Tips for Defining Your Organization's Culture

by Maya Rector on September 27, 2021

Workplace culture has become increasingly important for public sector organizations to develop and put into action. From attracting prospective employees to enjoying higher retention and productivity levels among existing employees, establishing a well-defined and positive workplace culture has a multitude of benefits. 

For HR teams in particular, effectively conveying and implementing culture can be a crucial component that contributes to the organization’s overall success and mission statement. Below are several tips to consider to help you best define your organization’s culture.

 

Establish a set of actionable values for your organization 

While it may seem obvious to start by listing your organization’s values, many teams make the mistake of failing to do so in a clear and cohesive manner, or by expecting their company culture to fall into place on its own. Establishing core values such as honesty, encouraging growth, diversity and inclusion, or teamwork is a great first step -- however, these values won’t mean much unless they’re actually demonstrated and put into action.

For example, listing honesty as a value but being resistant to honest feedback, or touting your organization’s sense of teamwork when departments work in silos can make your organization’s values lose their credibility. Each value your organization sets should be followed by meaningful action and implementation, otherwise it can run the risk of seeming disingenuous. 

Luckily, the public sector is uniquely positioned to set actionable values and enact their organization’s mission statement each day, thanks to serving their communities and having a workforce made up of people who want to make a difference. Emphasizing these values and how they’re relevant to each role within the organization can be vital when it comes to attracting job applicants and keeping current employees motivated.

 

Encourage employees to get involved

Being a part of a positive company culture can help employees feel more invested and passionate about their day-to-day work. This has a positive ripple effect on organizations as a whole, since high engagement leads to higher employee retention, stronger performance, and increased morale. 

How can your organization actively encourage employee engagement? From encouraging employees to speak up and share their ideas, upper management investing in employee training and development, creating internal chats or clubs, etc., fostering a sense of community and space for employees to show up as their best selves is essential for developing a positive workplace culture. 

Plus, feeling included in the conversation is not only a positive for employees -- it also benefits the organization as a whole. A 2021  report  by Culture Amp revealed that identifying with the statement “I feel like I belong at [organization name]” is the most indicative of an employee’s overall engagement at work. 

 

Tie in diversity, equity, and inclusion 

Agencies should strive to foster a sense of belonging through both workplace culture and diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Previously, this has meant looking to hire for “culture fit,” or how well prospective employees seem like they would fit in with their current teams. This often leads to a lack of diversity as a result of managers selecting candidates based on similarities or due to unconscious biases.

In an effort to strengthen DEI initiatives, many organizations are doing away with this idea in favor of “culture add,” or the unique value that a prospective employee can bring to a team or organization. This way, culture and DEI can work together to create an inclusive environment that is designed to support employees of all backgrounds. 

Because an inclusive workplace culture and DEI efforts go hand in hand, it’s a win-win for everyone. By implementing inclusive practices and creating a sense of belonging built on a set of core values unique to your specific organization, recruiting and HR teams can make way for a variety of diverse perspectives that lead to higher employee satisfaction. 

If you’re not sure where your organization stands, a good first step to incorporating DEI into your workplace culture is to get a better idea of how current employees feel and which areas for improvement they can identify. 

 

Set the tone for consistent communication 

Communication is at the core of workplace culture -- especially in today’s world when many teams are working on remote or hybrid schedules that require an added level of communication between team members and management. 

Consider the following questions when defining your organization’s culture around communication: 

  • Do new hires receive information or training about workplace culture during their onboarding process?
  • What is the communication style like in both the in-person and remote workplace? Is it formal, or more casual and laid back? 
  • Which topics are often discussed in the workplace? Is it strictly business, or are employees encouraged to also speak about their hobbies, families, plans for the weekend, share memes in a work group chat, etc.? 
  • Are non-work related events or activities allowed or encouraged, such as happy hours, birthday celebrations, or virtual events?
  • What is communication like between employees and their managers? Do managers or department heads regularly keep employees in the loop? 
  • What is the level of transparency when it comes to communicating in the workplace? Is honesty valued, or do employees and management tend to keep to themselves?

Once you can answer these questions and have a general understanding of your organization’s communication style, you can then begin to map out what a plan for improvement would look like and what it means for your overall culture. 

 

Develop best practices for management, employees, and new hires 

Along with consistent communication, how will department heads, managers, employees, and prospective employees be expected to get on board with workplace culture initiatives? While management and employees may approach workplace culture from slightly different angles, making sure everyone is on the same page can bolster productivity and promote a positive work environment. 

According to a 2021 SHRM  report titled “The Culture Effect: Why a Positive Workplace Culture Is the New Currency,” working Americans who rated their culture as good or very good were more likely to indicate they frequently engage in candid or honest conversations about work topics with their manager (83%), as compared to workers who rated culture as average (62%) and those who rated culture as poor or very poor (41%).

For the best outcome, workplace culture should be communicated at all levels -- from including aspects of workplace culture in job postings, demonstrating values while onboarding new hires, maintaining a positive workplace culture to retain existing employees, and encouraging management to reinforce core values among their teams in their daily interactions.

NEOGOV’s online onboarding solution can help your organization successfully define and communicate your organization’s workplace culture to new hires from day one. Download our free 26 Orientation Ideas to Set New Hires Up for Success eBook to learn more about improving your organization's orientation process. 

Maya Rector

Maya Rector is a Copywriter at NEOGOV. After receiving a BA in English from UC Berkeley, she has spent several years working in media and content marketing. Want to get in touch? Contact her at mrector@neogov.net.