6 essential aspects of workplace culture

Yet another study is showing that money isn’t the only thing that can make a worker stay — and it’s not even at the top of the list for many employees.

The main ingredients to crafting a successful culture are purpose, opportunity, success, appreciation, wellbeing and leadership, according to “The Six Essential Aspects of Workplace Culture to Focus on Today,” a joint study by the O.C. Tanner Institute, Y2 Analytics and Harvard Business School professor, Ashley Whillan.

“Organizations that marginally improve in each of these six areas see dramatic improvements in recruiting, engagement, tenure, satisfaction, and other business metrics such as revenue growth and expansion,” the study says.

The survey of nearly 10,000 workers shows that most companies could stand to improve their culture. The researchers asked workers to describe their organization’s culture with a single word or short phrase. While positive words such as “friendly,” “happy,” and “great” were among the most frequently used terms, the single most commonly used word that employees used to describe their current organizational culture was “stress.” Meanwhile, the word “average” was among the top five most frequently used words.

On average, respondents rated their current workplace culture a 65 on a 100-point scale. The study also found that 40 percent think their organization only cares about its profits, 42 percent believe their accomplishments go unnoticed, and 35 percent do not trust senior leadership at their organization.

The researchers also asked workers to differentiate between a “good culture” and a “bad culture.” The most common term used to describe “good culture” was the term “pleasant,” while other popular terms were “meaningful,” “peace,” “strong,” and “collegial.” Meanwhile, the terms used to describe bad culture included “lack,” “poorly,” “negativity,” “unhappy” and “toxic.”

The study also compared employers that do “marginally better” on the six aspects of a successful culture, and found that they are:

  • 54 percent more likely to have employees who are promoters on the standard Net Promoter Score scale

  • 53 percent more likely to have highly engaged employees

  • 29 percent more likely to have innovate employees innovating and creating great work

  • 27 percent more likely to have increased in revenue last year

  • 22 percent less likely to have experienced layoffs in the last year

  • 25 percent more likely to have teams growing in size instead of stagnating or decreasing in the last year.

“Our study and new culture assessment helps companies figure out where their culture is strong, where it could be improved, and what it takes to cultivate their ‘way of being’ as an organization — which is what really draws talented people to want to join, work together, contribute, and be part of a fantastic and vibrant workplace community and culture,” says O.C. Tanner president and chief executive Dave Petersen.

“Leaders who pay attention to these talent magnets are going to attract people who want to be part of something great,” Petersen says. “And culture is where it all comes together.”

As a result of the study, O.C. Tanner has created a culture assessment, a service to help companies evaluate how well they are meeting these six fundamental culture aspects.

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