Intentional cultures in the workplace that promote well-being


Culture is everywhere around us. It shapes the way we see ourselves and guides our social interactions. Cultures contain collective attitudes about what groups perceive to be good or bad, normal or abnormal, and inform behavior.

Workplace cultures are no different. They embody the values ​​of an organization and influence how things are done, how to move forward, and what is rewarded (or punished) in a workplace.

The importance of culture cannot be overstated. Yet few business leaders are taking concrete steps to create cultures that advance strategic business goals. For example, a Deloitte A study found that many executives believe that “culture is a potential competitive advantage”, but only 19% have the “right culture”.

Businesses need a different approach. Instead of hoping for positive workplace cultures to develop organically, they need to develop intentional Workplace cultures around a company’s purpose and values ​​that advance business goals and support employee well-being.

Step one: good jobs

It starts with good jobs, which are at the heart of intentional workplace cultures. Good jobs ensure that everyone, especially the lowest paid workers, feel treated fairly and belong to the cultures they believe in.

What are the good jobs? In his book, The good jobs strategy, Professor Zeynep Ton asserts that good jobs have good pay, decent benefits and stable working hours where “companies design jobs so that their employees can work well and find meaning and dignity in their work “.

“Bad” jobs, on the other hand, offer low wages, few or no benefits, no career paths, chaotic work schedules, and micromanagement. Bad jobs lead to cultures characterized by cynical and disengaged employees and high turnover, poor customer service, low morale and low productivity.

Ton introduced Costco and Trader Joe’s, two employers who pursue intentional cultures with ‘good jobs’ at their heart that help them considerably surpass competitors due to increased employee engagement, better customer service, lower revenue and higher profits.

The intentional cultures of Costco and Trader Joe’s are valued by employees and customers. And both companies consistently outperform their competitors in consumer satisfaction surveys, with more than 80% of their employees recommending them as great places to work.

Step two: assess existing crops

Creating intentional cultures requires a thorough assessment of the workplace culture. The goal is to understand the strengths and weaknesses of existing cultures and set the stage for the creation of intentional cultures that achieve strategic business results.

Review HR records, employee surveys and exit interviews. Note the positives as well as complaints and criticisms about culture, managers, and policies. Observe if employees feel connected to the culture of the company, if they feel supported in their work and if they see a career path in your company.

Organize employee focus groups to measure perceptions regarding inclusion, fairness, engagement, loyalty, trust and job satisfaction. The ultimate goal is to get an honest and unvarnished view of what non-management and non-management employees think about the workplace environment and culture.

Ask key leaders, including the CEO, how they perceive their current cultures, good and bad, and what needs to change.

Next, perform an assessment of the management culture, such as Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI) created by University of Michigan professors Kim Cameron and Robert Quinn. Used by more than 10,000 companies, it helps CEOs and C suites measure and align their opinions with current culture and guide the strategic development of a new preferred culture.

By closely examining company-wide attitudes and perceptions about existing cultures in the workplace, executives will be armed with data and information to create intentional culture plans that will advance strategic goals. high level.

Step three: create favorite crops

Start planning the preferred crop by creating a Cultural team composed of executives and lower-level employees from a variety of backgrounds. This ensures that everyone in the workplace participates in the development of an intentional culture that will support the business and the well-being of the employees.

The culture team should review and revise or confirm the stated purpose of the organization and develop a purpose statement that says “why” the business exists (beyond making a profit). Purpose statements should articulate the underlying ethics of a culture in a way that inspires and engages employees and customers.

For example, Patagonia intentionally combines its goal (“to save our home planet.”) With a proven commitment to employee well-being that underpins its entire culture and inspires its employees to give the best of themselves. at work.

The company offers a comprehensive list of employee wellness programs and benefits, including subsidized child care, generous leave policies and good health care coverage, and encourages and offers substantial paid leave for employees to engage in environmental volunteering.

The results? Incredibly high engagement and astronomically low revenue, fierce customer loyalty, and a great brand and corporate reputation.

Guided by the goal statement, the cultivation team should identify the gaps between existing and preferred cultures and document the behavioral, personal and operational steps required to develop and guide the new intentional culture.

Intentional cultures require consistent, self-sustaining employee behaviors to manifest their stated purpose. Culture Teams must identify, document and operationalize these precise employee behaviors if they hope to make their intentional cultures alive and sustainable.

David Friedman’s book Culture by design provides a model for integrating desired employee behaviors to operationalize intentional cultures. Friedman shows how to “ritualize” desired behaviors by repeating them in memos, meetings, announcements, which make behaviors instinctive for all employees.

Watch our video interview with David Friedman

Preferred crops require constant maintenance to stay fresh and relevant. Companies need to ensure that their purpose and values, once embedded in their intentional cultures, guide how they hire, onboard and train new employees, and how companies reward and hold employees to account.

Step four: CEO leadership

Culture determines business results. While they can be managed by HR, they also require committed leadership from senior management teams, including CEOs, boards of directors, and line managers.

CEOs need to forcefully and personally lead intentional cultures. And C Suites must model and encourage desired behaviors, reference preferred cultural values ​​and behaviors as part of all corporate communications, and ensure managers support intentional cultures and empower employees.

It goes beyond HR. Culture change requires global responsibilities from CEOs, COOs, CFOs, and CIOs to ensure it is embraced and practiced by everyone responsible for financial, operational, reputation. customer, product and company brand.

Step Five: Cultures of Employee Well-Being

The well-being of employees must serve as a touchstone that guides intentional cultures. Without the well-being of the employees within them, intentional cultures ring hollow. They never get the buy-in required to galvanize an entire workforce to pull in the same direction because they feel like they are part of something.

Why is employee well-being so essential in intentional cultures? Because, by definition, workplace cultures are made up of everyone. They only take off as catalysts for strategic business results when they are adopted, experienced and believed by everyone from CEOs to front-line employees.

Intentional cultures energize people by investing in them. Companies that approach culture only to reap shareholder benefits will fail. When employees are not seen as equal beneficiaries in intentional cultures, companies will never unleash the required “we’re all in one boat” dynamism that is the essential core of all successful corporate cultures.

Intentional cultures allow employees to perform at their best at work. This, by definition, requires employers to invest in the overall well-being of employees as the price of admission to achieve high employee engagement, which is at the heart of all effective intentional cultures.

Gallup Studies and Deloitte prove the causal link between high employee well-being and higher engagement, and there is ample evidence that when companies prioritize the physical, mental and financial well-being of employees, it leads to higher engagement. product quality.

Fostering employee well-being is how companies build their reputation as great places to work. And at least three peer-reviewed studies show a direct correlation between high employee well-being and share value / profit.

When designing intentional crops, employee well-being is not just a pleasant benefit. This is how companies link purpose, values ​​and cultures to result objectives by improving their human capital, and how companies can position themselves to be successful in a world of new business challenges.


Steven Van Yoder, co-founder of the Returns On Wellbeing Institute, provided editorial support for this article.

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