How To Define Your Workplace Culture

5 min read ·


Workplace culture is a must in modern business. The research points to many benefits from establishing a common culture that every worker can contribute to and rally around. But, to realize the advantages, you’ll first need to know how to define your workplace culture. This article shares important steps in establishing workplace culture.

Still not convinced you need workplace culture? Allow us to share some of the many reasons businesses value having a company culture:

  • Improves goal setting and accomplishments as priorities are widely understood
  • Attracts better talent
  • Expedites onboarding process
  • Results in lower turnover and better team chemistry
  • Supports a strong brand identity
  • Expedites process as everyone is pulling in the same direction
  • Reduces workplace stress for better employee wellbeing
  • Drives innovation

In particular, a strong company culture is in high demand among the millennial generation, which makes up your workforce of the future. In a Fidelity survey, millennials would agree to a pay cut as much s $7,600 for “improved ‘quality of work life’ (such as career development, purposeful work, work/life balance, company culture).”

Further, Gallup suggests a strong organizational culture can offer:

  • 50-point increase in employee engagement over a three-year period
  • 25% growth in the workforce over a three-year period
  • 85% net profit increase over a five-year period
  • 138% improvement in patronage over a five-year period

So, knowing that, the question remains: how do you define a workplace culture for your small business or startup? We’ll go into more detail about each of these suggestions next:

  • Review purpose, mission, vision, and values
  • Study positive aspects of your current work environment
  • Determine what outcomes you want to achieve
  • Invite collaboration
  • Communicate change
  • Establish and earn buy-in

Review Purpose, Mission, Vision, and Values


A distinct workplace culture is recognized as important by 94% of executives and 88% of employees, per Deloitte. Every company is unique in its own way. But you need to define what that means for your particular business.

To do so, you’ll need to look closely at your distinguishing attributes. There aren’t many companies today that don’t value teamwork. How do you particularly emphasize and reward collaboration? 

The Society for Human Resources Management suggests diving deeper into factors including:

  • How you achieve results
  • What your orientation is towards employees, customers
  • How you view innovation
  • What your hierarchy looks like
  • Whether you prioritize people or tasks
  • What functional areas you emphasize most

Study Positive Aspects of Your Current Work Environment

Just as you’ll want to review everything you’ve established in terms of business policy and approach, take a close look at how your people interact and engage today. Defining a company culture doesn’t have to mean reinventing the wheel.

You may already be great at inclusivity and innovation, and you value creative problem-solving. Recognizing that, you can now work to include it more officially in your company culture.

To learn more about your company’s DNA, survey employees and customers, review their feedback, and listen on social media. You want to gauge not only how you see the business but how others see you.


Determine What Outcomes You Want to Achieve

Clear goals give everyone a common objective. The more transparent you can be about what outcomes you want to achieve, the more likely you will embed efforts in that direction into your culture.

Measurable outcomes can also help to engage and motivate your employees. They will be able to see real progress. This can give them a positive feeling about their work and encourage them to continue living up to cultural aims.

Aligning your workplace culture with business outcomes also helps you shape an approach that suits your organization. Amazon, for instance, has been taken to task for a cutthroat culture that drives its people to an unrelenting degree. CEO Jeff Bezos responded, “We never claim that our approach is the right one…just that it’s ours, and over the last two decades, we’ve collected a large group of like-minded people. Folks who find our approach energizing and meaningful.”


Invite Collaboration

Unless it is entirely antithetical to your company’s m.o., defining culture is a great opportunity for collaborative input. You can involve your team in:

  • Audits of how people are interacting with each other
  • Discussions of strengths and opportunities for change
  • Evaluating the working definition of the culture 
  • Asking for input on how to implement the change
  • Continued learning around the culture 

Support an inclusive company culture by demonstrating to all employees, regardless of gender, color, or sexual orientation, that they are valued, supported, and nurtured. Ensure you are considering individual differences and welcoming all perspectives in the discussion defining your workplace ethos.


Communicate Change

Create a “culture team” from all levels of the business to create actionable change and communicate it with the rest of the company. They can help give aspects of the culture voice, pull people in, and report back on the input of others.

You’ll want to capture company culture on your business website and in an employee handbook as well as other onboarding materials. It might also shape your employee reviews and customer feedback tools.

At the same time, there are many daily ways to communicate culture, such as:

  • Celebrate accomplishments
  • Develop rites of passage for new hires
  • Make culture part of the shared vocabulary
  • Connect to culture in some way in each meeting
  • Share success on culture initiatives internally and externally

Keeping it simple can help too. You want your employees to clearly state the company culture to new hires, customers, and other stakeholders. If they can’t easily explain the culture to friends and family, how can you expect them to get on board with realizing that culture?


Establish and Earn Buy-In

Your defined workplace culture will take hold better if you have leaders who will lead by example. In exceptional companies with embedded corporate culture, Deloitte found 55% had bosses that spoke regularly to employees about company culture. Plus, 73% had senior leadership that consistently and repetitively related their messaging to company beliefs. Another 76% were seen to act in accordance with the cultural values.

Establishing buy-in at the leadership level will be helpful. At the same time, it can be useful to identify ways to reward employees who are embodying the distinct company culture. 

Put a Positive Workplace Culture in Place

Now that you know how to define your workplace culture, you can start the change effort. When you invest the effort to establish a company culture, you’ll enjoy the many advantages of having your people feel shared pride in what you do.