“Happy employees are not necessarily productive employees”


Ideally, organizational or workplace culture supports a positive, productive, environment. However, happy employees are not necessarily productive or engaged employees.


In 2010, the Conference Board recorded the lowest level ever on employment satisfaction (Associated Press, 2010).  The level of employees satisfied with their work had dropped four (4) percentage points from the 2008 percent to 45% of Americans satisfied with their work.


In 2017, Gallup’s State of the American Workplace statistics on Employee Engagement (new name for Employee Satisfaction) and Retention Statistics reflect that 51% of the U.S Workforce is NOT engaged.  This means the employee satisfaction has increased from 45% in 2010 to 49% in 2017.  Gallup’s report also states that about 70% of American are disengaged at work and 51% of workers overall (60% of the millennials) are looking to leave their current jobs.


Organizations that take a proactive approach to developing deep employee engagement and creating a culture defined by meaningful work outperform their peers. Companies that proactively manage culture demonstrate revenue growth over a 10-year period that is, on average, 51.6% higher than those who do not. (Kotter, Heskett, 2011).  However, you should recognize that culture and engagement—while linked—are two different concepts.  Culture is a system of values, beliefs, and behaviors that shape how actual work gets done—”the way things work around here.” In contrast, engagement is about employees’ level of commitment to the organization and their work—”how people feel about the way things work around here.” Both are critical to business performance, hiring, retention, and innovation.


In a blog I posted in May (The Origins of Organizational Culture) I spoke of the origin of organizational or workplace culture.  I provided a modern-day definition of organizational culture saying it was, “the values and behaviors that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organization.  An organizational culture is based on shared attitudes, beliefs, customs, and written and unwritten rules that have been developed over time and are considered valid and are viewed as the shared norms and values of individual and groups within an organization.”


It is the distinctive group of beliefs, values, work styles, and relationships that distinguish one organization from another.


A simpler way to describe workplace culture is that culture is to an organization what personality is to an individual. 


Culture impacts most aspects of organizational life, such as how decisions are made, who makes them, how rewards or recognition is distributed, who is promoted, how people are treated, how the organization responds to its environment and much more.


In the previous blog I said the origin of culture is learned and is not based on instinct. It is handed down from generation to generation.   In this blog I want to discuss the characteristics of that workplace culture, those aspects one finds in any organization that help identify that organization and provide a list of positive workplace cultures you can use to measure your organization against.


Culture is the behavior that results when a group arrives at a set of—generally unspoken and unwritten— rules for working together. Workplace culture is also made up of all the life experiences each employee brings to the organization. Workplace culture is especially influenced by the organization’s founder, executives, and other managerial staff because of their decision making role and strategic direction. But, every employee has an impact on the culture that is developed at work.


What is it we are to look for when we want to see and understand our organization’s culture?

Culture is represented in a group of things, such as:

  • language
  • decision making
  • symbols
  • stories and legends
  • daily work practices


Something as simple as the objects chosen to be displayed on a desk tells you a lot about how employees view and participate.  How do your employees participate in your organization’s culture? The use of web-based collaboration and communication programs (such as Skype, WebEx, etc.), your bulletin board content, the company newsletter, the interaction of employees in meetings, and the other ways in which people collaborate, speak volumes about your organizational culture.


Successful company cultures manifest seven distinct characteristics as well. These are company cultures that indicate growth and an upward dynamic, and they are typically characterized by a high level of teamwork and engagement. Here is a brief outline of the seven characteristics of successful company cultures.

  1. A purpose-driven company culture: Successful company cultures are company cultures in which employees have a clear sense of purpose; employees understand their immediate and long-term goals.
  2. Effective communication patterns: Effective communication patterns within successful organizations have three main characteristics: clarity, courtesy, and proactivity.
  3. A culture of feedback: Feedback is great for so many reasons and fostering a culture of feedback is crucial to the success of every organization.
  4. Embracing diversity: Cultural sensitivity is the awareness of practices and cultures that are different from your own.
  5. Teamwork: Creating, enhancing, and celebrating teamwork is at the heart of every successful company culture.
  6. Engagement and loyalty: Employee engagement is a hot topic today and raising employee engagement has become one of the highest priorities for organizations around the world.
  7. Growth and development: Successful company cultures always offer their employees opportunities for growth, both in terms of training and in terms of their ability to grow as individuals or as teams — acquiring new skills and, as a result, new possibilities.


In the final segment of this 3-part series, I will provide more detail on these characteristics and discuss their connection to workplace culture importance, how you would assess your workplace culture and how you could change areas of your workplace culture that are not consistent with your organizations Vision, Mission, and Values.



Associated Press. (2010, January 05). Americans’ job satisfaction falls to record low. Retrieved from https://www.oregonlive.com/business/index.ssf/2010/01/americans_job_satisfaction_fal.html

Kotter, J. & Heskett, J. (2011). Study of Corporate Culture and Performance. New York: Simon & Shuster.