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Workplace Culture

What is Workplace Culture and How Can We Improve It?

Employers of choice everywhere are continually scanning their workplace to see if there are ways to improve the culture that their employees experience.
That scanning takes place in a number of ways.
Often it just a matter of paying attention to what is actually going on right in front of your eyes. How are employees interacting with each other? Are there smiles on their faces? Does it look like they’re having a good time at work?

Meaningful Conversations

We can’t tell the answer to these questions solely by looking through the window of the executive office. Having meaningful conversations with employees and getting to know them on a more personal level is critical to discovering the truth about what is really going on and discovering whether those employees are truly engaged with the organization.
Some organizations conduct employee surveys hoping that when the results are in, that they have nothing to worry about. Otherwise they would have heard about things beforehand.
But employees don’t generally complain openly when things are ugly. They would probably share their opinions if asked by their supervisor or manager or if approached regularly and sincerely, but that does not often occur. So when they get the chance of responding to probing questions in an anonymous survey, they take full advantage of the opportunity.
Recently that happened with the CIA. The results were not what the CIA wanted to hear, but they were certainly the results that the CIA needed to hear.

Every Employee Has Their Reason for Being Who They Are

Some are there merely to put food on their table or a roof over their head…whereas others are there because they believe in what they are doing and the impact their work has on others.
Do you know the difference? Can you tell merely by observing their behaviour?
Don’t make the make the mistake by assuming that every employee is as passionate about their role as you are. There is a terrific story which is not attributed to any particular author but has been retold countless times by various workplace culture commentators:

The Story of Two Stonemasons – Employee Opinions

Consider the story of two stonemasons.  You walk up to the first stonemason and ask, “Do you like your job?”  He looks up at you and replies, “I’ve been building this wall for as long as I can remember.  The work is monotonous.  I work in the scorching hot sun all day.  The stones are heavy and lifting them day after day can be backbreaking.  I’m not even sure if this project will be completed in my lifetime.  But it’s a job.  It pays the bills.”  You thank him for his time and walk on.
About thirty feet away you walk up to a second stonemason.  You ask him the same question, “Do you like your job?”  He looks up and replies, “I love my job.  I’m building a cathedral.  Sure, I’ve been working on this wall for as long as I can remember and yes, the work is sometimes monotonous.  I work in the scorching hot sun all day.  The stones are heavy and lifting them day after day can be backbreaking.  I’m not even sure if this project will be completed in my lifetime.  But I’m building a cathedral.”
With regards to employee opinion research, the aspect of employee engagement that is consistently rated as the most important was the extent to which employees felt and believed their senior management team had a sincere interest in their well-being.
If you are wondering how to achieve this, start by talking to your employees and more importantly…listening to them.


About the Author:

Phil Eastwood is a former London Bobby who brings a thirty-five year career in policing to his role as Senior Partner of Fiore Group Training, a recognized leader in training top North American organizations. Phil is lead author of workplace training courses in respectful workplace training, workplace violence employee training, and leadership training seminars.

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