s authentic; there is consistency in how authentic that uniqueness is.

There are many key ingredients to culture mastery, combining these creates mastery that results in unrivalled cultural resilience.

Ultimately, teams and organizations should aspirationally and indisputably show and support a context where culture mastery is being nurtured every day. 

  • Every day, everyone knows they are valued and value their colleagues in return.
  • Every day, people know their work matters and are motivated to return to do more meaningful work the next day.
  • Every day, every person would tell people outside of the organization how incredible it is to work there and that they are proud to be a part of it.
  • Every day, all know that their contributions matter, and they want to make the organization more sustainable so their great work can continue.

So why don’t we all ask for it? Many of us don’t feel it’s possible. Work has such a bad rap that it’s what we believe we’ll have to tolerate. We don’t think you must tolerate where you spend most of your waking hours.

Why don’t we work toward this delicious culture? You may want to protect yourself because you don’t want to be disappointed, but what if unrivalled cultural resilience were possible? Because I can tell you, some go for it full on, and when they do, the gains are so so so so sweet. It doesn’t mean every single thing we do every minute of the day we love, but gosh, the people, reason and result are so delicious that it doesn’t feel like “work.” (Huh, funny how work shouldn’t feel like itself.)

Wanting A Great Workplace for Our Kids

Who among us doesn’t want a better future for our kids? Yet, with work, what narrative primes them for success?

Think about where they spend most of their time and energy navigating their education to career path. We ask kids in school what they want to be when they grow up. We assess their learning styles and explore career options. We help them fill out scholarship applications and student loan forms. We organize college and university tours and spend countless hours researching the different types of residences: “Hum….a single room or is a joint common room okay?” Yet how much time do we spend exploring the type of culture they want to work in? Do we even feel we can?

image of 4 young adults celebrating their great workplace cultureDon’t we owe it to students to encourage them to consider the type of workplace and culture they want to spend their time in? Couldn’t we consider the character they want in their colleagues, the type of leader they hope to follow, and the type of lifestyle they want to have? Would this not be as important, if not more so, than exploring which schooling program they plan to enroll in? After all, there’s a good chance they’ll switch and maybe even completely change jobs dozens of times and possibly even whole careers! And sometimes those are to find the very thing they’ve been looking for all along: 

It is a great place where I’m valued, people want to work, and we do meaningful work that makes a difference.

If we engage in these conversations with our children and young adults, we’ll expect more from our careers. And that’s not a bad thing at all.

Genuine recognition ~ enviable loyalty ~ engaged accountability. What we all want and what we all deserve.

It’s never too late to ask students, ourselves, our friends, and our partners in life, “What type of culture do you want to work in?” The answers will be more similar than they are different.

Can we help you move the needle toward mastery? Let’s talk.

For more tasty tidbits on how you can create a great workplace culture, check out these delicious blogs:

Disclaimer/Humble Brag Moment: 100% of this content was human-generated (by us folks here at Greatness Magnified). We are committed to authorship integrity and will inform you what percent, if any, is AI-generated.

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