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Why Leaders Should Care About Their Culture

Many business executives take the all or nothing approach when it comes to company culture. Some spend significant amounts of time trying to become the next Apple, Google or Zappos. Others see little benefit in culture initiatives, and, instead, prefer to focus on procedural change.

Neither group is entirely right. If implemented correctly, culture initiatives have the power to increase productivity and quality of work. They also require less time to implement than you may think.

One 2016 study, published on IZA World of Labor, found that there is a correlation between emotions and productivity. Happier employees were more productive than those who experienced “major unhappiness shocks – bereavement and family illness.”

Happiness levels are difficult to measure. But, it is possible to create policies or strategies that mitigate the effects of negative emotions by focusing on why employees work. In the 1980s, Edward Deci and Richard Ryan established six reasons people work: play, purpose, potential, emotional pressure, economic pressure and inertia.

Businesses should focus on the first three reasons outlined by Deci and Ryan. Employees are more engaged and productive when they enjoy themselves, have a sense of purpose and can educate themselves. Most executives understand this concept at a basic level. They struggle with the creation and implementation of campaigns that address these three motivators.

How do you allow employees to enjoy themselves? How do you foster creativity and curiosity? How do you use the raw talent and goals of your employees to fuel your business?

The Harvard Business Review conducted a study to identify processes and factors that determine a company’s culture. These three business processes can help business executives create and implement culture initiatives.

Role Design

One way to affect happiness levels, motivation and productivity of an employee is in their role within your company. Employees want to feel like their work is appreciated and their ideas are considered. As you design roles, leave room for employees to innovate and be creative. Not only will they have the freedom to explore, but they might also find a new way to do business that could increase productivity.

Related: Work-Life Balance is a Myth


More and more, employees are looking for companies whose values and beliefs align with their own. It’s a business’ identity that drives why employees work for you. This starts with your mission statement and behavioral code, but can extend as far as you want. Medtronic allows its engineers and technicians to see the devices they’ve built in action. Seeing their machines in real life helps employees understand the value and purpose of their work.

Career Development

Many companies use the standard performance review that pits one employee against another. This form of economic and emotional pressure will actually decrease an employee’s chances of succeeding and growing. Placing employees with a mentor, or offering professional development programs, allows you to determine employee performance without the negative side effects.

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