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How To Improve Company Culture

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Talia Knowles is an avid reader, writer, and coffee enthusiast, with over five years of experience in writing and editing.

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As a seasoned HR professional with over 20 years of experience, Keca is an expert in various aspects of Human Resources.

How To Improve Company Culture

How To Improve Company Culture

A company’s culture can sometimes seem like it’s set in stone. But the reality is that corporate culture can be changed, significantly in some cases. So if you’re unhappy with your culture, there’s still hope. 

Coworker interactions, career opportunities, and general social and professional conditions shape a company’s unique culture, and all of these can be shifted over time. If you’d like to change your culture for the better, you’ve come to the right place. 

This guide lays out the key elements of corporate culture and explains how to adjust them to create a more pleasant and positive work environment that’s likely to increase retention. 

What’s Company Culture and Why Does It Matter?

Company culture is best defined as a group or organization’s set of shared principles, goals, attitudes, and behaviors.

A company’s culture shapes every step of the employee journey, from hiring and onboarding to colleague interactions, opportunities for advancement, and more. 

Thus, culture significantly impacts many aspects of your business, including workplace morale, employee retention, productivity, and even profitability. A strongly positive culture might boost engagement and drive employees to perform at the highest level and collaborate well.

On the other hand, a toxic culture can erode morale, reduce productivity and stifle ingenuity while increasing recruitment costs due to high turnover. 

Yet, all organizations have their own needs. A culture that works wonders for that law firm down the street might be a terrible fit for your business. So, it’s important to know what works for your company before deciding to embrace this or that element of culture. 

Whichever route you choose, improving company culture takes hard work and commitment, so be ready to buckle down, as change rarely happens overnight. 

Evaluate Your Current Culture 

Every business has its own unique culture, and understanding its key features and causes is the first step on the path toward a more positive culture. 

Many businesses make the mistake of stressing growth at all costs and lose sight of the culture that nurtured its initial success. Left unattended, positive elements of culture can fade away, creating a company that defines itself in a totally different way. 

To enact positive change, you’ll first need to identify your existing culture and its conditions. What kind of culture does your company have? What are its strengths and weaknesses? 

A good starting point for analyzing culture is to look at recent employee survey results or check Glassdoor for anonymous employee reviews. You might also want to schedule check-ins with current employees to hear their feedback about the culture from their perspective. 

What Kind of Culture Is In Place? 

Decades ago, scholars identified four dominant workplace cultures: market, clan, adhocracy, and hierarchical.

Here’s a brief summary of each to help you determine which best fits your business. 

1. Clan Culture

Clan culture embraces the concept of co-workers as family. Family-run businesses tend to fall into this category, as do smaller businesses that aim to be tight-knit, loyal, and collaborative. 

These companies tend to stress values like equality, unity, and togetherness, with managers often acting more like mentors than bosses. This can encourage a lax work environment where new hires feel marginalized.  

2. Adhocracy Culture

Companies with an adhocracy culture are open to rapid change and care little about maintaining the status quo. Many startups and tech firms fit this profile. In this setting, change, or disruption, is often seen as a good thing. 

For instance, firms like Tesla and Uber encourage risk and innovation and urge their staff to challenge assumptions. The irony is that when companies with an adhocracy culture grow into big businesses, the flexible approach that had long been an asset often becomes a liability. 

3. Hierarchy Culture

A hierarchy culture is exactly what it sounds like— a workplace governed by clear rules, procedures, and levels of authority. All employees know where they fit, who ranks above them, and what’s expected of them. 

Banks, insurance firms, and energy companies tend to have a hierarchy culture. Strict procedures make these companies less exposed to risk, though sometimes at the cost of innovation and adaptability. 

4. Market Culture

Companies with a market culture focus on profits and beating the competition. Unlike other models defined in reference to employees, market cultures are largely outward-facing. 

These companies seek to remain in the pole position in their industry, which tends to require constant innovation, which in turn leads to considerable employee burnout. Amazon is a good example of market culture, as employees are often overworked and turnover is high.

Does your company fit into one of the above cultural profiles? If it’s unclear, you might ask yourself and your colleagues some questions. Do employees value teamwork and group recognition or strive for individual achievement in the hopes of a promotion? 

Does leadership share their vision with employees, or is it all about the bottom line? Are positions arranged hierarchically, or is there flexibility in terms of collaboration and opportunity? 

These questions are just the beginning of a more detailed analysis of your company culture. Still, you can’t get where you want without identifying where you’ve come from, so spending time thinking about your current culture is a key first step.

Steps on Improving Company Culture 

Steps on Improving Company's Culture

Now that you know your company culture’s primary characteristics, it’s time to start enacting the change you’d like to see. 

1. Identify Your Mission 

Your company should have a mission and an overarching objective that guides strategy and key decisions. This mission plays a key role in shaping culture. For instance, many employees report higher workplace satisfaction when they feel aligned with their employer’s mission.

This means that having a strongly positive mission statement and making sure it’s widely and prominently displayed and shared can increase staff engagement and commitment. 

A mission could be about helping your community, serving customers, or working to build a safer environment. Involving your team in that mission can give them a sense of purpose and belonging, boosting morale and productivity

2. Identify Your Core Values

Identifying your company’s core values helps identify what’s working and what might need improvement in your company culture. 

Some employers make the mistake of not investing much thought into their values, settling on vague phrases like “work hard” that are disconnected from their employees. 

Also, if your firm identified its values years ago and hasn’t updated them, they may have become irrelevant to your mission and goals. Markets are constantly evolving, so a company needs to maintain relevant and up-to-date values. 

Updating core values can provide clarity to your team, identify like-minded candidates during hiring, and encourage a unified sense of purpose. 

3. Be Open to Feedback

Sometimes, the experience of company culture is unique to people in different roles, and business owners or managers may be unaware of certain workplace dynamics. 

Managers and executives may treat each other respectfully, for instance, while condescending to associates and interns. Get regular employee feedback on company culture, the workplace environment, and the behavior of their superiors. 

A 360 survey can help you see the whole picture by collecting feedback from multiple perspectives. This often provides valuable insight into areas in need of attention and ensures all team members have a voice when it comes to workplace relations. 

4. Identify Areas of Improvement

With your employee feedback in mind, identify elements of company culture you’d like to improve. You may choose to shift your culture towards a different type, such as from hierarchy to adhocracy, or maybe just a few elements need work. 

Develop tactics to work toward your goals and inform your team of your plans. Implementing new policies and upgrading standards may cause discomfort if you attempt it too quickly, but clear communication can ease these growing pains. 

5. Facilitate Positive Workplace Relationships

No matter what style of culture you’re working toward, ensuring positive workplace relationships is essential to building a supportive workplace. 

Encourage transparency and open communication with employees to build team loyalty, improve job satisfaction, and identify problems before they become an issue. 

One way to improve vertical communication is to schedule regular one-to-one check-ins between manager and employee. Setting aside time to ask questions and relay concerns tends to boost team openness and trust. 

Not all styles of company culture encourage employees to get to know each other outside of work. But depending on your goals for your business, you want to create a more social environment. 

If you’d like to build camaraderie and collaboration, consider organizing social events outside of work, such as happy hours and excursions like bowling or laser tag. These can be fun, relaxing ways for team members to build more personal connections. 

Workplaces with close employee relationships tend to enjoy better morale and teamwork, as well as higher retention rates. Ensuring positive workplace relationships can also reduce burnout, improve communication, and boost productivity. 

6. Provide Opportunities for Advancement

No one wants to feel stuck in their job, regardless of position. Providing opportunities for advancement tells your employees that their employer is invested in their career and their development, which often increases loyalty and retention. 

Your firm could encourage professional growth by offering skills training sessions and certification courses or establishing an open door policy so staffers are able to speak to managers about their career goals. 

7. Be Transparent

Honest communication shows respect for employees and clarifies expectations regarding compensation, performance, and promotions. 

Though some conversations may be difficult, employees will appreciate their employer providing the information they need to plan their professional futures. 

Transparency might be trickier, as this strategy benefits some organizational cultures more than others. Align your commitment to transparency with your goals for company culture; though honesty is always appreciated, you may not want to share all information with your team. 

Though transparency can boost your ability to build relationships with your employees, if you want some intra-staff competition, it may not be the best approach. 

8. Recognize Achievements 

Recognizing and celebrating individual and group achievements makes employees feel noticed and appreciated and motivates them to continue to work hard. 

Specific recognitions assure employees that management is paying attention, encouraging them to improve, while group recognition rewards teamwork and collaboration, building bonds and boosting morale.   

Employee recognition does not have to only come from managers, as peer-to-peer encouragement can boost morale and improve teamwork. To create a culture of peer-to-peer recognition, begin by encouraging recognition based on the company’s core values. 

9. Allow for Flexibility and Autonomy

Especially after the pandemic, many employees expect some flexibility in their workday. If you’re hoping to improve employee morale, granting a bit more freedom in terms of working hours and location is a good start. 

You could give your staff every other Friday off or allow them to work from home two days a week. Nine times out of 10, they’ll pay you back with greater engagement and productivity. 

Rather than feeling like cogs in a machine, employees with more freedom have a greater sense of ownership – and it might even spark some new ideas and innovations. 

10. Invest in Diversity

Today’s workforce places a high value on workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). It’s a good idea to invest in better DEI by embracing more informed recruiting and hiring practices, for instance, or implementing a zero-tolerance policy for microaggressions. 

Not only will these practices encourage a more welcoming culture, they could also help attract new talent, as many job-seekers are on the lookout for diverse, supportive work environments. 

11. Address Mental Health 

As mental health conversations become more common, businesses need to adapt by providing adequate resources. Today’s professionals expect more than simple health insurance; they also want to be reassured that their employers care about their minds as well.

Providing robust mental health resources and setting a tone of compassionate understanding regarding mental and emotional issues is a good way to improve company culture. 

Additionally, encouraging a healthy work-life balance is a good way to show employees you care and prevent burnout and other work-related mental health issues. 

12. Monitor Your Progress

As with any improvement plan, gauging progress is crucial. You’ll want to choose a few metrics and monitor them to see what’s working and what isn’t. You could institute regular staff feedback surveys and employee check-ins and keep a close watch on retention. 

Whichever metrics you choose, examining company culture through several lenses is the best way to get a complete picture. Gauging progress from multiple angles will show the full impact of your efforts. 

If you find your approach has made little impact on key metrics, it may be time to make some changes. 

13. Be Patient 

Real corporate cultural change takes time. The best approach is to implement your strategies, gauge their impact, tweak your approach as needed, and be patient. It could take more than a year for culture to improve. 

But if you don’t see any movement after an extended period, you may need to shift to a new strategy and a new approach. But don’t make any rash decisions. Company culture is sensitive to several factors, and you could do real damage if you make the wrong shift in strategy. 


Company culture is terribly complex and can be crucial to business success. If you feel yours falls short, take the time to do your research and learn the key elements of culture and the best ways to improve them before committing to an improvement plan. 

Developing a clear set of objectives is key to making lasting improvements to culture, and you may need to experiment before you discover what works best for your business.

Company Culture FAQs

What are subcultures, and how do they impact the larger company culture?

If you run a business with several distinct teams, chances are each team will develop their own subculture, distinct from the larger company culture. If these cultures are positive, they will likely influence other teams positively. 

However, keep an eye out for overly cliquey or exclusive behavior, as this may foster resentment or inhibit collaboration between all members of your team. 

What are some common causes of downturns in company culture?

Sudden negative changes to company culture are problematic, especially if their cause is unclear. Think about all aspects of your team’s experience to determine what might have changed for the worse. An ineffective switch-up of management roles may be causing unnecessary tension or stress, or bad news about layoffs might be rippling through the staff. 

Consider factors outside of work, such as stressful economic conditions or personal tragedies. It only takes one person to bring a group down, so ensure your employees feel they can come to you with their concerns. 

How has remote work impacted culture?

Many companies have struggled with maintaining a positive sense of culture throughout transitions to remote work. Though building relationships and a sense of community has become more difficult, remote work has also brought cultural benefits. 

Without the need for geographical proximity, it’s easier to build a more diverse staff and provide access to far-flung candidates. Also, remote work is an easy way to grant employees more flexibility and autonomy, which could increase job satisfaction. 

What is the role of leadership in establishing a positive company culture?

Company leaders can’t control everything about company culture, but they do have a very large influence. Nearly every management decision impacts culture in some way, from hiring decisions to communications platforms. It’s best to keep this in mind when making decisions.