What are the Most Important Elements of Organizational Culture?

November 15, 2022 Workhuman Editorial Team
elements of organizational culture

Defining and putting your finger on the most important elements of organizational culture can be quite a challenging feat for a lot of people.

Yet, no matter what the nature of your organization is, building a culture of success and communication is vital if you want to stay relevant in today’s market. In fact, employees with more positive experiences at work are much more likely to report significantly higher levels of discretionary effort (96% compared to 55%).

To help you navigate your way along the core elements of organizational culture, you’ll need to cover a few concepts and make use of some handy software solutions. So, let’s dive in!

manager explaining the 5 key elements of organizational culturekey

Top 7 elements of great organizational culture

Organizational or corporate culture is intangible and made of complex components, which makes it so hard to define and even harder to put into action.

One important point to drive home though is that strong organizational culture doesn’t happen unless you have strong employee connection. It’s not your fancy office space or your premium amenities that define your culture. It’s the people.

Connecting with people on a deeper level calls for honesty, humility, appreciation, and celebration. And you can bet the juice is worth the squeeze.

It reduces voluntary employee turnover, which costs millions of dollars annually for companies with over 100 people, and it builds a stronger, more motivated workforce, built on a culture of gratitude.

That said, the most important elements of company culture to keep in mind are:

  • Core values
  • Unified purposes
  • Efficient leadership
  • Effective communication
  • Accountability
  • Proper recognition
  • Healthy environment

Now that we’ve got the list, let’s take a closer look at the key elements that lead to great culture and a sense of belonging.

Core values

First and foremost, your core values shape how employees will act, from small tasks to large projects.

Along with a mission statement, almost every company has these, but your organization’s values shouldn’t be limited to the leaflet or the employee handbook you provide to newcomers.

Instead, leaders should be able to reflect the core cultural values on every level in order to build the culture you want.

You can do this by incorporating the values during team-building exercises. You can even blend the concepts into informal meet-ups after work. This way, even the new employees will be able to pick up on the organization’s identity in no time.

In short, you want your core values to be actionable and observable.

sharing ideas to keep people engaged

Leadership

Good leadership may seem obvious, but oddly enough, a lot of organizations can get this element wrong. A good leader should be supportive, motivate others, and embody the core values of the organization while remaining approachable. All in all, they should set an example for employees and act ethically.

This is challenging, but if you get it right, the employees will respond positively.

Take, for instance, Zoom’s employee reviews regarding their leadership. They won the top company award for the happiest employees two years in a row because their founder and CEO Eric Yuan put an emphasis on paying attention to workplace happiness.

Unified sense of purpose

For a productive work environment, a united purpose is what adds focus and motivation to all individuals. After all, none of us wants to work on meaningless projects; we all want to be part of something larger than ourselves.

Purpose, in short, is the articulated “why” behind your organization. Your people should be on the same page about what they’re here for and how it matters in the big picture.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that they’ll work on the same project, but having a purpose should go beyond differences in departments and tasks. What’s more, it connects people who would otherwise be strangers and motivates them to perform better.

Accountability and autonomy

Ideally, you want your team members to have a voice and a sense of independence. Alienated and dehumanized employees are the last thing your organization needs. 

People just aren’t meant to be cogs in a wheel.

Giving people the autonomy and opportunity to be accountable is one of the key elements to companies with great cultures. Providing your team members with a sense of autonomy and accountability shows that you recognize them as human beings with minds and responsibilities.

One way to know if you’re current culture is giving employees the freedom they desire is by consistently asking for feedback through tools like Moodtracker®.

It can provide you with insights into what the staff is thinking and what they need. Just make sure you actually listen to their feedback and act on it.

Try Workhuman’s Moodtracker – for free – today! Let’s go!

Recognition and appreciation

Rather than keeping your recognition rites for special events, it’s better to entrench the element in your work culture. You’d be surprised at how positive reinforcement transforms productivity for the better, especially with aspects like engagement and retention.

For one, you have four times the odds of achieving employee engagement with proper recognition, according to Gallup.

So, recognizing people for their achievements and efforts—no matter how small—can light up your organization’s culture. Keep in mind that recognition can come in many forms, including appreciation posts, work perks, and promotions.

In fact, Workhuman provides Social Recognition® or Service Milestones® solutions to help you make the most out of justified positive reinforcement in your work culture.

three employees at a table sharing a strong mission statement

Communication

Communication isn’t clear-cut since people have different communication styles and personalities.

You need to understand these differences and work according to them rather than around them. The last thing you want to do is silence your team members and create a tension-ridden work environment.

It all sounds basic, but a depressing 42% reported that yelling and verbal abuse are both common issues in their workplace. So, while it can be difficult, learning how to communicate effectively is worthwhile. Plus, healthy avenues of communication can come in various forms, be it formal or informal.

In a recent Workhuman study, work cultures that had weekly check-ins were 2x as likely to make employees feel a sense of belonging at work, trust their manager, and see a path to grow within the organization.

It’s vital to open all sorts of communication pathways, and software solutions can help you do that as more and more young professionals look to remote work.

However, you’ll still need everyone on the team to communicate and critique productively.

Don’t keep it managerial; it’s best to have people sharing from the bottom up instead of the top down, similar to 360-degree feedback.

Environment

A healthy environment consists not only of the physical workplace but the social and mental one as well. So, while adjusting chairs and lighting is nice, you’ll need a lot more than that.

You need to build a sense of community that breaks down the borders between hierarchies. This means mending relationships, opening people up to new interactions, celebrating life’s moments, and creating opportunities.

So, instead of an oppressive or dull physical environment, consider restyling it to something fun, open, and informal.

Google is famous for prioritizing fun in the workplace to optimize employee happiness with lava lamps, screens, and tons of natural light.

For a creative company like Google, this approach works, with a whopping 86% of their employees reporting being satisfied with their job!

Some organizations even provide stipends for a healthy work-from-home setup to make up for the change in workplace environments. For one, Johnson & Johnson provided reimbursement for home-gym equipment to their employees. 

If all that sounds overwhelming, start in the physical workplace and scale it up to personal interactions as you go.

poor employee experience due to negative culture

FAQs

Now that we’ve covered the basic organizational culture elements and their importance, let’s check out a couple of common questions:

Cultural dynamics affect employee satisfaction

Get started on building a strong organizational culture

The elements of organizational culture aren’t new or groundbreaking concepts, but they’re easily overlooked.

So, take a look at what other successful corporations are doing. Then, you can take what works for your organization and mix it around.

You don’t have to hit the exact programs for each element. After all, it’s possible that some aspects just won’t fit in your current workplace.

Just never forget that the people in your organization come first. So, finding the right people and nailing the communication channels can naturally develop a culture unique to your organization!