Workplace Culture is Essential for Organizational Success

by | Oct 4, 2022 | Hummingbird Blog

I recently shared the message below with the Hummingbird community through our weekly newsletter. (Click here to join if you’re not already on the list.) 

The message has sparked meaningful reflection, curiosity, and conversation, which prompted me to share the message again with the Hummingbird community and beyond, along with a few additional thoughts, ideas, and suggestions.

Let’s start with the message:

“Change can be difficult. Leading during uncertain times adds to the complexity of change. There has been a lot said about the current job market, the looming recession, and how companies need to show up and create human-centered workplace cultures. Here are a few of my thoughts for your consideration.

When making decisions about the allocation of resources in uncertain times, it can be tempting to cut diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, decrease employee resource group budgets, and sacrifice activities that support a healthy workplace culture. However, these efforts are even more important in uncertain times and times of significant change.

I’m reminded of a great quote from one of my favorite movies, The Contender. This message highlights how your commitment to culture, or lack thereof, during these times will likely be viewed:

“Principles only mean something when you stick to them when it’s inconvenient.”

Your employees. Your colleagues. Your community. They are paying attention. How will they assess your leadership during difficult times?

These initiatives also lead to greater innovation and creativity by expanding the representation and inclusion of marginalized people, and their voices, at your company. These efforts are a commitment to long-term business success – and they are worth protecting.

As our society continues to evolve, organizations and their leaders need to rise to meet the moment and embrace change, even during times of uncertainty.

Good for business. Good for humanity.

At Hummingbird, we are committed to supporting leaders to meet this moment of change and soar (yes, we enjoy a good hummingbird reference on occasion – because levity in times of change is okay too) to new heights.”

As you will likely surmise, I’m a big believer in the value of workplace culture and, in particular, the power of human-centered workplace culture.

You might be asking yourself how I define a human-centered workplace culture. Great question! 

Here are a few thoughts that might prove helpful in understanding how the construct of culture materializes in organizations

    • Workplace culture is a collection of values, attitudes, beliefs, assumptions, and behaviors that make up the regular atmosphere in a work environment. 
    • Workplace culture is communicated and reinforced through various methods, ultimately shaping employee perceptions, behaviors, and understanding. It sets the context for everything an enterprise does. 
    • I also really like this framing borrowed from the OC Tanner website:

Company culture, corporate culture, organizational culture, and workplace culture all refer to the same thing – the essence of the company you work for. Company culture is the heart and soul of your organization. It’s the social operating system that influences how people work and how the organization interacts with its employees, customers, and community.

Company culture is reflected in many areas of your organization: your corporate values, your organization’s purpose, company mission, the work environment, and employee experience. It incorporates the history, story, vision, beliefs, norms, and expectations held by your company. While company culture is often intangible, it’s felt by everyone who interacts with your company: your employees, clients, vendors, stakeholders, and the public.

    • A ‘human-centered’ workplace culture means that the people in your ecosystem – and their experiences – are considered when making organizational decisions.

With these thoughts in mind, it’s clear that workplace culture is a critical component of organizational success. While many pieces are important to that success, I believe that without a strong human-centered workplace culture, there isn’t enough glue for all of the puzzle pieces to stay connected and work together effectively. And that’s even more true in times of stress – like a recession, reorganization, reduction in force, or crisis. 

Too often, we forget culture, and the impact on the humans in our organization, when making business decisions.

Don’t fall into that trap!

The numbers are important. And every number on each spreadsheet and slide represents a human or, more likely, represents a group of humans who make that number possible.

How do you avoid this pitfall? Define and nurture your culture!

Here are some important steps to having a meaningful workplace culture:

  • Define your mission, vision, and values (MVV)Take your MVV further by 
    • defining ‘how’ you will achieve your mission and vision
    • capturing ‘what’ the path to success looks like for fulfilling your MVV
    • outlining behaviors that reflect your values
  • Develop a robust Employee Value Proposition (EVP) that guides decisions about your employee experience
  • Create a careers page on your website that tells the story of life at your company through the voices of your employees

  • Produce an annual Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) report that includes your commitment to Diversity,

  • Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and Social Impact

  • Publicly communicate specific goals for DEI, Social Impact, and Employee Experience.

  • Deliver an annual Employee Experience Survey and analyze the responses through intersectional diversity perspectives to understand how your employees are experiencing your company culture.

Cultivating a human-centered workplace takes intentionality and effort. The suggestions I’ve outlined require investment and focus. And they must also become part of daily life at your organization. 

When crisis or uncertainty pulls our focus, it’s during these moments that an organization’s culture becomes even more critical. For that to be possible, it’s essential to nurture your culture daily throughout your organization’s ecosystem and keep your employees at the front of your mind when making big and small decisions.

Brian McComak

Brian McComak

CEO / Founder

he / him / LGBTQ+

Brian McComak is a consultant, speaker, author, and facilitator with over 25 years of experience in DEI, HR, culture, change management, internal communications, and employee experience. He is an openly gay man and a person with a disability who shares his lived experiences in service of fostering workplaces where humans thrive.

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