How to build a positive company culture that fosters resilience

TL;DR: A strong, healthy company culture can help you keep employee engagement, retention, and performance numbers up while reducing attrition and burnout at every level. However, it takes cross-company cooperation and alignment to establish a truly meaningful culture for current and future team members. Using the steps in this playbook, you’ll define what makes your organization unique and implement initiatives that allow employees to feel more connected and aligned with your business.

The concept of culture may seem abstract and difficult to define, but we all know what an unhealthy company culture looks and feels like. In fact, in a recent survey of American employees, 19% of respondents described their work environment as “toxic,” and more than one in five (22%) said their workplace culture had negatively affected their mental health (1). 

Building a truly sustainable, positive culture is an ongoing, company-wide undertaking. That could be why so many organizations don’t succeed in establishing one for themselves. In fact, HR reports workplace culture as the number one reason for turnover, and 1 in 3 employees considers a poor workplace culture as a reason to leave their job. (2)

With actionable steps, tips, and expert advice, we created this resource for people professionals who are looking to build a culture “from scratch,” as well as those who’ve observed a need to implement some changes. 

  1. American Psychological Association, 2023 
  2. Leapsome, 2023

 What is company culture?

Company culture encompasses the shared values, goals, mindsets, and practices that set your business apart from competitors and allow everyone within your organization to work together more effectively. Company culture also comprises the written and unwritten guidelines that govern decision-making and influence interactions between departments, leaders, and employees. 

Organizations that want a better understanding of their culture — or are looking to build or overhaul their culture — should consider how they approach these key cultural components:

Why is a positive company culture important?

A positive company culture acts as a connective tissue that leads to greater cohesion between your people and your mission. Why is that connection important? According to recent Gallup data, it can lead to better results and fewer unfavorable outcomes. Alignment with culture means:

  • Employees are 3.7x more likely to report feeling engaged
  • They’re 5.2x more likely to say your organization is a great place to work
  • They’re 68% less likely to experience burnout
  • They’re 55% less likely to actively look for a job elsewhere

A healthy, sustainable culture also allows you to navigate internal fluctuations and turnover more smoothly so you can provide a solid foundation for future new hires and employees. That realization dawned on CEO and President for Ricoh North America Carsten Bruhn when a business student asked him what happens to culture when influential leaders leave. He writes in his piece for Forbes: “This question made me realize that it’s not enough to create a culture of excellence while I’m here. It’s just as critical to ensure that culture endures long after I’m gone.” 

“It’s not my company; it’s our company,” he says, “and leaders must engage and nurture not only those they work with today but also the next generation of leaders to build a sustainable future for everyone.”

🏗️ You don’t have to build a culture of excellence on your own

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Wann Sie dieses Playbook verwenden sollten

When to use
this playbook

Use this playbook if you need a guide for defining your culture or if your culture needs improvement. Our steps will help you identify what’s most important to you so you can implement the right cultural initiatives for your organization from the get-go. 

There are a few indicators that’ll signal when it’s time to reinvigorate your internal climate, such as:

  • Drops or dramatic fluctuations in performance and productivity
  • Lower engagement levels
  • A rise in turnover
  • Decreased participation in surveys, meetings, and events
  • Increased absenteeism due to burnout or overwork
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Was Sie für dieses Playbook benötigen

What you’ll need for
this playbook

Survey & feedback tools

To build a truly people-oriented culture, you need an effective way to gather employees’ perspectives and opinions. This becomes especially critical when you consider that a third of employees don’t feel that they can talk candidly with human resources. Communication gaps like this can lead to deep fractures in your culture and should not be overlooked.

A customizable tool like Leapsome’s Surveys module enables you to gather both quantitative and qualitative data to determine how team members perceive your culture and where they’d like to see improvements. 

Structured communication processes

In a report from Gallagher, 74% of employers agreed the main goal of their communication strategy was to shape their culture and foster a sense of belonging. Still, only 56% of them believed that employees grasped their values, mission, and culture. That’s why you need processes in place to keep employees engaged and informed about internal updates, new initiatives, and general news. 

One way to improve communication is by establishing recurring company-wide meetings to give staff important updates and an opportunity to ask questions. However, be respectful of your employees’ time. Our recent Workforce Trends Report revealed that workers already consider as many as half of their meetings to be a waste of time. This may be due to a third of them not having a clear agenda, so make sure to leverage tools like our Meetings module, which allows you to facilitate more focused, goals-driven company meetings. 

Metrics for monitoring your culture initiatives

To assess cultural impact, you need to track the right indicators. Shockingly, our Workforce Trends Report found that two in three human resources leaders don’t monitor essential metrics like engagement and turnover — and of those who do track employee engagement, only a third use dedicated engagement surveys

With a people analytics platform like Leapsome, you can monitor not only your engagement levels and turnover rates, but also your Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) and performance scores. Run sentiment analysis on open-ended survey comments for a quick read on how team members feel about your culture. You’ll also get automatic action plan recommendations based on your survey results to point you in the right direction.

Hinweise & Tipps
  • It’s okay to start small when working on your culture — It’s better to focus on defining three or four values that make your organization unique or implementing a couple of initiatives that you can track over the course of a few months. Starting with too many overly ambitious cultural goals may make it difficult to monitor your progress and could lead to confusion and discouragement.

  • Remember, your culture is your own — Avoid basing your internal benchmarks on what other companies are doing. Define the values and goals that matter the most to your organization and focus on succeeding in those areas.

  • C-level alignment is an essential part of building a positive culture — If all of your leaders don’t buy into your core values, mission, and philosophy, you risk internal conflicts that will negatively affect the entire organization.
  • Cultural shifts are inevitable Your culture will and should shift over time because organizations are dynamic, changeable entities made up of human beings. The key is figuring out how to work with cultural fluctuations rather than against them and how to avoid clinging to founding values too prescriptively.

How to run this People Ops Playbook:

Wie Sie dieses People Ops Playbook durchführen:

1. Investigate what makes your culture unique

A screenshot of Leapsome’s Surveys module showing results from an engagement survey.
Gain insight into how people perceive your culture with Leapsome’s AI-supported Surveys module

As a first step, companies need to define their culture and figure out what matters to them. That’s why, when we were defining our internal culture at Leapsome, we started by designing a survey to collect our team members’ stories and opinions about who we are as an organization. It allowed us to gain a deeper understanding of what connects us and makes us successful so we could put those values into action. For example, some of our culture survey questions included:

  • Why did you choose to work for Leapsome? What excites you about your work?
  • What is the biggest value you personally see at Leapsome?
  • Think of the best possible version of Leapsome: What values or behaviors within the team or toward other stakeholders would be most important?
  • If you think about team members that embody the “Leapsome culture,” in your opinion, what qualities or key attributes do they have? What behaviors do they show?

However, all company cultures are distinct, and you should craft your survey questions based on your own insights and experiences. You may want to ask everyone to participate or keep your survey pool small and limited to a representative sample of team members. As a best practice, use a tool like Leapsome’s Surveys module to ensure all participants stay anonymous.  

❓ You won’t know how employees feel about your culture until you ask

Leapsome’s Surveys module makes gathering feedback easier with customizable, anonymous surveys and automated action plan recommendations.

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 2. Define & refine your purpose and values 

Once you’ve gathered your survey answers, distill the feedback into an official set of values that will inform how you approach everything you do. “Start from a place where you all agree and create a mission or vision statement,” says Jes Osrow, organizational development consultant and co-founder of The Rise Journey. “Then, HR can align with that, management principles can align with that, and compensation philosophies will tie into that.” 

In order to synthesize all the input from your team members into one neat set of values, you might:

  1. Group survey answers based on repeated trends and themes. Use these recurring topics to create a set of tentative values.

  2. Conduct a leadership and employee workshop that’s dedicated to making those values more concise, tangible, and actionable.

  3. Use insights from the workshop to narrow down your values and choose the most effective phrasing. For example, a few of our core values at Leapsome are listen and learn, challenge the status quo, seek impact, and be kind and humble.

  4. Present the final iteration of your values. Explain your reasoning for choosing each value and encourage employees to ask clarifying questions. 
🔎 Remember that you’ll likely adjust your values statement over time as industry and employee demands fluctuate and your priorities change. That’s one reason why documenting your values is so important — it makes it easier to revise and modify them later.

3. Make the “culture add” ethos central to your hiring process

Company values allow you to work more effectively and harmoniously — but they aren’t hard and fast rules meant to restrict individual expression and authenticity. That’s the spirit organizations should integrate into their hiring practices, and yet so many allow their values to limit them to recruiting candidates based on “culture fit.” Unfortunately, doing so can lead to more biased hiring decisions and exacerbate diversity gaps.

Instead, companies should take a “culture add” approach to recruitment. That means specifically hiring for talent that can add to the existing culture with different backgrounds, experiences, perspectives, and personalities instead of giving preferential treatment to individuals who are just like the existing team — and being aware of that bias. In addition, hiring to increase diversity and intercultural competencies can increase productivity and profitability.

To embody a “culture add” ethos in your recruitment and hiring processes:

  • Train hiring teams on what the concept “culture add” means — Educate hiring departments about the role unconscious bias often plays in recruitment so they can avoid letting their preconceptions and prejudices influence hiring decisions.  

  • Identify the experiences, talents, and skills you want candidates to have for specific roles — Be explicit about the kinds of capabilities you think recruits need to thrive in their potential job so the hiring team knows what competencies to prioritize when reading through applications. 

  • Utilize behavioral interview questions — Hiring managers should ask candidates to describe specific situations, experiences, or projects that showcased their skills rather than “testing” applicants on their values.

4. Encourage ample feedback, praise & positivity

A screenshot of Leapsome’s Praise Wall feature showing how different colleagues shout each other out based on different competencies.
Make praising colleagues fun and easy with Leapsome’s Instant Feedback module

Our 2023 Workforce Trends Report uncovered that as many as three in four employees crave more constructive feedback and recognition from their managers to help them develop as professionals. In addition, a majority of European respondents reported that they’d received hurtful feedback at their current job. That means plenty of organizations haven’t yet fine-tuned how to make recognition and constructive input meaningful and consistent.

Creating a culture of feedback doesn’t mean that managers and leaders should go out of their way to find reasons to praise or critique their reports. Companies can create opportunities for colleagues to share their appreciation and perspectives by:

  • Making the performance review process more transparent and actionable — According to our 2023 Workforce Trends Report, a third of professionals aren’t satisfied with their organization’s current performance evaluation process, where reviews happen one to two times per year. In addition, more than half call for more frequent and better performance assessments. One way managers can do that is by treating performance evaluations as open conversations and pointing to specific instances where employees demonstrated growth or excellence or where they need to develop. Of course, they should also always provide them with clear, actionable strategies to improve.

  • Creating a channel specifically for seeking input and celebrating team members — Leapsome’s Instant Feedback module facilitates this by allowing colleagues to shout each other out in public as well as prompting team members to exchange private feedback.

  • Giving staff members opportunities to share their opinions voluntarily — Our Q&A board and suggestion box tools give employees a safe space to ask questions, share ideas, and get answers from leadership. This goes a long way toward building and nurturing a company-wide feedback culture.

5. Support development with the right resources

A screenshot of Leapsome’s Learning module.
Leapsome’s Learning module empowers people teams to create a company-wide culture of growth

It takes capable, well-trained team members to uphold a positive culture, which is why an organization won’t thrive if it doesn’t support employee growth and development. With SHRM finding that 38% of team members want training that’s more relevant to their roles and that 31% of individuals wish they had more control over their learning opportunities, leaders, HR, and learning and development (L&D) departments have a lot of work ahead of them.

Thankfully, employees don’t need you to source expensive consultants to provide them with training, especially if that’s not within your budget. They just need more focused, strategically designed resources that align with their personal development goals. That’s why team leads should:

  • Provide competency frameworks to help employees map their professional journeys — Competency frameworks show team members the skills they need to build to excel in their roles and progress down their desired career path.

  • Help create individualized learning plans — Work with employees to create a set of achievable development goals and check in on their progress regularly with dedicated 1:1s.
  • Use a learning platform to build relevant training courses With Leapsome’s Learning module, you can develop and assign tailored learning paths to reports based on their interests, goals, and the skills they need to develop. Our learning paths are also interactive and self-paced so employees can enjoy the experience and take ownership over their progress.

Build a strong company culture with Leapsome

A screenshot of Leapsome’s Surveys module showing recent engagement survey data.
Use Leapsome to improve your company culture and watch engagement rates rise over time

A healthy, vibrant company culture is crucial for sustaining high employee engagement, fostering long-term retention, and elevating overall performance. It can also buffer against burnout and attrition, helping you navigate even the murkiest economic circumstances. It’s a boon in times of change, but it takes leaders and teams who are willing to listen to employees and act on their feedback meaningfully and intentionally.

Additionally, everyone from the C-suite to middle managers to employees needs the right tools and workflows to make gathering input and enacting positive change easier on a larger scale, especially as the company grows.

As a holistic people enablement platform, Leapsome can help address your most pressing cultural needs from multiple angles. Our Surveys and Instant Feedback modules equip you with the necessary tools to source employee insights about culture and facilitate more transparent communication. Our Reviews module allows you to build appreciation and radical candor into your assessment processes so team members can flourish. Finally, use our Competency Frameworks feature and Learning module to give people more control over their own career development.

With Leapsome as your partner in culture, you can lean into what makes your company special and provide a truly enjoyable work environment.

🧚 Leapsome can help revitalize your company culture

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a strong company culture?

A strong company culture is one where leaders deeply align with the organization’s values and mission and encourage everyone to share in that vision. In a healthy culture, all team members understand the company’s values and the fact that they impact each major decision, especially those related to strategy, policies, and procedures. 

A strong company culture is also:

  • People-centered and dedicated to fostering trust, autonomy, and respect among team members, making them feel cared for and listened to.
  • Focused on setting and achieving ambitious objectives that align with the company mission and purpose.
  • Oriented toward growth and development at every level, creating an environment where everyone, from new hires to senior leaders, can achieve their professional aspirations.

What is a toxic workplace culture?

Within toxic workplace cultures, employees don’t feel heard, valued, or respected. They’re rarely included in decision-making processes and are often overlooked or dismissed. It’s often hard for team members to address these issues because the toxicity originates from above, maybe from one or two executives in the C-suite or a few senior managers. Employees may feel afraid to raise concerns out of fear of retribution as they’ve seen it backfire on their colleagues. 

Toxic workplace culture tends to be widespread within the company and often looks like:

  • Reluctance to delegate due to a need for control and a lack of trust
  • High stress and burnout levels
  • Diminished motivation and engagement
  • Reduced productivity and performance
  • Limited, irrelevant, or unfairly distributed learning and development opportunities

How do you build your business culture?

To build a strong, positive business culture, you should:

  • Define and align on your core values — Make sure your organization’s values set you apart from other companies and that all leaders have a chance to contribute, collaborate, and buy in. Create a shareable statement where you explain the why behind each value and what they look like in practice. For example, a few of Leapsome’s values are listen and learn, challenge the status quo, seek impact, and be kind and humble.

  • Involve employees in shaping the culture — Conduct surveys or workshops that focus on how you see your values playing out in professional situations and how you can use them to improve your policies and processes.

  • Recruit and hire based on “culture add” — Evaluate candidates based on how they’ll add to your company culture, contribute their own unique perspectives, and bring new skills and experiences to the table.
  • Invest in culture-building initiatives Implement employee-centered programs for training and development, rewards and recognition, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and continuous feedback.

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