Elements of Organizational Culture That Matter Most for Employees

July 26, 2023

By Kelley Briggs
Companies with strong, thriving cultures unequivocally do better. Employees are more engaged.

Perks like gym memberships or catered lunches often get the most attention and, while those are fantastic bonuses, they aren’t the foundation of a flourishing company culture. The philosophy, behaviors, values, and structure of your organization — everything that makes up its DNA, essentially — directly shape how employees feel and how successful they are.

Here are some elements of organizational culture that matter most for employees. Make sure these key pieces are in place to set a foundation so any additional perks and engagement programs feel authentic and truly add value.  

Shared Values 

Shared values are the bedrock of organizational culture. These beliefs, attitudes, and principles trickle down from leadership to every employee, creating a sense of cohesion and teamwork.

Alignment in these guiding values — whether they’re implicit or explicit values — is important for both cultivating a sense of purpose, as well as connecting employees to each other and the company. Values are far more than simply a list of traits like innovation, honesty, creativity, respect, and so on. They must be lived and cultivated in the workplace in everyday interactions as well as in the big-picture strategies.

Shared values are something that simply can’t be faked, they must be genuine to establish trust and get everyone’s buy-in.

Vision and Mission 

What you do, how you do it, and why you do it are key to your company’s identity and culture. Rightly so, employees will want to fully understand your vision and mission before committing to it.

These pieces of information fuel organizations with purpose, inspiration, and direction.

However, even the most well-crafted vision and mission statement won’t resonate with employees if it isn’t effectively communicated. Bring it to life with actions through workshops, training sessions, onboarding, and other opportunities for engagement that reflect what your organization stands for.

Employee Engagement

Employee engagement should be built into every level of your organizational structure and culture. It’s one of the main driving forces behind productive, happy workplaces.

There are many ways to engage employees. One of the most effective, however, is through performance and recognition programs.

Celebrating achievements — whether individual or team wins, anniversary milestones or other important moments — goes a long way in building a positive team culture. Everyone wants to feel recognized and valued for their contributions.

An intentional program, supported by a digital platform like Inspirus Connects, helps you tap into the powerful motivators of connection and belonging to foster an organizational culture that exceeds expectations.

Leadership Style

Think about a great boss, mentor or teacher you’ve had in your life. There’s a reason why they are so memorable: someone who truly guides and supports you can make all the difference in your trajectory.

The same is true at an organizational level. Leadership style shapes a company’s culture day in and day out. That’s because managers and other leaders are often the nerve center for engagement, recognition, and empathy in the workplace.

Cultivate leadership that aligns with the overall company values and desired culture, supporting those in positions of power with training, coaching, and feedback opportunities.

Communication Patterns

If you are looking to change your organizational culture, one of the best places to start is with communication.

Whether it’s about HR policies, performance management, reward structures or anything else of importance, transparent and clear communication goes a long way in creating a positive company culture. When organizations are transparent and open in their communication, it sends a signal to employees that they're willing to be honest and accountable. Employees feel more "in the know" and connected, part of the community that is the company.  

True employee engagement and empowerment grow from that sense of trust and inclusion.

Solicit feedback, hold regular meetings that encourage open and vibrant dialogue, encourage active listening and leverage robust internal communication platforms. Doing so is important because it ensures employees feel heard, valued and understood.

Learning and Development

Supporting professional development cultivates learning and continuous improvement. It’s also an important way to show investment in employees, helping them fill skill or knowledge gaps – which, in turn, drives better operational efficiency and thus business performance.

Ways to encourage learning and development include:

  • Ongoing training
  • Workshops
  • Peer-to-peer mentoring
  • Performance reviews that highlight opportunities to grow
  • Formal education support or stipends 
  • Individual development plans

In addition to supporting learning, make sure there is a clear path for internal mobility and advancement to motivate and reward employees who are hungry for new opportunities.

Work Environment

A positive work environment is critical to overall organizational culture. If business is booming, that sense of celebration often rises to the surface. If you’re facing economic uncertainty, it may require a more intentional approach.

On either end of the spectrum, initiatives like an employee recognition program and or employee wellbeing prioritization go a long way toward creating an environment where talented people can do their best work.

Diversity and Inclusion

Creating an inclusive culture that celebrates differences allows employees to bring their full selves to their roles, providing a balance of voices and perspectives.

In today’s business world, authentically and actively prioritizing DEI in the workplace is the standard. Not only is it important for recruitment and retention, but harnessing the collective strengths of a diverse workforce leads to better innovation, creativity, and collaboration. It’s something that simply can’t be dismissed.

No one of these elements of organizational culture is more important than the other. Each contributes to shaping a cohesive, thriving culture that helps people do their best work and bolsters business.

By leveraging the expertise of an employee engagement provider like Inspirus, organizations can bring these elements together with powerful tools to inspire, empower, and support employees.