Chamber News

Workforce Report | All Together Now

July 9th, 2021

All Together Now

When we review the life cycle of the employer/employee relationship, it is clear that corporate culture impacts every aspect of this union. Successful efforts in recruiting, hiring/onboarding, upskilling, professional development, and retaining staff all have ties to the strength of an organization’s culture. 

A textbook definition of culture in the workplace is “the identification and expression of shared beliefs and values established by leaders and then communicated and reinforced through various methods, ultimately shaping employee perceptions, behaviors, and understanding”.  

So, how do you define corporate culture, and more importantly, how do you embrace and embody it? Job seekers, and incumbent workers alike, desire workplaces where leadership communicates consistently, provides constructive and performance-specific feedback, values them as people with lives outside of the office, and promotes an environment where ideas can be shared. Research shows that people can typically define and describe culture around 4 clusters: wellness; psychosocially safe workplaces; staff development; and social interactions and events. 

Wellness in the workplace is defined as how the organization plays a role in recognizing the importance of the physical, emotional, and mental health of its associates and what the organization does to promote overall wellness in the workplace. 

Employee offerings can include everything from workplace flexibility and scheduling to mental health support to gym memberships. The important thing to keep in mind when starting any wellness initiative is that event-driven or “one time only” opportunities are rarely successful. Simply guiding an employee to the health insurer’s website or having pedometer challenges are not enough to create lasting change. Integration with a comprehensive and meaningful wellness plan starts with internal surveys and focus groups to identify what your team needs and how the business could support it. Creating employee-driven wellness committees with a defined mission and budget is another step forward on your corporate wellness journey.

Psychologically safe places are defined as spaces where individuals trust that they won’t be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes. What is psychological safety at work in particular? It’s a shared belief held by members of a work team that others on the team will not embarrass, reject, or punish one another for speaking up. This requires leaders to be good modelers and strong advocates for their teams.

Are you creating an environment where staff members are encouraged to learn new skills without fear of failure? Where they feel seen and heard? What are your perceptions of vulnerability and leadership? Opening up does not mean revealing “everything” to your team. However, sharing your challenges, past and present, and what you have learned along the way can set the tone for others to communicate openly and honestly. Skip the blame game and focus energy on problem-solving and finding workable solutions. There is so much strength in modeling how teams can come together and collectively create solutions. 

Use your one-on-one sessions with direct reports to ask questions that lead to better and more engaged conversation. A few examples:

  • Who’s someone in the company that you’d like to learn more from?
  • Who is doing a great job on the team? What have they done?
  • What’s something past managers have done that’s inspired and motivated you?

Staff Development is a process of improving employees’ existing competencies and skills and developing ones to support the overall goals of the organization. When people understand clearly what is expected from them, they perform better. That may sound obvious, yet so often business leaders make assumptions that can lead to workplace challenges. Let’s start with the annual employee review…

 The performance evaluation is more effective when used as a planning tool for future work, not only as a grade card on the last 12 months. Though it is critical to give feedback on past performance, we need to be mindful of how we will address any skill deficits or developmental needs going forward. Attaching specific training and key learning to improved job performance gives the associate a roadmap to growth. Check-in frequently on progress and act as a resource to remove any barriers the employee may be experiencing as they learn. An annual performance evaluation should never be a surprise, just a continuation of an ongoing conversation.

Social interactions and events are defined as taking a break from the office and getting employees to interact with each other in a relaxed and fun environment. We would also expand the definition to include group participation in volunteering and community give-backs. 

For many of us, we spend more time with our coworkers than we do with our friends and family; whether in person or virtually. Therefore, we must develop healthy social connections with our teammates. Those relationships and daily interactions can positively or negatively impact stress levels, engagement, productivity, and general happiness of your associates. 

 Celebrations of workplace (and personal) milestones like birthdays, anniversaries, graduations can all add an air of festivity and show appreciation. Group lunches, happy hours, and meals together are ways to help people learn more about one another outside of the worksite. Activities like group cooking classes, improv workshops, chili cook-offs, etc. are fun ways to bring your employees together for light competition and teambuilding. 

When thinking about your own workplace culture, it is important to consider each of these areas and develop your plan to create a healthy environment. Job seekers and existing employees are assessing the “vibe” of your company and determining if they can “see” themselves fitting in long term.


Kelly Fuller Headshot
Kelly Fuller
Workforce Development Director