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Why culture is the most critical part of HR – and five things you should do about it

Research with 1,000 employees in the United States and the United Kingdom finds companies are failing to improve their cultures. And this has important consequences for employee satisfaction and retention

Culture

How important is your company culture? Well, nearly half of those responding to a new survey said they would rather work 60 hours a week than work for a company that doesn’t value culture. And 58% said they would take a job with a competing company if the new company had a better culture.

The study of 1,000 employees in the United States and the United Kingdom by employee communications platform SpeakAp also found that 74% said culture was important to them. But, despite all the lip service paid to culture, organisations don’t understand what culture truly means, how it should be activated and how it can positively (and negatively) impact the employee experience.

 “The sad fact of the matter is that many companies today mistake physical perks and amenities as being a critical part of workplace culture. But they simply are not. Culture is the sum of a company’s values, traditions, beliefs, interactions, behaviours and attitudes,” says Patrick Van Der Mijl, co-founder of Speakap.

He suggests five things organisations should do to build a strong culture:

  1. Emphasise respect, fairness, trust and integrity over transactional engagement
    When asked to specify the most important attribute of a strong culture, respondents ranked the following highest – respect and fairness (39%), trust and integrity (23%) and teamwork (9%)
     
  2. Don’t get stuck in your ways
    Companies are too stuck in their ways when it comes to culture improvements, according to the research. For example, 34% of the UK respondents said their company isn’t open to suggested improvements to culture
     
  3. Pre-boarding is the new on-boarding
    When asked what makes them feel connected to a company’s culture during the first 30 days, 21% reported being assigned a buddy/mentor prior to the first day, while 22% liked the idea of a way to communicate with colleagues before the first day via technology such as an app
     
  4. Support and recognition are paramount longer term
    Job guidance, positive recognition and shift/schedule flexibility go a long way to motivate employees long-term. Some 25% of respondents said ongoing job guidance and support made them feel connected to a company’s culture after the first 30 days, while 19% cited positive recognition and rewards and 13% said that shift/schedule flexibility has a similar effect
     
  5. It’s all about the manager
    Workplace relationships are the lifeline of culture and engagement, with 93% of the UK respondents saying having a positive working relationship with their manager is either very important or important. Yet 14% admitted that they don’t have a positive relationship with their direct/line manager.

Speakap surveyed over 1,000 employees in the United States and the United Kingdom to understand the various embodiments of culture within organisations, the ways in which companies communicate culture (and any changes to it) and the positive and negative impacts of culture on employee satisfaction, workplace relationships and loyalty. The survey targeted employees across a variety of business categories, including retail, hospitality, entertainment, manufacturing, construction and consumer packaged goods.

Published 1 May 2019

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