How to Improve Work Culture in Your Organisation

Culture in an organisation is the sum of the behaviours enacted by its people; that is to say, culture is the outcome of the aggregated beliefs, assumptions, attitudes, values and actions that are ‘normal’ and institutionalised in the organisation.

Culture matters because it impacts morale and, consequently, productivity. Culture drives organisational performance and results.

Culture can either be ‘good’ or ‘bad’; a good culture positively impacts performance and results, whereas a bad culture drives under-performance and sub-optimal results. Getting culture right is a key strategic imperative of sound leadership.

Improving culture takes time and resources but positively impacts performance and results; an investment well worth making.

Here are some tips on how to improve your organisational culture:

1. Identify the culture you want

With reference to your organisational purpose, vision and strategies, articulate the behaviours that you consider the most likely to enhance performance and results. Your senior team needs to drive this exercise in an inclusive way to achieve buy-in.

Articulate the culture you want as a suite of values, each supported by a list of specific behaviours. Frame these as a single set applicable to every level and role within your organisation.

2. Inventory the culture you have

Find the ‘gaps’ between the current and desired cultures as experienced by your people. When you know what and where the gaps are, you will be in a position to work on closing them.

Use a tailored online survey across your organisation to poll your people as to the extent to which the current culture experienced matches to the one desired. Use ratings as well as open-ended text responses to give you rich and actionable information.

Seek professional assistance with your surveys to assure validity of the information collected and to share the administration load.

3. Deploy culture improvement initiatives

Make plans and take actions to close the gaps by making culture improvements. Ratings will help you to set your action priorities. Open-ended responses will help you to identify the specific initiatives that may leverage culture improvement.

Seek professional assistance to characterise initiatives that will positively impact culture, and to provide capacity to implement them if that is needed.

4. Use recruitment, performance management and development for culture improvement

Take every opportunity available to you to focus your people on the values and behaviours that you want in your organisation; hold them to account for how well they enact them:

  • Frame behavioural questions for your recruitment interviews; ask candidates to describe their experiences of enacting the behaviours that you want; use their responses to inform your recruit selection decisions.
  • Build your desired values and behaviours into your role descriptions; focus on values and behaviours as part of every performance review conversation and build them into personal performance and development plans.
  • Integrate your desired values and behaviours into your leadership development programmes at all levels. Use desired values and behaviours in 360° review surveys to identify aggregate and individual behavioural improvement opportunities. Build behavioural improvement methods and practise at using them into your leadership programmes. Support post-programme behaviour changes back at work.

5. Measure, measure, measure

A commitment to re-measurement will sustain a focus on culture improvement and will support you to evaluate the culture improvement being achieved, and to modify your interventions as the gaps change.

At the outset, set up your organisation-wide survey and individual 360° surveys in ways that enable you to repeat them on future occasions and to easily compare results. Commonly, repeat culture surveys on a 12-monthly basis deliver value as do repeat 360° reviews on a two-yearly basis.

If you’d like some help with your work culture, contact Nicky or Kyran - 03 943 2373 or